CALDWELL, NJ — The Borough Council presented a proclamation to Fire Chief Andrew Pollara to honor the 32-member Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department virtually during its recent meeting that recognized the department's 120th anniversary.
The Fire Department first opened its doors on March 8, 1901. Caldwell had first been established in 1892, nine years earlier. The proclamation resolved that the governing body wished to “bestow this sincere expression of gratitude on behalf of the entire community to the Caldwell Fire Department on their 120 years of courage, contributions and selfless service to our community the best wishes for continued success in the future.”
The department, according to Chief Pollara will be saving its “big celebration" for the 125th anniversary, but they will be posting pictures, stories and remembrances from the past 120 years on their Facebook page throughout the year.
Pollara who has been with the department for 20 years stated that the longest a volunteer has been involved with the department is close to 60 years.
“Legacy is always a big part of the firehouse," Pollara said. "Father and sons and daughters and grandsons and brothers and sisters have joined the fire department since the start in 1901. Currently, we do have 32 members ranging from 18 to 80. Retired members stay in touch, even ones that live all in all parts of the country.”
It was confirmed that the department is one of the oldest fire departments in the West Essex area and that its original roll call included some of the founding members of the community. The fire department began with a single door firehouse that had the first gaslight in the Borough located outside the firehouse, initially fireman were alerted to alarms by church bells.
According to Pollara the first meeting of the Fire Company was held on March 8, 1901 with Isaac E. Baldwin acting as Chairman. The following officers were elected to serve: Stephen J. Lindsley-Secretary; William H. McChesney-Foreman; John Rickerich-First Assistant Foreman; Richard S. Harland-Second Assistant Foreman; Thomas C. Provost, Jr.-Treasurer; Trustees: Isaac E. Baldwin, Cornelius A. Hoage; Fred N. Pierson and two Fire Wardens: Charles Miller and A. Seymour Gould. A motion was passed to appoint as chief and assistant chief, Cornelius A. Hoage and Isaac E. Baldwin.
The following were the members of the original department in 1901:
Isaac E. Baldwin, G. Augustus Bogart, Edwin E. Bond, William Beam, Charles L. Ball, George N. Campbell, Charles B. Condit, Melvin H. Courter, Phillip H. Edwards, William Elliot, Conrad Feldman, A. Seymour Gould, E. Taylor Gould, Richard S. Harland, Herman Hasler, Benjamin Hoage, Cornelius Hoage, Moses A. Hoage, Jr., Aidan Lindsley, Stephen J. Lindsley, Walter P. Lindsley, Frank Leonard, William H. McChesney, Charles Miller, Thomas Moran, Fred M. Pierson, Thomas C. Provost Jr., Leslie Plummell, John Rickerich, Atto Sisco, James G. Welton, Charles Kane, George A. Burtis, George M.S. Gould, Charles D. Jacobus
The first firetruck was pushed by the members and had a 1,000-foot fire reel which was eventually upgraded to a horse-drawn ladder wagon. Today’s equipment has been significantly upgraded and includes thermal imaging cameras and other lifesaving rescue equipment. Current equipment includes a Smeal 75’ Quint, E-One 95’ Platform Ladder Truck, an E-One Engine, and a few support vehicles. The department still has their 1937 American LaFrance Engine that is used for parades and special details and a 1955 Fire Department Jeep.
The department is an integral part of the fiber of the community. The mission is: “the protection, preservation and well-being of the health, safety and property of all persons within the Borough of Caldwell.” That dedication goes beyond the borough’s borders too. Twenty years ago, the department helped the relief effort during 9/11 by sending a firetruck to cover a fire station in Brooklyn as volunteers from the department assisted during the World Trade Center recovery efforts.
Annually, the Fire Department gives Santa a ride through town and collects donations for the food pantry. The annual Tricky Tray has been a tradition for years and is a prime fund-raising mechanism. Council President Christine Schmidt suggested that since the Tricky Tray has been tabled due to the pandemic, that residents may consider donating to the department.
Councilman Francis Rodgers thanked the department for “all that they have done over the years.” Rodgers reflected that he has watched some of the current members of the department grow up and stated “on behalf of the members of the council we cannot thank you enough for everything that you do. The dispatches go off 365 days a year, 24/7 all different hours of the day and night and God Bless you and your men’s dedication for their service on behalf of our community.”
Mayor John Kelley thanked the members of the department for their bravery and volunteerism. Councilmen Jeffrey Gate thanked the department as well stating: “everyone owes the current and past members a debt of gratitude for everything you do to keep our town safe.” Council members Jonathan Lace and Francis DePalma-Iozzi also thanked the department as DePalma-Iozzi noted that some of the current members of the department are her former students.
The fire department according to Pollara is “always looking for members to join our great community tradition. If anyone would like to become a volunteer firefighter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application and more information.”