SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan and members of the Borough Council, escorted by the officers of the borough’s fire department and accompanied by snare drummers from the Somerville Middle School band and Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums, filed alongside dozens of firefighters and rescue squad members Saturday afternoon at the borough’s annual Firemen’s Inspection.
The Firemen’s Inspection is steeped in tradition; a 100-year-old borough ordinance requires that the governing body inspect the borough’s firefighters and equipment once each year to ensure their readiness.
Dressed in full dress blue tunics and wearing white gloves, the firefighters stood at attention in front of their trucks parked alongside Borough Hall on West Main Street, including Rescue 5, a 1942 fire engine with open cab that used to answer the call in Somerville. Now retired, Rescue 5 is the pride and joy of retired firefighter Richard O’Neil; the engine is used only in parades and other special events.
A ceremony at the Firemen Memorial on the lawn of Borough Hall preceded the inspection. The bell, which used to be rung to summon volunteer firefighters for duty, was cast in 1910 and bears the name of Mayor Charles Kenyon and Fire Chief Charles Hagstead. A bronze life-size figure of a firefighter holding a rescued child in his arms stands atop the bell housing.
The Rev. Canon Ron Pollock, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church and pastor of the borough's fire department, spoke to the tradition and proud service of the firefighters and first responders.
The Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums performed “Amazing Grace.”
A wreath was placed alongside the Memorial afterwards.
The firefighters and rescue personnel made their way to their trucks for a parade down Main Street, led by a team of 1,600-pound Belgian horses pulling a late 19th-century Somerville FD steam engine behind them. The horses are owned by Steve Duda of Brookvalley Farm in Carbondale, Pa. who guided the horses down Main Street.
The line of march paused at the borough’s 9-11 Memorial at the corner of Main Street and North Bridge Street for a short ceremony honoring the firefighters who perished in the collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York City. Three successive blasts from a borough firetruck - three, four, and three - honored the 343 firefighters who were killed when the buildings collapsed.
In keeping with tradition, and as stipulated in the ordinance, the firefighters and first responders were joined by borough and county officials for a dinner at the Somerville Elks after the conclusion of the parade.