In 1897, 110 years ago, the Bernardsville Fire Company began its tradition of dedication and commitment to the community. The record books are contrary regarding the official inception of the Bernardsville Fire Company. Some attribute the company’s beginning to a meeting at the NEWS building on April 26, 1897, where a group of private citizens, concerned for the safety and well being of the town, gathered to discuss the organization of the first all volunteer fire company. A temporary organization was initiated at that time with Isaac Reeves as Chairman and Theron Smith as Secretary.
Others site the company’s official inauguration as October of that same year, where, under the leadership of the elected Foreman, George Wellbank, 30 men gathered at Bob Van Doren’s Claremont Hotel, the current home of the Station Restaurant, to form what was known as the Bernardsville Bucket Brigade. Armed with only a dozen water buckets and a long ladder, the Bucket Brigade accepted their civic duty with grandeur and pride.
Austin Wright, a village blacksmith, was elected Treasurer or the Bucket Brigade and dutifully collected the 20 cents per month dues. This entitled each member to a large brass key which would unlock the door to the buckets and ladder stored in the rear of Calvin Smith’s general store.
With dedication, these men practiced and perfected their strategy for fire fighting. When the alarm sounded, the first man to run to the shed unlocked the box and unchained the ladder. Then all the men sprinted to the fire. Once there, they formed a bucket line, passing pail after pail of water up from a stream or pond or whatever water source was close by. In this fashion, they were often able to considerably reduce the damage caused by the fire.
Despite their limited equipment, the fireman decided to accept and invitation that year to march in Morristown’s 100th Anniversary celebration. To prepare for the competition, they carefully stripped a light farm wagon down to the running hear and painted it bright red. They loaded the ladder and 12 buckets onto the wagon, hooked it behind a horse and arrived at Morristown, primed for the event. These noble men stepped out against many better equipped companies and returned laden with medals!
Fortunately at the time, there were few fires in the vicinity. However, the Bucket Brigade was put to the test on June 27, 1897 at the McMichael’s Mill. Even with this limited equipment, the men were able to save both the mill house and the mill close by. Notwithstanding their efforts, the fire destroyed barns, horses and equipment with damage estimated at $5,000. Recognizing the need for better equipment, the first actual piece of fire apparatus was purchased in 1898. It was a horse drawn Hook and Ladder truck, purchased with money loaned by Austin Wright. The truck was equipped with a number of ladders, the longest being a 40 ft. extension, various pike poles, axes, bars and several buckets hanging underneath. Shortly after the purchase, the company changed their name from the Bernardsville Bucket Brigade to the Bernardsville Hook and Ladder Company Number One.
It was not until 1905 that the second piece of equipment was added to the company, a two wheeled hose cart, complete with 300 feet of 2 inch hose. It was about this time that water mains were being laid through Bernardsville, and the township committee purchased the hand drawn cart. (This hose cart is still in existence today and was featured in the 100th Anniversary Celebration!) After one year, another two wheeled attachment was added to the cart, converting it to a horse drawn cart. Horses to drive the fire company’s apparatus were requisitioned from local owners. Dear to the fireman were the team of Prince and Duke, the big grays belonging to Dave Buist, and the bay team of Tom Holmes. (The halter for Prince and Duke is now kept in the recreation room of the fire company.) These teams of horses won the hearts of the fireman and townsfolk alike as they galloped through the streets pulling the old equipment.
On February 9, 1905, the name of the Bernardsville Hook and Ladder Company Number One was changed to the Bernardsville Fire Company Number One, the name it holds today. The title of Foreman was eventually replaced with that of Fire Chief, and Martin Liddy was named the first Chief. The company was incorporated under New Jersey state law on May 7, 1905.
In June of 1906, the fire company was presented with an American LaFrance horse drawn chemical engine, a gift from Frederick P. Olcott. This chemical engine, with its two-35 gallon polished copper tanks and brass fittings, was the latest of its type and the pride of the company for some time.
