In 1902 it was
felt there was a need for a Fire Department, but
nothing was done until the fall of 1903, when a
group of citizens and property holders met at
the school house to discuss the matter.
The objective of the meeting was to talk about
entering into an agreement with Robert F. Oram
to supply water from his water company for fire
Present at the meeting
Charles M. Hance
Robert F. Oram
Dr. H.W. Kice
Dr. Daniel Walters
E. W. Rosevear
Since this was a formal
meeting, Charles Hance was elected as committee
Chairman, and E.W. Rosevear was elected
At this meeting definite proof was submitted
showing the advantages to be derived from a
reduction in insurance rates as soon as a fire
department was established.
A committee was appointed to contact all
property owners and get their cooperation in
this proposed agreement.
At following meetings, this committee continued
to bring the matter of forming the fire
companies by ordinance before the common
After the original meeting, there were four
meetings of this committee which was known as
the "citizens committee interested in fire
protection," and they were now being held in the
At the third meeting, Dr. Kice was elected to
serve as the new chairman and E. W. Rosevear
continued as secretary. Also at this meeting,
estimates were furnished on the cost of the
required equipment and it was decided to assess
the property holders in proportion to their
assessed valuation to defray the cost of this
equipment. And finally at this meeting, Mr. Oram
offered to loan his hose carriages along with
500 feet of hose until the time when the
committee could purchase one.
At the fourth meeting, a committee reported that
they had been to New York City to inspect fire
equipment and recommended the purchase of a used
hand-truck for $325. A motion was made to put a
$50.00 deposit on the hand-truck and Mr. Oram
was instructed to place the order for the
apparatus and necessary supplies.
And at the June 28, 1904 meeting, a final letter
was drafted soliciting subscriptions, and
arrangements to make final payment on the
While this "citizens committee was continued,
the common council was busy drafting an
ordinance with these significant dates:
Original ordinance drafted November 16, 1903,
and referred to committee
first reading December 21. 1903. A
second reading January 18, 1904. A Third and final reading February 15, 1904.
At this February 15, 1904, the ordinance was
declared law by Mayor Harry J. Williams.
The title of the ordinance was "ordinance to
provide for, establish and regulate a fire
department in the Borough of Wharton, and
prescribing rules and the government thereof",
and it was designated ordinance #52.
The ordinance designated a Chief, First
Assistant Chief, and Second Assistant Chief. The
fire department would be composed of three
companies. The three companies would be called
the Active Hose Company with twenty members, the
Independent Hook and Ladder Company with forty
members, and the Board of Fire Wardens composed
of twenty members.
The fire department was not a reality until
Borough Clerk William H. Force submitted to the
council, a list of names, which were read and
approved on April 4, 1904.
The name of Charles M. Hance was submitted and
approved as the first Chief of the Wharton Fire
Department. Robert f. Oram was approved as the
first Assistant Chief, and John Mckenna was
approved as the Second Assistant Chief. Thomas
Champion was appointed as Foreman of the Hose
Company, and William Somerville was appointed
Assistant Foreman of the Hose Company. D.J.
Kettrick was appointed Foreman of the Hook and
Ladder Company, and Harry Hance the Assistant
Foreman of the Hook and Ladder Company.
No reference was made to the Board of Fire
Wardens at this meeting. Appointments were made
to the Wardens on May 16, 1904, and the company
organized on July 26, 1904. My source of
information does not state who the first
The ordinance was amended on October 19, 1908
increasing the Hose Company membership to forty
(40) men. The ordinance was amended again in
1968 increasing the Board of Fire Wardens
membership to forty (40) men.
The list of the charter member of the Wharton
Fire Department is attached at the end of the
The first apparatus were two (2), two wheeled,
hand drawn hose carriages lent to the fire
department by Mr. Robert Oram. Each was equipped
with two hundred and fifty feet (250) of two and
one half (2-1/2) inch hose.
Shortly here after, was the hose cart ordered by
the "committee" and later this was augmented by
a hand drawn "hook & ladder truck." this hook &
ladder was outfitted with axes, lanterns, pike
poles, pails, and a thirty (30) foot ladder.
