History of the Verona Fire Department
The Verona Fire Department was organized in 1909. Two years after the Borough was created in 1907 by seceding from the old Verona Township (now Cedar Grove), the Verona Borough Council passed an ordinance on May 7, 1909 to create a fire department. A meeting of interested Verona citizens was held in the old Heider building on Bloomfield Avenue, which was located across from the point of Claremont Avenue and Cumberland Avenue.
The Verona Fire Department was organized on May 12, 1909 and three companies were formed. They were Truck Company 1, Hose Company 1, and Hose Company 2. Initially, there were thirty volunteer members in the entire department, ten members in each company. All members had to be residents of the Borough of Verona. An earlier attempt to organize in 1903-04, after a disastrous fire, failed when the voters of old Verona Township rejected funding.
Truck Company 1 and Hose Company 1 were housed in a barn at the rear of the old Methodist Church Parsonage on Grove Avenue until 1910. That year the borough acquired The Old Methodist Church at the northeast corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Grove Avenue. Hose Company 2 was housed in Mr. Charles Coleman’s barn located on Bloomfield Avenue, approximately where the parking lot for 7-Eleven is today. Mr. Coleman was one of the first members of the department.
In 1909 the mayor and council passed an ordinance that $1500.00 be appropriated for equipment. Three Fire wagons were purchased; two hose wagons and one Hook and Ladder wagon. All the wagons could be pulled by hand or by horses. The horses were borrowed from local businessmen, primarily from William P. Johnson, Mayor David H. Slayback, Charles Bahr, Adam Wiessmann (a Verona butcher) and Charles Coleman.
Soon, the Fire Department members drew up a set of by-laws for the organization and elected their first Chief, Mr. Theodore S. Farrand, who was a member of Hook and Ladder Company 1. He would remain as Chief of the Department through 1917. The funding to hire horses when necessary for calls or drills was passed by resolution on June 3, 1910.
During bad winter weather, the horses would be tied to a sleigh instead of a wagon. The first fire was in an ice shed at the hotel operated by the Lichtenbergs on Bloomfield Avenue opposite Lakeside Avenue.
In 1909 the Borough installed the first eleven fire hydrants so that firefighters would have more water and better water pressure to fight fires with.
In 1915 the Borough purchased a Brockway Fire Engine, its first motor driven apparatus, which was housed with Hose Company 1. The Brockway was equipped with a 40 gallon chemical tank, 250 feet of chemical hose, 1000 feet of 2.5 inch hose, two short ladders, two play pipes (one with shut off nozzle) and two 2.5 gallon chemical extinguishers.
In 1917, the firefighters raised funds to purchase land and build Firehouse 2 at 209 Bloomfield Avenue, where the current Firehouse 2 is today. The Verona Fire Department eventually gave this land and building to the Borough.
On April 3, 1917, Hook and Ladder Company 1 and Hose Company 1 were merged and its members joined either Hose Company 1 or Hose Company 2. In 1917, the members of Hose Company 2 retired its horse drawn hose wagon and mounted the hose wagon body on a Ford Model T automobile chassis. The Model T fire engine was equipped with 750 feet of 2.5-inch hose, two short ladders, two play pipes (one with shut off nozzle) and two 2.5 gallon chemical extinguishers.
At the end of 1917, Chief Farrand stepped down and William Graham was elected Chief of the Department. He remained as the Chief through 1922.
In 1919 the Model T chassis was replaced with a Pierce Arrow automobile chassis equipped with an air starter.
In 1922, a Packard Fire Engine was purchased and operated by Hose Company 2.
In 1923, Chief Graham was replaced by Henry Weingartner. At this time, the term for future chiefs was set at 2 years. Also in 1923, Hose Company 1 was moved to the Gould Street side of the New Municipal Building. The original Firehouse 1, which had been the old Methodist Church that was built in 1833, had burned to the ground in January but the apparatus had been saved.
The fourth Chief of the VFD was Charles Lance, who headed the Department during 1925 – 1926. He was followed by Lester Requa, who was the Chief from 1927 through 1928.
In 1927, an American La France 1000-gallon pumper was purchased for Hose Company 1.