Throughout the years, the fire equipment was housed in various locations around town, including the Old Stone Barn in Olcott Square, currently the home of the Stone Tavern, Curtis Dunster’s barn, currently a private residence at the far end of Boylan Terrace, the Austin Wright barn, the current location of Prestige Auto Repair, and the James E. Ballentine bard at the rear of the present Bernardsville Library. Eventually, a small building was constructed on Anderson Rd. on the current site of the new library. The hose cart was stored there, but it was necessary to pull the cart out in order for the men to hold a meeting. Later, Frederick Olcott offered to donate $3,000 toward a new firehouse. A 50′ x 50′ lot was purchased on Mill St. for $500. Using the $3,000 donated by Mr. Olcott and a number of other donations from area residents, the new firehouse, which is the current home of the Beckerman Group ad agency, was built in 1906. The fire company remained at this location until 1958.
One of the worst fires in the history of the fire company occurred on May 6, 1908 during a night of confusion and turmoil in which many firefighters almost lost their lives. The Somerset Inn, one of the most renowned summer resorts on the eastern seaboard, located on Mendham Rd., burned to the ground. The Inn had a capacity of 450 guests but, due to the heroic efforts of the Bernardsville Fire Company, no one was killed. Damage on that night was estimated at $200,000.
The years progressed and the firemen continued to make improvements to their company. In an effort towards better efficiency, the Bernardsville Fire Company voted on Thursday, January 26, 1922 to employ a superintendent who would occupy quarters in the firehouse day and night throughout the year. For a salary of $80 per month, this man would maintain the apparatus, sound the alarm in the event of a fire, and start the engines before the arrival of the drivers.
In August of 1925 a devastating fire begin in the harness shop of John Barnard, located in the current home of Stephen Taylor Photographer on Olcott Square. The blaze soon spread throughout the adjoining stores in what was then known as the Westlecraft Block. Lack of pressure hampered the firemen, and companies from Basking Ridge, Far Hills, Peapack-Gladstone and Morristown were called in to assist. Many businesses were destroyed, along with all of the apartments on the second floor.
April 1930 marks the date of the famous Borough Hall fire. At that time, Borough Hall adjoined the Bernards Inn. That fire caused $45,000 in damages to the building and its contents with an additional $5,000 in damages assessed to the Bernards Inn. The fire wall, which is still standing today saved the Bernards Inn and is a testimony to the importance of fire wall construction.
In May of 1935, in a block of stores on Olcott Square, which now houses Sussman’s Department Store, Burgdorff Realtors and the Bernards Salon, a fire gutted the two story building, wiping out the businesses and apartment upstairs. Damages were estimated at $35,000.
World War II greatly affected the fire company membership, with 23 members leaving to enter the service. Many ex-Chiefs were forced to assume responsible offices in order to continue the tradition held by the company. A group of reserves of 16-18 year olds were recruited to offset the shortage of manpower. Although these youths were too young to actually join the fire company, they performed their job with the same dedication as the veterans. Many of these youths later joined the company and served in high ranking positions. This tradition continues to this day.
On July 4, 1947, the Bernardsville Fire Company celebrated its 50th Anniversary. To commemorate this event, the largest parade in the history of the Borough at that time was held, complete with 20 floats. Nearly 50 fire companies participated with 12 bands and 51 pieces of fire apparatus. The night was topped off with a block dance for the entire town.
A need for a new headquarters had been evident for many years. As the company grew and the apparatus increased, it became difficult to get around in the old firehouse. There was no space available for first aid supplies, nor the proper care of first aid equipment. So, in 1958, the members of the fire company voted unanimously to build a new firehouse on Mine Brook Rd. The land upon which the structure was built was once part of Municipal Park, and is leased to the fire company on a long term basis. In the 1970’s the Borough gave the fire company the deed to the firehouse property with the stipulation that they retain possession of this property should the fire company ever disband. Funds to build the firehouse came from a reserve built up over several years, the sale of the old firehouse on Mill St., and a fund raising drive conducted by the company. After much planning and hard work, the Bernardsville Fire Company contracted to build one of the most modern structures of its kind in the state.