Sometime later, around 1911, another two wheeled
hose cart was added bringing the apparatus
strength up to two hose carts, and one fully
equipped hook & ladder truck, all hand- drawn of
The second hose cart was purchased in 1911, and
because of it's high wheels, it was called the
"jumper." Mr. Ed Hicks who as a charter member
gave us this information. We still have and up
until 1995, it was here in this room in the
basement of the Wharton Public Library. In 1995,
it was donated to the museum at the New Jersey
Firemans Home in Booton, New Jersey where it
The next apparatus was a horse drawn hook and
ladder truck with a running board which
permitted some firemen to ride the vehicle, it
had assorted ladders, and two thirty (30) gallon
chemical tanks. This vehicle was drawn by a team
of horses on loan from Oram's lumber & coal yard
and Fichters livery.
The hand-drawn and hose-drawn apparatus finally
gave way to the first gasoline motorized
equipment when in 1916, a "REO" fire truck was
purchased and placed in service. This apparatus
had large solid rubber tires with wooden spoked
wheels, a siren and bell, ladders, 2-1/2" hose
with accessories, lanterns, and the two 30
gallon chemical tanks from the horse-drawn
This was followed in 1927 by a "Buffalo Pumper"
which had a 500 gallon per minute pump, carried
650 feet of 2-1/2" hose and a booster tank. In
1949, it was outfitted with a windshield and an
overhead bed, which carried a 3 section, 45 foot
In 1941, a "white" fire engine with a 500 gallon
two (2) stage centrifugal pump and full
compartments was purchased. It also carried 150
gallons of water in a booster tank.
In 1950, the Wharton Fire Department purchased a
1931 American La France salvage & rescue truck
from Dover, and a 1927 American La France hook &
ladder truck from Nutley. Since more time was
spent repairing these last two pieces of
apparatus than operating them, they did not stay
around too long.
These were replaced in 1954 by a "Ward La France
quadruple combination truck. This truck had a
750 gallon per minute pump, a 300 gallon booster
tank, carried 1000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, and 300
feet of 1-1/2" hose. In addition it carried a 50
foot, 3 section ladder, a 28 foot 2 section
ladder and various smaller ladders. This truck
was a "jewel."
This "quad" was followed in 1955 by a Ward La
France 750 gallon per minute pumper which
carried 500 gallons of water in a booster tank,
and carried 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose and 600
feet of 1-1/2" hose.
Because two way radios were installed in these
two vehicles, they were given apparatus numbers
of engine 320 for the Ward La France pumper, and
truck 321 for the Ward La France "quad."
In 1965 a "young" 1000 gallon per minute pumper
was purchased which carried 500 gallons of
water, and 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, 600 feet of
1-1/2" hose, one 28 foot, and one 14 foot
aluminum ladder. This pumper was given the radio
number of engine 322.
In 1973, the Ward La France pumper (engine 320)
was replaced by another "young" 1000 gallon per
minute pumper which was powered by a V6 Detroit
Diesel. This pumper also carried 500 gallons of
water, 2000 feet of 2-1/2" hose, 600 feet of 1-
1/2" hose, one 28 foot, and one 14 foot aluminum
ladder. This pumper kept the radio number of
In 1976, it was felt that there was a need for a
fire chief's vehicle. The first Chief's vehicle
purchased was a 1970 Nash Rambler. It was
equipped with a red light bar, siren, and two
way radio. This chief's car was purchased by and
owned by the Fire Department, not the Borough of
Wharton. At present, the fire Chiefs vehicle is
a 1997 Jeep Cherokee.
In 1977, the Ward La France "quad" was replaced
by a 75 foot Pierce-Pittman Snorkel. In addition
to the 75 foot articulating boom, the snorkel
has a 1000 gallon per minute pump, carries 2000
feet of 3" hose, 300 feet of 2-1/2" hose. The
ladders consist of a 3 section 40 foot ladder, a
2 section 32 foot ladder, and 6 smaller ladders,
In 1987, a Pierce 1250 gallon per minute pumper
was purchased, replacing the 1964 Young pumper.
This engine has a 500 gallon of water in it's
tank and carries 2000 feet of 3 inch hose, 300
feet of 1-3/4 inch hose, on 26 foot extension
ladder, and one 14 foot roof ladder. This engine
has the radio number of engine 322.
