The Long Hill Volunteer Fire Company was established on September 8, 1925, at Collins Camp with 29 residents in attendance. (Collins Camp was once located between Passaic Street and Mt. Vernon Road along the Passaic River.) “Long Hill” described the hilly terrain along River Road which extended for miles into neighboring communities. Monthly meetings were held at the Red Brick School House on Southern Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue until a new firehouse was built in 1926 at 495 River Road. Early fundraisers were monthly carnivals and dances at the firehouse.
For the first few years, we responded mostly to brush fires. All firefighters were issued his own “brush”–brooms that were carried to all fires and used to sweep out the flames.
Initially, fire rings, such as the one shown above, were used to announce fire alarms. There were two rings, with one located at the River Road Fire House and the other one was at the intersection of River Road & Passaic Street. Each had a sledge hammer hanging by them to hit the ring to summon the firemen of a fire alarm. These rings were from steam locomotive engines from the railroad. They were cut to give the ringing sound when hit by the sledge hammer. Somehow throughout the years the one at River Road Fire House was missing or buried but not known of the location. The one that is mounted presently at River Road was located when they reconstructed the intersection of River Road and Passaic Street in the early l950’s.
As fires got more complicated, so did fire equipment. Our first truck was a 1927 Reo chemical truck. Later,we purchased a 1941 Dodge pumper. In 1946, we acquired a 1944 Air Force surplus crash truck with a pump, “booster tank” and portable extinguishers for fighting fires.
By the 1950’s, development in the Rolling Hill section of the community was underway. Recognizing the need to provide equipment on that side of town, a 1951 500 gallon-per-minute pumper was purchased and a sub-station was erected at 172 Southern Boulevard. A generous donation of land by the Colony Association made this possible. With the new station came new pumpers, hose, ladders and other equipment. Necessary funds were raised through raffles, turkey, fish and chip and spaghetti dinners and other activities. By the 1960’s, Chatham Township’s population had grown dramatically and the department purchased a 1000 gallon-per-minute pumper. Self-contained breathing apparatus became a necessity for “smoke eaters” when fighting fires. Better training became a requirement to keep abreast of changing technology. In the 1970’s, more trucks and equipment were purchased to replace the aged fleet.
Fund drive mailings had become our primary source of funding. However, the department’s name, Long Hill, was creating confusion with potential donors. In a community known as “Chatham Township,” why was our fire department known as “Long Hill?” So, in 1975, the membership decided to adopt a new name: Chatham Township Volunteer Fire Department, Long Hill Company No. 1.
Weekly training drills, which continue today, kept our men tuned and ready to respond to all emergency calls. The 1980’s brought more mandated training. This was acquired by volunteers spending many hours at the Morris County Firefighters and Police Training Academy in Randolph, New Jersey.
By 1988, the department replaced a 20-year-old pumper with a fully equipped 1250 gallon-per-minute pumper complete with hose, ladders, self-contained breathing apparatus and more. With the larger, modern equipment, space became a problem at both facilities. In 1989, an earnest effort was begun to build a new firehouse on River Road. After a few years planning, the old building on River Road was totally razed to make way for a new, modern facility completed in 1993.
Another name change occurred in 1992 as a result of Passaic Township becoming Long Hill Township. It was felt that using the name “Long Hill” as part of the department’s name would be too confusing, so the name was changed to Chatham Township Volunteer Fire Department, District 2.”District 2″, our coverage area, is defined east of Noe Avenue to the Chatham Township border with Chatham Boro, Long Hill Township and the Passaic River. District 1 is the area west of Noe Avenue and includes portions of Harding Township and is protected by the Green Village Volunteer Fire Department.
During the twenty years prior to building the new fire headquarters in 1992, the department saved (through surpluses and investments) nearly $1,000,000. During the reconstruction project, a corporate funding campaign was undertaken to raise funds for the new building and the replacement of fire apparatus. Unfortunately, this effort failed miserably. With an expected life of 20 years on a pumper, the 1990’s would see not only the construction of a new building, but the replacement of 3/4 of its fire engines. Three engines were purchased in the 1970’s and were due for replacement. The annual fund drives were simply not enough to fund operating and capital expenses.
In the Spring of 1994, the department embarked on its first-ever Capital Campaign–a residential fund drive seeking pledges over three years. While we raised over $250,000, and satisfied our mortgage, many residents encouraged us to pursue taxation as a means for funding. This would spread the costs of operating the fire company more equitably throughout the community. As it stood, only 36% of our households were contributing to our fund drives. In September 1994, we approached the Chatham Township Committee to establish a tax district for fire protection. Labeled “Operation Fair Share,” this proposal was denied in December 1994. Instead, the Township Committee formed a commission to study fire funding. A consultant was also hired to review the fire service in Chatham Township. Those results were released in the Spring of 1996.
Today, our funding remains unchanged. Today, we receive an annual stipend of $45,000 from the municipality and must send supplemental mailings to support our operating and capital budgets. Our year-end expenses (operating and capital) for fiscal year 1997 was approximately $121,000. In April 1997, in historic fashion, the Township Committee agreed to purchase a Quint fire truck and all subsequent purchases of fire apparatus. We accepted delivery of the Quint, Ladder 12, in February 1998. In another effort to secure our identity, in February 1998, we dropped “District 2” from our name and became known simply as Chatham Township Volunteer Fire Department.
A timeline of early events taken from original meeting minutes:
- 9-8-25 first official meeting held at Collins Camp (Collins Camp was located on the Passaic River just north towards Chatham Boro. off Passaic Street).
- 10-13-25 at Collins Camp Diefenthaler and George Schwartt went to Green Village Fire Dept. to inspect their fire apparatus and reported it was too heavy for our use.
- 10-27-25 H. Meile donated a 25 foot by 25 foot building in Union to be torn down and to be used for building our new fire house.
- 11-10-25 Chief Miele gave out 11 new brooms.
- 1-5-26 a binder was made on the land on River Rd. Building operation was discussed.
- 5-4-26 Chief Meile reported on a fire truck in Hoboken that fire company contemplates purchasing.
- 8-3-26 Paid $750.00 Balance due on land purchase by Long Hill Volunteer Co.
- 11-4-26 $3,500.00 estimated for a 30ft by 50ft. building.
- 12-10-26 work on building proceeding so that January’s meeting could be held in the new fire house.
- 1-4-27 meeting was held at the new fire house.
- 3-14-27 sold 75 foot by 40 foot land east side of fire house for $300.00.
- 5-2-27 siren presented to Long Hill Vol. Fire Co. from Green Village Fire Dept.
- 8-8-27 purchased Reo Fire Truck for $3,693.00.
- 2-6-28 discussion New Providence Fire Dept. sending a bill to J. A. Thompson, Long Hill Fire Co. discussed for Long Hill Fire Co. responds to New Providence would be a $50.00 charge equals $5.00 per man.
- 2-1-32 Township Committee approached to take over Fire Company’s property.
- 9-11-33 Fred Ulrich elected to membership.
- 6-24-35 Compensation insurance ran out. Discussed with Township Committee.
- 2-2-38 discussed weather Chatham Boro. Fire Dept. could take over Long Hill Fire Dept. Discussion with Township Com. they could not give any money to Fire Co. unless tax payers voted on it.
– By Firefighter Otto Vopeliu