Throughout the years, fire continued to summon the brave men of the Bernardsville Fire Company. Some notable fires of the time include on in February 1948, in which a devastating fire destroyed the Gianquitti and Corrado building, a hardware business at the current location of Griffin & Howe, with an estimated damage of $150,000. Firefighters were able to rescue two families who lived in an apartment upstairs. In November of 1957, the call was answered at a fire at St. Bernards Church, which estimated damage at $75,000. The fire company was again called to a fire on Olcott Square in February of 1966, where the business of Sussman’s Department Store and the Autumn House sustained estimated damages of $40,000.
Yet another historic fire was at the Somerset Grain & Feed in 1968, where fire destroyed buildings, equipment and stock, with an estimated damage of $150,000. The task for the fire company was made more difficult by the intense heat generated in the storage elevator filled with burning hay, and also by the fact that, a few short feet away from the burning building was a gas station and the fuel storage areas of M.J. Neill, Inc.
Many still remember the fire at the Stonemere Nursing home on April 3, 1969. Although the home was completely lost due to the unavailability of water, the twenty nine guests of the home were all brought to safety.
In 1972, the Bernardsville Fire Company organized to celebrate another milestone – its 75th Anniversary. There were 66 fire companies on hand to help Bernardsville commemorate the event, with a massive parade, many competitions and 13 marching bands. The parade culminated at the Polo Grounds where the town was treated to food and drink, compliments of the hosts.
The next 25 years were as rich in history for the Bernardsville Fire Company as the first 75! Within this time, the company has seen a tremendous amount of change and growth. More extensive training, increased activity in community-minded programs, the addition of sophisticated, state of the art equipment, all highlight the events of the next 25 years. And, of course, there haven’t been a shortage of fires, to which these volunteers always responded. It is not uncommon for the Bernardsville Fire Company to answer hundreds of calls each year, from a minor brush fire to a consuming residential blaze.
These years were a busy time for the Bernardsville Fire Company, filled with accounts of many devastating fires. In March of 1973, for example, the company answered a call to a fire which destroyed the vacant St. Martin’s Retreat House on Mine Mount Rd., a building once used as an Episcopal retreat. Firemen responding to the call had to cut down a tree that had fallen across the mile long driveway to gain access to the burning building. It took five hours before this fire, which was termed suspicious, was brought under control. All that remained of the two-story building were two fireplaces.
In April of 1974, another suspicious fire destroyed the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Starr on Mount Harmony Rd. The firefighters worked under severe handicaps to fight this blaze. The winds fed the fire and helped it spread quickly. Water to douse the flames was scarce. Although the fire company carried 500 gallons of water on the truck, they had to run more than a mile and a half of hose to other water supplies. They pumped out a swimming pool, two cisterns and a reservoir in an attempt to douse the fire. It was about 5 1/2 hours before the smoldering structure was extinguished.
Another fire of a suspicious nature occurred in September of that same year, when a blaze destroyed the Raritan Liquor Store, housed in the Plaza Shopping Center, across the street from the current location. Credited with quick work and an assist from the Basking Ridge Fire Company, the Bernardsville Fire Company took less than an hour to get the fire under control and prevented it from spreading to the other stores in the shopping center. Damages to the liquor store totaled approximately $80,000 in loss of stock.
In December, marking the third major fire of 1974, the Bernards Lumber and Home Center on Rt. 202 was destroyed by a spectacular fire, deemed the worst the borough had seen since the Stonemere Nursing Home fire in 1969. Three other shops in the Colonial Shopping Center, Colonial Cleaners, Colonial Shoe Repair and Colonial Barber Shop, were damaged by the smoke and water. Seventy men responded to the fire, which started in a lumber storage area extending along the rear of the cleaners. Flames, which some say reached almost 300 feet in the air, ripped through the Lumber and Home Center and rapidly reduced it to rubble. Firemen were able to save the adjoining shops and the A & P building now home of the Shop Rite Annex.