Later In 1927, Hose Company 2 created The Verona #2 Rescue Squad which consisted of Company 2 members. The members raised funds to purchase a Pierce Arrow rescue truck and Firehouse 2 was remodeled to accommodate the new truck. The truck was loaded with a first aid kit and a Clark inhalator.
D. H. Slayback became Chief in 1929-1930 followed by Emil Schmick who was Chief in 1931-1932.
In 1931, a used REO hook and ladder truck was purchased and was operated by Company 1.
In 1933, during Howard DeCamp’s first year as Chief, numbered badges were issued to the firefighters for the first time. Badge #1 was given to Silas Voorhees and badge #2 to John Williams, both of whom were charter members of the Department. Chief DeCamp received badge #5. Charter Members are the original Verona firefighters who were responsible for creating the Verona Fire Department. In the 78 years since badge numbers were first issued, the Verona Fire Department is now up to badge # 318. Once a badge number is issued, it will never be re-issued again.
In 1935, while Fred Ingold was Chief, Hose Company 1 changed its name to Engine Company 1. In 1936, the Borough also purchased a 1936 American LaFrance “City Service” Hook and Ladder truck for Company #2. In 1937 a GMC Rescue Truck was obtained for the Rescue Squad.
Charter member Silas Voorhees became the next Chief, serving during 1937 –1938. He was succeeded by George Dollmaier in 1939. During that year, a large fire during a snowstorm destroyed the building housing Ace Hardware on the corner of Montrose and Bloomfield Avenues, where DiPaolo’s Bakery now stands.
J. Edward Carlson was Chief during 1941 and 1942. He temporarily left Verona in 1942 when he joined the armed forces. His term was completed by Arthur Schmick. During World War II, many of the Borough’s young men were in the armed forces. Arthur Schmick was elected to a full term as Chief in 1943 and served beyond the normal two years until the end of 1948. He followed in the footsteps of his brother Emil, who had been Chief in 1931-1932.
In 1942 the Verona Auxiliary Fire Department was created as a Civilian Defense measure to supplement the regular fire department and to assist in Civil Defense measures during wartime. A Chevrolet truck was purchased and equipped with ladders and hose for the VAFD to use.
In 1944, one of the largest fires in Verona’s history occurred when the Verona Bowling Academy at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Fairview was gutted by fire. This building still stands today and is the home of the Fred Hill Sports Academy.
C. William Coerper, one of three brothers who served in the VFD( two as Chief) became Chief in 1949. During that year, fire heavily damaged Firehouse 2 and the borough erected a new building on the same site. This Fire Station still exists and is now the home of Truck Company #2. It has been remodeled but the 1949 building is still intact.
Also during 1949, the members of the Company #1 built a fire engine on a Ford truck chassis and parts of a World War II civil defense trailer pump. This small fire engine had a five hundred gallon per minute pump and a water tank. It was affectionately called the “Mudder” was extremely successful in putting out brush fires for decades with what later became known as Engine Company #1.
In 1951, James Ferguson Sr. became Chief. By this time the tradition of alternating Chiefs between the two Fire Companies had been established. He was followed in 1953 by the second of the Coerper brothers, John, who was Chief in 1953-1954.
In 1953, a V-12 cylinder Seagrave 1000 GPM Pumper replaced the 1927 American La France. Engine Company #1, housed in the Municipal Building facing Gould Street now consisted of two pumpers, called engines, as the Seagrave joined the 1949 Ford “mudder”.
Alexander Owen served as Chief during 1955-1956, followed by Joseph Ward in 1957-1958.
In 1958, the Acme Supermarket, located at 420 Bloomfield Avenue where the Richfield Regency is today, was gutted by fire. The Montclair Fire Deaprtment’s aerial ladder truck was called upon to assist in dousing the blaze. It became apparent that Verona needed such a fire apparatus also.
During Merle Burdett’s term as Chief from 1959-1960, the first aerial ladder truck in the Departments history was purchased. It was an 85-foot aerial ladder built by Maxim. It was a “Quint”, which was due to the fact that it also had its own water pump, much like an engine. It was purchased for Company #2 to replace the 1936 American La France. During that time Verona also experienced its most costly fire to date when the canned meat Company on Pine Street where Cameco is now located was destroyed by fire. At this fire the VFD narrowly escaped tragedy when the back wall of the building blew out moments after firefighters had moved from that location.
