History of the Vineland Fire Department
1872- An early morning fire on July 2, 1872 led to the formation
of an organized firefighting unit. The fire apparently started in a wooden
building which housed a harness maker, barbershop and several upstairs apartments.
The fire spread to several buildings on the northern side of Landis Avenue,
between the Boulevard and Sixth Street.
On July 23, 1872, Union Hall hosted a town meeting at which a constitution was drawn up and an organized fire department was born. A few days later, a meeting was held and the name of the fire department, Vineland Hook and Ladder Fire Company was chosen.
1877- Despite the formation of this new firefighting entity, a catastrophic fire claimed several businesses on Landis Avenue in the fall of 1877. The fire, which was thought to have been arson, demonstrated the need for a fire engine and a stronger firefighting force. A meeting was called, and a resolution was passed for the purchase of an engine and the formation of a new firefighting brigade. This was the origin of the Niagara Engine Company.
1878- The newly formed Niagara Engine Company was quick to procure an engine and hose wagon. The new hand pumper arrived in March of 1878, with the hose wagon arriving the following month. As the two entities continued to grow, space became of the utmost importance. The growth in man power and equipment led to the construction of a new fire station at Sixth and Wood Streets. Niagara Engine Company and Vineland Hook and Ladder Company settled into their new home in the fall of 1878. The housing of both companies in the same building led to a consolidation of firefighting forces and the creation of Pioneer Fire Company #1.
1915- The advent of the automobile and the growth of Vineland as a community led to the formation of a new fire company in the early 1900's. In the face of adversity, an unpopular group of men with little support formed the Reliance Fire Company-utilizing the City's first motorized fire apparatus. The city was slow to support the idea of a new fire company, but with Pioneer Fire Company at its quota for men, the need for better fire protection was recognized.
1919- Although Pioneer and Reliance were capable of protecting
the immediate area of the Borough, the outlying sections of Landis Township
were a substantial distance and could not be adequately protected by a centralized
company. The growth and expansion of the Vineland Fire Department was inevitable.
The cry of fire in the winter of 1919, led to two preliminary meetings to discuss the dynamics of forming a new firefighting unit in South Vineland. The first organizational meeting was held on September 2, 1919 with 32 charter members in attendance. The South Vineland Company No.1 was headquartered at Main and Sherman Avenues and purchased a Ford Chemical truck as their first piece of apparatus.
1922- On February 24, 1922, following the example of South Vineland Company No.1, members of the North Vineland Fire Company held their first meeting in the store of Arthur Von Lesweski. With the groundwork laid, the North Vineland Fire Company with the help of an aggressive fundraising campaign and gracious donations constructed a firehouse on North East Boulevard in 1923. The Company purchased its first piece of apparatus in 1929 for $500.00.
1923- The growth and development continued in the spring of 1923 with the formation of Main Avenue Fire Company No.1 on March 23rd. A meeting at the Oak and Main school house sealed the deal and laid the foundation for the formation of the City's seventh fire company. The company purchased land at a cost of $2,500 and built a new fire station in January of 1924. The "Old Brockway" engine from Reliance Fire Company found a new home at Main Avenue as the station's first fire apparatus.
1931- With continued growth in the Vineland Borough, it became apparent to borough officials that the city may benefit from a career fire department. Howard Garrison was hired in 1931 as the first career firefighter. Mr. Garrison would remain in the fire hall during the day to drive the fire truck to fire calls. A short time later he was joined by John Royal, Charles Pardington, Fred Ramish and Penn Toulson. The men would alternate shifts by working one day on shift and one day off shift.
1946- Growth into the farming community of East Landis Township led to the formation of Panther Road Company No. 5. The residents had previously relied on help from the neighboring communities of Buena Vista Township District #2 and South Vineland Fire Company # 1, but the travel distance was simply too much. Frank Franceschini donated a piece of land on Italia Avenue and Panther road for the construction of the new fire house. The new fire hall and apparatus were dedicated on September 27, 1947.
1952- In 1952, progress had reached its geographical limits, the vast areas known as Landis Township and Vineland Borough were consolidated forming the City of Vineland. The era of private, independently owned fire companies quickly came to an end with the stroke of a pen. The City of Vineland passed an ordinance which demanded the formation of the City of Vineland Fire Department and the creation of a Director to lead the newly formed department. Samuel Ronchetti of the Main Avenue Fire Company was appointed as the first full-time Director of Fire for the City of Vineland.
1956- Headquarters for the newly formed department was established at Pioneer Fire Hall, the site of the old Vineland Borough's headquarters. A dispatch center was also established for the city's five fire companies.
1960- Headquarters for the newly formed department was established at Pioneer Fire Hall, the site of the old Vineland Borough's headquarters. A dispatch center was also established for the city's five fire companies. While the idea of a centralized fire hall and dispatch center was convenient, the location of the site proved to be a problem. Engines leaving the hall had to contend not only with a heavily congested street, but Sixth Street was also one way. The city began exploring options for a new headquarters.
1962- Plans were drawn up by John A Fletcher Associates for a new fire station to be located at Fourth and Wood Streets in the old Vineland Borough. The new fire headquarters was opened on September 8, 1962. The new building, a two story structure constructed of concrete blocks, pre-stressed concrete beams and an exterior brick venere costs $200,000. The dedication of the new station completed the consolidation of Vineland's two oldest fire companies, Pioneer and Reliance. The former sites of Pioneer and Reliance were closed as fire stations forever.
1966- In 1966, the Fire Prevention Bureau was created. Fire prevention inspectors compiled a comprehensive list of businesses, industrial plants, schools, institutions and multi-family dwelling in the city. Inspectors were charged with the task of determining the location of exits and entrances, firewalls and utility shutoffs. Violations of the city fire code had 15 days to be corrected or a fine of $15 to $100 would be levied for each day the hazard remained.
1968- Career Firefighter Biaggio Ciulla and Sgt. Albert Barnabei of the Vineland Police Department and a member of Company # 4 were sent to Rutgers University for training in arson investigation. With the successful completion of this class, both men laid the ground work for the formation of the city's arson bureau. Although the Police Department handles the prosecution of offenders, the Bureau relied on each of its investigators to collect evidence and photograph fire scenes to determine fire origin and cause.
1974- The need for improved and standardized training led to the formation of the Vineland Fire Department Training Division in 1974. The Division, headed by Captain Robert Souders, strived to create uniformed training standards for attack strategies thereby making decisions easier for fireground commanders. With a turnover rate of about 18% of its total strength in 1974, the training division capitalized on this opportunity and established a basic training school for probationary firefighters. Prior to the formation of the school, training was done on a county level and was supplemented by training assistance from each of the five respective fire companies. The newly formed school graduated its first class of 30 probationary firefighters in May of 1975.
** Facts and information compiled from Linda M. Kandle's "A History of the Vineland Fire Department" (1976) and clippings from Daily Journal "Vineland Fire Department 130th Anniversary Supplement" (2002).