In 1976, the Bernardsville Fire Company organized a gala celebration for the Bicentennial. The four-day event held at the Polo Grounds, was run in cooperation with the Bernardsville Bicentennial Committee. The event drew hundred of people, who were treated to food, amusement rides, games of chance and entertainment. All who attended agreed that it was a spectacular affair, for which the fire company deserved much applause.
The dedication of these brave volunteers doesn’t stop at extinguishing fires. In July of 1978, the home of a fellow fireman, Angelo Forgione, was destroyed be a fast moving fire, which reduced the home to ruins within two short hours. The Bernardsville Fire Company immediately set to work to rebuild the Forgione’s home. Local clubs and businesses such as the Kiwanis, Rotary, and Bernardsville Businessmen’s Association, contributed to a fund set up by the fire company, which was used to buy materials. The firemen furnished the manpower to completely rebuild the home.
Not only is the Bernardsville Fire Company kept busy defending the borough from fires, but it is also credited with assists to many area fire companies. In September of 1976, for example, Bernardsville was called in to assist the Basking Ridge Fire Company to battle a fire that heavily damaged the Pennbrook Golf Club, the current home of the Basking Ridge Country Club. Fast work by both companies saved the old wood-frame structure from burning to the ground.
Bernardsville was one of of five companies called to battle the fire at the Bliss mansion on Roxiticus Golf Club in November 1979, in which two residents were killed attempting to escape the mansion blaze. Two teams of Mendham and Bernardsville firemen, equipped with lifelines, breathing apparatus and lights entered the service quarters of the building in an attempt to rescue the club manager and his wife, who were ultimately overtaken by smoke inhalation. One hundred firefighters, equipped with 20 vehicles and miles of hose battled the blaze and protected adjacent properties.
In its continuing effort to improve efficiency, in 1978 the fire company switched from Plectrons as a means to receive fire calls to a personal paging system. With the old Plectron, the call would be broadcast to a radio like box in the firefighter’s home, alerting them to the location of the fire or first aid call. With the new system, each firefighter and first aid member carries a personal pager. Each time a call goes out, the pager identifies the type of call and its location. If away from their homes, firefighters and first aid members no longer have to go down to the firehouse to find out the location, they can simply report to the call, saving valuable time.
To purchase and maintain its fire fighting equipment, the company depended almost entirely on private donations from the residents of Bernardsville. So, when the firehouse needed a new roof back in 1980, the company went to work raising the funds for the materials. After a six month effort, the volunteers had raised enough money to significantly defray the cost of the new roof. Many of the nearly 70 volunteers were on hand to help with the construction, and, after a weekend of hard labor, the firehouse had its new roof.
Major fires continued to challenge the fire company into the ’80s and ’90s. In March of 1984, firefighters battled a blaze that damaged the huge Bergen mansion on Meeker Rd. About 50 firefighters from Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, Far Hills and Liberty Corner assisted at the scene which took three hours to extinguish. The flames were trapped inside the walls of the three-story brick structure, contained like an oven. Although a water system was installed at the mansion, firefighters needed to lay down 2,800 feet of hose to pump water from a brook off Meeker Rd.
A fire at the Palmer Building in August of 1987 gutted the attic, destroyed the roof and caused extensive smoke and water damage to the apartments and business below. It took 100 firefighters from four companies more than two hours to extinguish the blaze, which was said to have been caused by workers who were using torches to repair the roof. Firefighters evacuated all tenants safely and were able to rescue two cats from one of the apartments.
In July of 1990, Bernardsville was one of ten fire companies called to assist the Mendham Fire Company in the biggest residential fires in this area’s history. The 19th century structure on Bernardsville Rd., which formerly housed The Association of Psytheosynthesis (TAP) was totally devastated by fire when a workman’s torch accidentally started the blaze. The 65 room landmark was being refurbished as a private residence. Poor pressure from old water mains and a fire that had already engulfed the building by the time firefighters arrived hampered efforts to save the mansion. This, coupled with inside temperatures reaching as high as 1,500 degrees, prevented firefighters from attacking the blaze from inside the building. Despite hours of effot, firefighters were unable to save the classic structure.