In 1996, another pierce 1250 gallon per minute
pumper was purchased to replace the 1973 Young
Deisel pumper. This engine has a 750 gallon
water tank, carries 2000 feet of 3" hose and 600
feet of 1-3/4" hose. The ladders are a 24 foot
two section ladder and a 12 foot roof ladder.
This engine has been assigned the radio number
of engine 320.
Today our compliment of fire apparatus consists
1996 Pierce engine 320 1250 gpm pumper
1977 Pierce truck 321 1000 gpm 75 foot snorkel
1987 Pierce engine 322 1250 gpm pumper
1991 Dodge truck 323 utility vehicle
1990 Ford truck 324 pick-up vehicle
1997 Jeep car 327, chief's car
The first method of alerting the firemen was by
means of striking large locomotive rims located
in several sections of town.
Then in December 1904, a 8 inch steam whistle
was installed at the Hurd Mine. After the mine
was closed, the whistle was transferred to the
furnace and then to the Gunther Silk Mill, and
in 1918, a manually controlled electric siren
was installed in a cupola atop the borough hall.
In 1929, the first of 19 sterling system street
fire alarm boxes were installed through the
borough. As the population of the town increased
during the 1950's, two additional electric
sirens were installed (one in Luxemburg and one
in St.Mary's) to help alert the firemen in these
sections of the borough. One more electric siren
was added to the woodland section in 1955.
The Saturday noon fire alarm system test dates
back to the action of the borough council
requiring a test of the fire alarm as early as
December 26, 1904.
Through the years additional street alarm boxes
were added and when the system was finally
removed in 1981, there were a total of 41 alarm
boxes and four sirens. Why were the alarm boxes
removed? It was due to maintenance expenses and
the high number of false alarms we were
Today we still have the four (4) sirens, but the
fire department is dispatched by home radio
receivers and personal pagers. The sirens are
activated by radio tones as are the home
receivers and pagers.
The Wharton Fire Department has always been
known for it's marching ability and drill team.
The first parade attended in dress uniform was
at Hackettestown in August 29, 1907. No mention
was made of receiving any prizes.
The first prize dates back to 1908 and through
out the years, we have appeared throughout NJ,
NY and Pa. Today over 200 trophies adorn the
walls of our meeting room, recreation room and
truckroom. The oldest trophy we have dates back
to 1908. The inscription on the trophy states
that it was awarded to the Hook and Ladder
Company for running 1000 yards and extinguishing
a fire in 1 minute and 20 seconds. I believe
that it should state 100 yards.
The original uniforms of 1906 were the long
coat, red flannel lined variety with square
peaked hats. In 1916, the second uniforms were
purchased with round peaked hats.
In 1935, the New York Fire Department officers
uniform style was adopted and we still have this
In 1952, the chief officers hats were modified
by changing from blue to white crown.
Charter members Active Hose Company No. 1
Wharton Fire Department
April 11, 1904
Thomas Champion, Foreman Wm. Hitchens
Wm H. Somerville, Assist foreman Joseph Schiffne
Wm. H. Force Wallace Fitcher
James Saundry Ed Williams
Henry Wilcox Thomas H. Rowe
Ed R. King John Saundry Jr.
George Lewis W. J. Chegwidden
James Lewis Frank Singleton
Joseph Tregenza Charles Mohler
Chas. Mclaughlin John Cole
P. K. Flannaga
Charter members Independent Hook & Ladder Co.
Wharton Fire Department
April 11, 1904
Daniel Kettrick Foreman Frank Spargo
Harry Hance, Assist. Foreman Agustus Mathews
Fred Kernick Martin Morris
Edward Hicks Jr. Frank Guest
Agustus Stephens William Rusch
John Hitchens Martin Carberry
Noal Wilcox Thomas Wilcox
Wm. Rosewaren Frank King
J. J. Huff William Kennedy
Joseph K. Williams William Dorman
Charter members Board of
Wharton Fire Department
July 26, 1904
A. M. Ryan Michael Kennedy
James T. Spargo Williams Foley
Richard S. Hart W. H. Whitham
E. W. Rosevear Joseph Mankee
Dr. H. W. Kice John Kernick
Wharton Fire Department 50th Anniversary
Leonard a. Williams, member 1957 to present.
August 28, 2000.