Trenton Fire Department History
The Trenton Fire Department traces its roots back to a blacksmith shop at Broad and Front Streets where, on February 7, 1747, a group of volunteers formed the Union Fire Company. The volunteers served the city well for the next 145 years until, on April 4, 1892, the paid department was established. The city paid a grand farewell to the 13 volunteer companies on that date with a gigantic parade, dinner, and fireworks display.
The Chief of the volunteer companies, Philip Freudenmacher, served 24 hours as the first Chief of the paid department and then turned the badge of office over to William McGill.
The first fire alarm telegraph system was installed in 1880 and modernized in 1929 when the four-digit, zoned system was devised. This system was familiar to generations of firefighters until being deactivated in 1990 due to excessive misuse and vandalism.
Gas-powered vehicles were introduced to the Department in 1909 when a Stanley Steamer was purchased to replace the Chief's horse and wagon. A steam-driven chemical truck was acquired a year later, followed by the first gasoline-driven pumper, a Webb, in 1911. The conversion to motorized apparatus continued until August 26, 1919 when the last working team of horses was replaced by an American LaFrance pumper.
On October 3, 1988 the then Fire Division placed Rescue One in service. This company provides extrication, HazMat, Water Rescue and other services not only to the City, but to all of Mercer County, as well as performing fire duty.
The Department prides itself in its museum, founded in 1959 by insurance agent and fire buff Meredith C. Havens and firefighter Edward R. Gore. The collection took over the former gymnasium on the third floor of Fire Headquarters and was rededicated in honor of Meredith Havens on April 6, 1974.
The reconstruction of the old Fire Headquarters is now complete and plans are being made to re-open the museum in the old apparatus bays on the first floor of that building. For the first time we will be able to display antique apparatus along with the extensive collection of artifacts.
Department Establishment & Reorganization
For many years the Fire Division existed as a division of the Department of Public Safety, however a public referendum in June of 1999 established the Fire Department as a separate City Department, led by an appointed Director who serves as a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet. The Trenton Fire Department protects the Capitol city of New Jersey, a city of 88,000 residents, swelled by over 25,000 daytime workers in the downtown section, and 7.5 square miles of mainly residential, office buildings, and light manufacturing situated on the banks of the Delaware River in the central portion of the State.
The Department was reorganized in June of 2002. Two engine companies and one ladder company were closed as a result, but all seven remaining engine companies and three ladder companies are staffed with an officer and three firefighters at all times. The new West Ward Station was opened in the spring of 2003, improving citywide coverage.
The Department continues to expand its capabilities in the areas of weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological threats, building collapse and other concerns of the post-9/11 era.