Fires are not the only calls answered by the Bernardsville Fire Company. In September of 1991, a rescue crew comprising of firefighters, police officers and a tow truck company labored for three hours to free a steer from a seven foot deep septic tank into which it had fallen. The rescue team lowered cables from the truck and, after many attempts, attached the straps around the 1,000 pound steer. Working within a very confined space, they were finally able to maneuver the steer out of the hole to safety.
Along with the beauty of some of the older mansions in Bernardsville, often comes increased hazards for the Bernardsville Fire Company. In October of 1992, a 100 year-old Tudor-style mansion on Clark Rd. was badly damaged in a smoldering fire that was fought for five hours by more than 125 volunteers. Seven local fire companies were called out to assist Bernardsville in battling the blaze, which originated when exposed electrical wires shorted out and ignited some beams in the basement. Because the home was so old, it had no firebreaks between the floors, and the fire quickly spread horizontally along the basement beams and vertically to the upper floors. Firefighters spent hours in this very labor-intensive fire cutting through floor boards and plaster walls extinguishing burning timbers.
Intense heat hampered the efforts of firefighters in a blaze at the main asphalt plant of the Bernardsville Quarry in December of 1993. The fire was ignited when a pipe burst spraying 300 degree oil over an electrical junction, quickly engulfing the 70-foot structure in flames. The threat of electrocution from three transformers at the burning plant forced firefighters to delay efforts to douse the blaze until the power could be cut off. Water to fight the fire had to be pumped from a quarry pond nearly a quarter mile away, but within 45 minutes the fire company had brought the blaze under control.
Firefighters sometimes face the obstacle of insufficient water supply in dousing fires, especially in the mountain area not services by any fire hydrants. So, in 1994, the fire company conducted an extensive survey of all the available water sources in town. Detailed information about all swimming pools, ponds, deep streams, cisterns and hydrants were compiled into a notebook that is carried on each fire truck. This book, which took many hours to put together, is a valuable tool for the Fire Chief when responding to a fire. With the town’s growth, the notebook must be updated on a periodic basis.
Even when there are no fires, the Bernardsville Fire Company is still on the job. Each year the company hosts a fire prevention week designed to educate the public, especially children, about fire safety. To kick off the week’s activities, the company opens its floor to the public in a day comprising fire prevention films and handouts, tours of the apparatus and firehouse, and the ever-popular rides on the fire trucks. Throughout the week, fire company members conduct talks and demonstrations at local schools and civic organizations.
In the winter of 1994, when the area was hit with a crippling ice storm, the company was again on the job when it opened the fire house as a shelter to many stranded motorists. The company is always on-hand to offer demonstrations and advice to area scout organizations. They hold information programs to provide residents with the health tips, such as precautions in preventing Lyme disease. And, of course, Santa depends on the company for his grand entrance at Bernards High School, riding atop one of its shiny fire trucks for the Borough’s yearly Christmas celebration.
The Bernardsville Fire Company is supported through contributions from area residents, businesses and associations. They hold annual fund drives and various fund raisers, such as pancake breakfasts, plant sales and raffles, in order to purchase and maintain the vehicles and equipment.
The courage and efficiency with which these brave men and women execute their role as firefighters and first aiders is no accident. All members of the Bernardsville Fire Company and First Aid Squad must undergo many hours of rigorous training. They must past stringent testing before they are able to become a member of the team. In addition, members receive continuous drilling and updating through new training and refresher courses in such areas as Basic and Advanced Firefighting, Communications, Air Masks, Search & Rescue Techniques and Hazardous Materials, just to name a few.
Local fire companies often join forces in drills so they are able to coordinate their efforts effectively in the event they are called to assist. One such drill simulated a school bus accident. Using hydraulic tools, air chisels, axes and a great deal of muscle, the rescuers opened up large sections of a bus to facilitate a rescue without disturbing passengers. Another exercise involved a disaster drill in which the town staged a simulated chemical spill from a tanker truck carrying hazardous waste. The drill involved a tremendous coordination of effort from local fire companies and first aid squads.