In 1960 a used 1939 Mack 500 GPM pumper was purchased from the Cedar Grove Fire Department to equip the Verona Auxiliary Fire Department. This group of young Firefighters had been aiding and assisting the regular department since World War II. It was housed in fire station #2 and was repainted red from the original white color then used by the CGFD. It remained in service with the VAFD until the pump gave way during a large mansion fire on Belleclair Place in the early 70’s.
In 1960 Engine Company 1 moved from the Gould Street side of the Municipal Building to new quarters when the building was expanded and a new three bay fire station was built facing Bloomfield Avenue.
In the 1960’s, two members of Hose Company #2, David Brooks and Jay Aloia, built a fire alarm map of the township inside Station #2. It showed the location of every alarm by lighting red light at that intersection. It remained in service until the station was remodeled 40 years later.
Charles Hardy became Chief during 1961-1962, followed by Walter McKenna in 1963-1964.
In 1964, the 1949 Ford “Mudder” was replaced in Engine Company #1 by a Ford 750 Gallon per minute (GPM) engine with a high-pressure pump, built by the TASC Co. The “Mudder” entered service as a Verona Auxiliary FD truck and continued in service for many more years.
Robert Coad, who was at that time the Municipal Building Inspector was the next Chief, serving from 1965-1966. Paul Simpson was Chief in 1967-1968. It was during his term that the VFD was part of a task force in Newark that aided the Newark Fire Department in combating the many fires during the riots that took place. At that time many older fire apparatus came with open cabs that were exposed to the weather. In order to protect its members, wooden roofs were constructed on both the 1953 Seagrave engine and 1959 Maxim Ladder Truck.
During the 1960’s the members of the VFD obtained a small Crosley auto and converted it into a Parade “Fire Engine”. It was sold in the 1990’s when there was no longer enough storage space to keep it. It returned for the Township Centennial parade in 2007 and again for the VFD 100th Parade.
Leo Maroot was elected as Chief and served in 1969-1970.
The Tradition of numbering the Verona Fire Department apparatus began in the 1970’s. At that time the Verona Police used car #’s 1-5, the Verona Rescue Squad #’s 6-9 so the Verona Fire Department established Engines #10 & 11 in Engine Company #1 and Truck 12 in Hose Company #2. Engine 13 was later used for a semi-retired engine that would be kept as a spare for emergency use when another engine was out of service.
In 1971, Gilbert Hill was elected Chief of the Department and served through 1972. He was followed by Walter Trapp from 1973-1974.
In 1973, as a result of a township-wide review by Insurance Services Organization (ISO) it was determined that Verona needed to have an additional Engine on the east side of town. This resulted in the purchase of Verona’s first diesel fire apparatus with an automatic transmission. The new Engine, which became Engine 14, was an American LaFrance 1500 GPM engine with a high-pressure pump. It also was the first Verona FD apparatus to not be painted entirely red, as its colors were white over red. Hose Company #2 now consisted of a ladder truck #12 and an Engine #14. As neither company wished to use the number 13, for its apparatus, that number was used for the old 1953 Seagrave which was still in service with the Auxiliary Fire Department.
The middle of 1973, the wives of company #1 members formed the Ladies Auxiliary. These women would provide support to the department during any fire or at various VFD events. At fires, the Ladies Auxiliary would get coffee, water, food or anything that would be needed at the scene. In September of 1980, the wives of Company #2 joined the wives of Company #1 to form today’s Ladies Auxiliary.
In 1975 with Sandy Weinberg Chief, a Ford/Young 1500 GPM engine was purchased for Company #1. This apparatus was made Engine 10 and replaced the 1953 Seagrave and joined the 1964 Ford Engine 11 in service with Engine Company #1. This new engine was designed with a cross mount pump control panel that allowed the engine operator better access and sightlines at a fire scene. The Seagrave was assigned to the Auxiliary Fire Department and remained in service for a few years.
