Teaneck Fire Department marks centennial
Organization improves with equipments, faces hotter fires
BY MEGAN BURROW, Managing Editor
TEANECK - One hundred years ago, Teaneck's first official municipal fire department was formed when four of the township's five independent volunteer fire companies combined.
Although its members remained volunteers, the Teaneck started paying for some expenses, including rent on four fire stations in town.
Now, the department has 93 members, including 31 officers, 60 firefighters and two civilian staff. Although the organization has grown tremendously in the years since it was first formed, and its equipment has become much more sophisticated, each member still works with the same goals in mind: to prevent fires from occurring and respond immediately to a fire, controlling and extinguishing the flames and rescuing any trapped occupants.
The Teaneck Fire Department will celebrate its centennial Oct. 4 with an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the department's headquarters, located at 1231 Teaneck Road.
Residents are invited to come participate in interactive demonstrations and learn about staying safe in a fire at the Fire Prevention Trailer and take a firehouse tour. A tower ladder and rescue truck will be on display, and there will be a forcible entry station and fire prevention giveaways. In addition, there will be an area available for children to use a real fire hose and participate in other activities.
Fire Chief Anthony Verley, a member of the department since 1987 and chief since 2010, said the department is inviting retired members back for the celebration and will be hanging a banner outside to mark the occasion.
In his time with the department, Verley said the equipment firefighters use has improved, but the hazards they face have also changed. Because homes are now filled with plastic materials, "when things burn, we're seeing much hotter fires."
The lightweight truss construction that is often used makes it more dangerous for firefighters to go into a burning building, Verley said.
Now that many people no longer use landline phones, Verley said he has seen problems arise from residents unable to contact the department during emergencies. About 240 public fire alarm boxes are spread throughout the town that residents can use to notify the department of a fire.
"I encourage everyone to go on the township website and take note of the closest fire box to you," he said.
According to township historian Larry Robertson, before the independent fire houses were combined, Teaneck was served by several different fire organizations. The first known organized fire protection in town was provided by the Hackensack Township Protection Society, a local police organization that provided equipment to residents to use for their own "rudimentary fire defense."
Before 1888, the equipment included leather buckets, ladders, lanterns and axes.
The first organized fire company in Teaneck was Defender Hook and Ladder Company, founded on New Bridge Road in 1895. When the local fire companies combined in 1915, this company chose not to, and instead it eventually became part of New Milford Fire Co. 2.
In 1920, a new fire department headquarters was built on Teaneck Road, next to where the current headquarters now sits. At the time, the only paid employee was the fire chief. Eventually, the department began to add paid officers until it became a fully paid professional organization.
There are still four firehouses in town: the headquarters on Teaneck Road, Fire Station 2 on Cedar Lane, Fire Station 3 on Teaneck Road near Degraw Avenue, and Fire Station 4 on Windsor Road.
The department remains extremely busy, averaging about 10 calls a day, said Verley.
"We're very proud of the contributions that we've made and continue to make to Teaneck. Firefighters have always adapted to the circumstances of the time. We have an extremely brave and innovative cadre of men and women who have built upon the progress that the firefighters before us have made," he said.