Other training involved extensive sessions on the use of emergency extrication tools. The training encompassed more than four hours of classroom work and 10 hours of practical execution in which 11 cars and trucks in simulated accidents were cut apart using Jaws of Life equipment.
Monday nights at the firehouse are devoted to maintenance and training. During this time, various drills are conducted. Firefighters practice with all their equipment on a regular basis so that they are confident and ready to use it when the need arises.
Throughout the years, the Bernardsville Fire Company has continued the tradition of excellence started in 1897 when they entered their first competition in the Morristown Fireman’s parade. Each year the fire company adds several new trophies to its collection, winning many events in various Firematics Competitions and area parades.
The Firematics Competition tests the speed and accuracy of each team and consists of three events: the single hose lay, the ladder run and the double hose lay. In the single hose lay event, a single hose is hooked up as quickly as possible to a fire hydrant, the water is turned on and is shot at a spinning target. The second event is a ladder run, in which the firefighters have to run, quickly dress in their fire gear, grab a ladder, raise it and climb to ring a bell at its top. In the double hose lay, three hoses are quickly attached to each other and to a fire hydrant and then rapidly aimed at a spinning target. Then, two hoses are attached to knock down two barrels. All events take practice and concentration.
The company also attends many area parades in which fire companies from all over the state compete for trophies in various categories. They are judged for the caliber of their marching, the state of their equipment and overall effect. Coveted prized include Best Fire Company Overall, Best Appearing Apparatus, and Company Marching.
Volunteer Fire Departments and First Aid Squads save the taxpayers thousands of dollars each year. These men and women are the heart and soul of the community.
The time and effort they devote to their job as fire company members are spawned from a sense of duty and the love of mankind. Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude must be extended to these brave men and women.
The members of the Bernardsville Fire Company always knew that there was a basic need for first aid training and knowledge of rescue work, and discussions of forming a First Aid Squad had taken place over the course of many years. However, formal efforts to establish the rescue team did not occur until May 20,1927, when eleven men, all members of the fire company, extended their efforts and formed the Bernardsville First Aid Squad. Members of the original first aid squad received training from Corporal Pryor Dougherty of the New Jersey State Police and D.E. Husk of the New Jersey Power and Light Company. The equipment of the day consisted of splints, bandages and entry masks stored in a suitcase on the chemical engine. A few years later, a stretcher was added to the equipment, which was now carried on the company’s converted 1926 Cadillac. Accident victims were carefully transported on the open hose bed of the Cadillac to the doctor’s office or hospital.
These men took as much pride in their rescue efforts as in their firefighting, and soon became the best equipped squad in the state. Through the years, sophisticated equipment was added, and extensive training was required. The 1926 Cadillac was replaced by a 1941 Dodge emergency truck, which was used as the ambulance for many years. It was not until 1953 that the company purchased its first ambulance.
The first aid squad attracts a diverse group of individuals, all brought together in a common cause of community service. In 1985, the squad welcomed Linda Chebro as its latest member. Having a woman on the squad was not unusual, however, Linda was a nun, belonging to the order of Sisters of Mercy. At the time, Sister Linda was a fifth grade teacher at the School of St. Elizabeth. She persuaded a fellow nun, Sister Maria Pesquara to join this dedicated team of professionals. Affectionately known as the flying nuns, these two women brought enthusiasm to their first aid squad activities, that stemmed from the knowledge that their volunteer efforts were serving both God and man at the same time!
Hardly a day or night goes by in the Somerset Hills when there isn’t a medical emergency of some sort: A car accident on one of the highways, a wrenched knee at a sporting event, a heart attack or even a pregnant woman about to give birth with no time to get to a hospital. As the area’s population grows, so does its need for medical emergency care. Unfortunately, an increasing population base doesn’t necessarily translate into more volunteer rescue squad members.
That’s why four area first aid squads had to try a more innovative approach to recruiting new members. In 1988, the First Aid Squads of Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner and Far Hills-Bedminster pooled their resources and carried out a joint membership drive. Newspaper advertisements, a massive direct mail campaign and open houses were held to seek out potential members. The results were quite successful for all four squads, with over 40 local residents expressing an interest in volunteering. Many of the recruits were new to the area and unaware the the fire companies and first aid squads were volunteer organizations and this is true to this day. This type of campaign fostered a new wave in recruitment efforts for the squads, which has continued throughout the years.