At this time, the New Jersey State Legislature was considering a law which would mandate that all new fire apparatus in the State of New Jersey be delivered in a more visible color, Lime Yellow. To comply with the expected law, and to save the taxpayers money down the line for improvements, the new engine came in with a paint scheme of white over Lime Yellow. The law was never passed, but since then Engine Company #1 has adopted this color scheme for their apparatus. In 1999 black was added resulting in today’s look of white, lime yellow and black. Truck Company #2 has decided to remain with the traditional colors of white over red, which is why Verona has two different colors for their fire apparatus.
During Sandy Weinberg’s term as Chief, Verona lost one of its landmarks as the original Claremont Diner located where DCH Acura is now, was destroyed by a large fire. I was also during Chief Weinberg’s term that the Verona Fire Department Training Center was constructed in 1976. The members of the department, along with donated services and time, built the Verona Fire Department Training Center, located on Commerce Court. Prior to this the VFD had conducted training at various out of town locations, including the North Jersey Volunteer Firemen’s Training Center in Wayne, NJ.
Harold Waterman became Chief in 1977-1978. When Harold Waterman moved from Verona to upstate New York just prior to the end of his term as Chief, he was succeeded by Assistant Chief James Ferguson, Jr. By becoming Chief, Jim Ferguson, Jr. became the first son of a former Chief to also achieve that distinction. He served in that role until the end of 1980.
In 1979, the Verona Fire Department welcomed its first African-American member, Charles Finger. Chuck served in Truck Company #2 until his untimely passing in 1997.
David Brooks became Chief in 1981. He instituted insurance coverage for loss of income due to sickness or injury of the members. In 1981, Engine Company #1 received a Pierce Arrow1500 GPM engine equipped with a foam firefighting system. It replaced the 1964 Ford and became Engine #11. A large fire destroyed the Garden State Farms convenience store on Grove Avenue after some kids ignited the wooden dumpster in the rear of the building.
In 1984, during Joe Gardner’s second year as Chief, it became time to replace the aging 1959 Maxim Aerial Ladder. It was replaced by a 1984 LTI/Conestoga Custom 85 foot aerial ladder platform “quint”. This became the new Truck #12 and has remained in service until this year’s delivery of the newest VFD apparatus that we are celebrating now. Due to the increased size of this truck, Fire Station #2 had to be upgraded with a new apparatus room floor, ramp and new doors to allow the new Ladder Tower to fit in the building. After this upgrade, the members of Hose Company #2 voted to change their name to Truck Company #2.
While serving as Chief from 1985-1986, Arnold Zipf obtained a used 15 passenger van that was donated by Schering-Plough Corporation. This van was put into service as Verona’s first Incident Command vehicle and was equipped with multiple radios and a breathing air cascade system that enabled firefighters to refill air bottles at the scene of a fire. Chief Zipf admirably tried to work the colors of both fire companies into this vehicle by having it painted Lime Yellow over red. Members of both companies appreciated his efforts but agreed that the colors did not blend well together and it was soon repainted white over red. This Command Van served the Chief until 1990 when it was replaced by a new vehicle.
Paul Sonntag was elected as Chief and served during 1987-1988. During Paul’s term as Chief the VFD accepted its first female firefighter, Carol Batty. A major fire destroyed a wing of Green Acres Apartments just off Bloomfield Avenue while Paul was Chief.
Jeff Hayes became the next VFD Chief and served in 1989-1990. During his term, the VFD welcomed its first Hispanic member, David Ramos. Dave served in the VFD for 7 years before going on to a career in Law Enforcement.
In 1990 the command van was replaced by Chief Hayes with a 4 wheel drive Chevrolet Suburban and the cascade system was moved and mounted in the rear hose bed of Engine 14. The new Chief’s Command Vehicle was Designated Command #15 and equipped with additional communications gear, storage for incident management reference materials and spare Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
Richard Luzzi became Chief in 1991-1992. During his tenure the VFD took delivery of a new Engine #14 that replaced the 1973 American LaFrance. The new apparatus was a BECK 1500 GPM engine with an 800-gallon water tank. The new Engine #14 was the first Verona apparatus to have all inside seating for responding firefighters, a safety requirement that had been mandated for all new fire apparatus. This engine is still in service and is due to be replaced in 2014.