Although women had been welcomed on the squad since the late 1970’s, a history making event occurred in 1988 when Mary Ann Becker was elected the first female Captain of the First Aid Squad. Ms. Becker remained Captain from 1988 through 1993, brining an extensive medical background to the squad.
Eager to keep up with the latest life-saving devices, the first aid squad purchased its first defibrillator in May, 1994. A defibrillator is a device that delivers an electric shock to a heart attack victim in an attempt to get the heart pumping blood again at the proper speed. Bernardsville was the first squad in Somerset County to purchase a defibrillator, with the help of Prudential’s “Helping Hearts” program. The machine was put to the test for the first time in August of 1995, when the life of a heart attack victim was saved. Without the immediate administration of CPR and the use of the defibrillator, this emergency call may not have had such a happy ending. The squad has since purchased a second defibrillator. These devices are now common pieces of equipment in the ambulances staffed by area first aid squads.
Training for the first aid squad members is quite extensive. Each volunteer must take an Emergency Medical Technician course and be state-certified as an EMT. Training focuses on the different aspects of emergency care, including CPR and first aid for trauma victims, bleeding control, treatment of fractures, spinal injury care and non-trauma medical emergencies such as childbirth, strokes, choking and diabetic reactions. First aid squad members are continually refreshing and updating their skills to stay abreast of more advances equipment and first aid techniques.
Today the first aid squad answers several hundred calls each year. Their response is immediate and their compassion for their patients is always exceptional. These heroes of everyday life bring a sense of comfort to the residents of Bernardsville. We owe our thanks, and sometimes our lives, to this dedicated team of professionals.
The Ladies Auxiliary is an integral part of the Bernardsville Fire Company. Organized in 1921, their purpose is to help the members of the fire company in any way possible. Originally, the ladies aided the firemen in their fund raising efforts and purchased furnishings and drapes for the firehouse to make it more comfortable for the men.
However, when the Gianquitti Corrado fire broke out in 1948, a new phase of the auxiliary was born. The fireman had been working the fire for several hours. They had not had their supper, and it was certain they would be there for many more hours. Several members of the auxiliary went to the firehouse to make sandwiches and coffee and brought them to the men battling the blaze. The auxiliary now has a committee set up for such emergencies and have put it to use for many of the larger fires in the borough.
Today, the auxiliary boasts a membership of over 35. Four of the members have recently celebrated 50 years of service, with one member bringing 55 years of dedication to the team. These women continue to provide support to the fire company’s and first aid squad’s fund raising efforts, holding pancake breakfasts, tricky trays and plant sales. Each year, the ladies host a Christmas party for the children of fire company and first aid squad members.
The Bernardsville Fire Company truly values the hard work put in my this understanding group of ladies.
The Maltese cross is known around the world as a symbol of the fire serviceIt is often seen painted on fire trucks, on the closthing of firefighters, depicted on firefighter’s badges, and is quite often the chosen design of firefighter tatoos.The Maltese cross has its origins going back to the era of the Crusades and is named after the island of Malta, which came to be the home of the Knights of St. John.
The Knights of St. John existed during the 11th and 12th centuries.
To help identify friend from foe during the fighting, they needed a symbol that could be used to quickly and easily identify themselves.
They chose the Cross of Cavalry (which would later be known as the Maltese cross) as their symbol because the Crusades were battles fought for a holy cause.
During these battles, the enemies of the knights commonly used fire as a weapon.
It was not uncommon for a knight to have to risk his own life to extinguish a fire or rescue a comrade.
Because of their ability to fight fires, and the pride and honor they took in the care of their sick and injured, the knights’ symbol – the Maltese cross – evolved into a fitting symbol of the modern fire service.
The cross has since come to represent the principles of chartiy, loyalty, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe, dexterity of service, and protection of the weak.