By 1991, the insurance coverage that had been instituted in 1981 by Chief Brooks was becoming increasingly expensive for less protection and coverage. In an effort to maintain existing insurance protection for VFD members while allowing the Townships costs to remain stable, The Verona Firefighters Insurance Association was created on July 10, 1991. This Association was funded by the Township and has maintained the insurance protection for VFD members at a much lower cost to the Township ever since.
Charles Magatti was elected Chief for the term of 1993-1994. It was during his tenure that Verona experienced one of our worst house fires under extreme blizzard conditions at the corner of Personette Street and Fairview Avenue. Firefighters had to locate and then dig out hydrants before the blaze could be extinguished.
Paul Livelli served as Chief from 1995-1996. He was followed by Chief Kevin Gifford in 1997-1998. It was during Chief Gifford’s tenure that the VFD experienced its next major upgrade to our facilities.
On June 24, 1997 the new Fire Station #1 was dedicated. Located at 880 Bloomfield Avenue and attached to the new Verona Community Center, it became the new home of Engine Company #1. It was designed to fit both fire companies’ apparatus in case of an emergency. Containing three large apparatus bays allowed the VFD additional space to maintain a spare engine and have room for future expansion. Along with offices for the Fire Marshall and Chief, it contained a meeting room and kitchen that is used by the Township for community functions and as a source of rental income. The new Station #1 also contains a training classroom, conference and ready rooms, equipment storage and a cascade air filling base station. A backup emergency dispatch and command center is also located at Station #1.
As the importance of Incident Command increased, it became apparent that the Fire Chief needed to have a vehicle to respond to calls in that would have communication radios and be able to get through Verona traffic on his way to a fire scene. Chief Gifford became the first Fire Chief to use a recycled Verona Police car as the Fire Chiefs car. The VFD continued to receive used police cars for this purpose until 2008.
On January 1, 1999, Larry Burdett became the second son of a former VFD Chief to ascend to that rank, following in his father Merle’s footsteps exactly 40 years later. He served as Chief in 1999-2000. He replaced the Chief’s car with a second recycled VPD Car, this time a Ford, on which he had stripes painted with the colors of his company, black and yellow.
On July 17, 1999, the 1975 Ford/Young Engine #10 was replaced by a Pierce Lance 2000 GPM engine. This new state of the art engine was equipped with a breathing air cascade system, a light tower and a pump control panel that was inside the crew compartment which allowed the engine operator to remain out of inclement weather at a fire scene. At this time, the members of Engine Company #1 decided to add to their White over Lime Yellow color scheme with a ring of black along the lower part of the engine. These colors have remained on all Engine Company #1 vehicles to this day. Upon delivery of this new engine, the VFD celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a celebratory “wetdown” at Fire Station #1. The 1975 Ford/Young was put into reserve status as Engine #16.
It was during Robert Laietta’s term as Chief in 2001-2002 that the VFD experienced one of its most sad but memorable calls to duty. On September 11, 2001, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City, The Verona Fire Department responded into New York City as part of an Essex County Task Force and filled in for FDNY Fire Companies that had lost apparatus and members in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Many VFD members also spent their own time assisting at the scene in the days after the attacks.
Chief Laietta also upgraded the VFD Command Vehicle, replacing the 1990 Suburban with a new Ford Excursion; Custom designed and built Incident Command Vehicle, designated Command #17.
R. “Pat” McEvoy succeeded Rob Laietta as Chief for 2003-2004. Pat had come to the VFD, along with many other former Chiefs, as a member of the Verona Auxiliary Fire Department. The VAFD had been disbanded years ago after the minimum age to become a regular VFD member had been lowered from 21 to 18. In 2003, The Fire Department reactivated the Auxiliary Fire Department. The Auxiliary Fire Department’s purpose was to allow people under 18 or a student in college who could not meet the requirements for membership the opportunity to take part in the Department’s functions. They could not take part in direct firefighting operations, but assisted the firefighters as needed. The Verona Auxiliary Fire Department is still active and has been instrumental in providing the VFD with future members.
Also during Chief McEvoy’s term, our 1981 Pierce Engine 11 was replaced with a 2004 Pierce Lance a 2000 GPM engine. Basically a twin to the 1999 Engine 10, it had additional room for equipment as another cascade air system was not needed. It was put in service in Engine Company #1 as Engine #11. The 1981 Pierce Arrow was designated Engine #16, replacing the 1975 Ford/Young and is used as a replacement engine and for training with the Auxiliary Fire Department.
Harvey Goodman became Chief in 2005-2006. He obtained another old VPD car for the Assistant Chief to use, having it painted with matching colors to Command 17.
On July 19th 2006, while Chief Goodman was traveling overseas, Verona was hit with a very severe storm, which was later confirmed as a microburst. The Verona Fire Department received and answered over twenty official calls in the first hour, and an additional fifty to sixty investigations ranging from downed power lines, to trees that had fallen onto houses and possible structure fires. VFD members responded to these calls using every VFD apparatus as well as in their personal vehicles in order to provide the best possible protection for township residents. During the height of the storm, Command #17 was damaged severely when a large light that had been mounted on a telephone pole blew into one of its windows while Assistant Chief Larry Burdett was answering a call on Bloomfield Avenue. VFD members quickly patched up the damage and it was put back into service within 30 minutes. This situation tested the Township Command and Emergency Management structure to the limit but it passed with flying colors as the Township management and emergency services units all working together very well. The Verona Fire Department and OEM proved that night that the VFD is well prepared to protect the town and its residents, even with the new challenges at hand.
In 2007-2008, former Chief Larry Burdett became the first two time Chief in the departments history. He would soon be followed by former Chief Charles Magatti, who is the current Chief of the VFD. Former Chief Pat McEvoy is slated to become the third two time Chief in 2011-2012.
After the purchase of Command #17 in 2001, the 1990 Chevy Suburban #15 had been used by Truck Company #2 as a utility truck. With limits on how many firefighters could respond in a given apparatus, Utility #15 was used to transport firefighters and equipment to calls and other functions. Its engine failed in 2006 and a new utility truck was needed. In August 2007, it was replaced by a 2008 Diesel Ford F550 Utility truck. It serves in Truck Company #2 as Utility #15.
In March 2008, the Fire Department took delivery of a 2008 Ford F450 utility truck which was purchased by the township with funds from the Hilltop development. This truck was assigned to Engine Company #1 as a brush truck and has been outfitted with brush firefighting equipment. This vehicle was given the designation of Brush 19. On June 12, 2008, the Verona Fire Department took delivery of a 2008 Ford Escape Command Vehicle. This Command vehicle was designated Command #18 and replaced the used police cars that had been driven by the Assistant Chiefs since the 2001 Command #17 was put into service. It was paid for by a private donation by a foundation at the direction of an anonymous township family. The Verona Fire Department donated the vehicle to the Township. All of these vehicles were put in service under the command of Chief Larry Burdett who chose to drive the smaller Command #18, leaving Command #17 for the Assistant Chief and for Incidents only.
In 2009, Charles Magatti was elected to his second term as Chief, following Larry Burdett as the only Chiefs to serve in that position twice. Pat McEvoy was elected assistant Chief and will become the third such person in 2011.
Thus, the Verona Volunteer Fire Department enters its second century of serving the citizens of Verona. From a makeshift firehouse in a barn, we now have two Fire Stations. From a horse drawn hose wagon, we now have four Engines, a ladder Tower, two Utility Trucks and Two Incident Command vehicles.
On October 10, 2009 The Verona Volunteer Fire Department will be celebrating 100 years of volunteer service to the township. A Centennial Parade will take place up Bloomfield Avenue from Station #2 to Station #1 and a celebration party and “wetdown” for our newest Truck #12, a 105’ Aerial Tower ladder built by KME Fire Apparatus will follow at the Verona Community Center.
Since our creation in 1909, 372 men and women have served as Verona Volunteer firefighters. We currently have more prospective members in the process of joining this proud tradition. Every new member since 1909 has been provided with equipment, training and leadership. New members must serve from 6 to 18 months as a “Proby” or Probationary Firefighter, during which time they must attend and complete a New Jersey state class and become certified as Firefighter level I. Additionally, all prospective officers must be certified Incident Management Level I by the State of New Jersey.
The VFD currently has 55 Regular Members (including 10 Ex-Chiefs), 6 Probationary Members, 13 Life Members and 3 Social Members. We are always looking for new members who wish to serve their community.
Beginning with Theodore Farrand, the first chief, 42 regular Verona Firefighters have earned the respect of the members and have been elected as Chief of the department The Department also elects an Assistant Chief and each fire company elects a Captain and a Lieutenant.
The first alarm system was a steel rim from a locomotive wheel and a sledgehammer. The second alarm system, also located near the Old Methodist Church, was a large bell in a tower. The third and current audible alarm system, installed in 1923, is the air horn in the clock tower on top of the municipal building. A fire alarm directory with street number locations and a Gamewell fire alarm ticker tape was installed in the firehouses. When the fire alarm sounds, the location number would be punched out in tape. Arriving firemen who responded after hearing the horn counted the punches, looked up the number, and responded to the call. As Verona grew, and with the difficulty in hearing the horn in inclement weather, a four inch Edwards single stroke bell which was tied into the alarm system was installed in every firemen’s home in the 1960’s. For each time the horn sounded, the bell would sound. With a fire alarm directory, which was given to all members, unless he wasn’t a driver, the member could look up the location and respond to the scene. In 1948, the relay and switch panels were replaced by Chief Art Schmick and he served as Alarm System Superintendent for 20 years. In 1968, Jay Aloia became Alarm System Superintendent. Currently, the alarm system is maintained by the Verona Department of Buildings and Grounds, supervised by Len waterman, a former VFD member and son of Chief Harold Waterman.
In the 1980’s, Plectrons were given to every member and the in house bells were removed. These were alert and monitor receivers on the fire band radio frequency, which was activated by the police department. A loud tone would sound and a message would follow. This system gradually became more portable by replacing the Plectron with Motorola Minitors, which operated the same way as the Plectrons did but could be worn on a firefighter’s belt. In 2000, the Minitors were replaced by hand-held two-way radios on the current EDACS (Enhanced Digital Access Communications System) trunking system. This current system allows for easy response and communication with the police desk, other agencies (both in and out of Verona) and between firefighters at a fire scene. In January of 2008, The Township implemented a system to send SMS messages for fire calls to members’ cell phones. Each text indicates whether it is a fire or EMS call, the address of the call, and time. The horn and tickertape still serve as a backup system and for those who are unable to carry a radio, cell phone or minitor.
The Bell, a rare and unique apparatus bell, has served continuously on Verona Fire Trucks since 1915, starting with the 1915 Brockway pumper, the 1936 American La France hook and ladder, the 1964 Ford pumper, and now on the front bumper of the 1991 Beck pumper.
Some numbers are considered lucky, but number thirteen is not. Badge numbers 113, or 213 have never been issued to a firefighter. Probationary firefighter Jerry DeYoung decided to break this “curse” in 2008 and was issued Badge # 313. Badge 113 was issued to the Company #2 mascot, “Sarge” a Dalmatian. Sarge resided at Station #2 and rode to fires in the front seat of the ladder truck and then guarded the equipment at the fire but knew and recognized all the members of the Verona Fire Department. For awhile Engine 13 was the designation for the reserve engines. The last engine to be called “Engine 13” was the 1973 American LaFrance. Engine #16 is now used to number the reserve engines.
Traditions abound in the Verona Fire Department. Proud of its long service, the department has hosted anniversary parades on the 25th, 40th, 50th, 60th, and 75th anniversaries of the VFD, inviting the people of Verona and fire departments from all over New Jersey, to celebrate its birthdays. Proud of its apparatus, the department hosts “Wet Downs” for each new apparatus as it is put in service, inviting the citizens and neighboring fire departments, to inspect and initiate the new machine. Proud of its accomplishments, awards, trophies and honors of all types are saved and displayed for all to see.
The Verona Volunteer Fire Department has had a proud and successful first century. We look forward to providing the citizens of Verona with the best fire protection possible in the next 100 years and beyond.
Michael Inglesino (#123), in 1984
David Brooks (#119) in 1984
Steve Giblin (#289) in 2008
Additional writing by Larry Burdett (#163) in 2009