History

    The story of the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department began in 1897, just two short years after the Borough of Englewood Cliffs was Incorporated.  The newly formed Borough established a fire prevention code, Ordinance #12 on September 18, 1897, “to provide a means for extinguishing fires in the Borough of Englewood Cliffs and fixing appropriations therefore.”  This well-minded action on the part of a newly formed Borough laid the groundwork for an institution within Englewood Cliffs that would be dedicated to the safeguarding of lives and property for the centuries that followed.
   
    In 1903, there was a disastrous fire that leveled the Allison Mansion.  Though this was a devastating loss for those who were involved, it led a group of civic-minded citizens to act upon the need for fire protection in Englewood Cliffs, whereby they convened in the old Cliff Hall to incept the Fire Department.  They contacted members of Coytesville Fire Company (now Company #2 in Fort Lee) and with the information supplied, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department was Incorporated in 1905 as the “Englewood Cliffs Fire Protection Company #1.”  That same year, the Borough purchased the very first piece of fire apparatus: a two-wheeled hose carriage, with 500’ of 2 ½” hose, along with a garage to store it.  Also that year, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department found its home in a newly built firehouse.
   
    The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has had a long line of dedicated volunteers, beginning with John Wunsch and Charles Von Wagoner, the very first firefighters in Englewood Cliffs.  Gradually, the infrastructure for a complete municipal service was put into place.  Large gongs were installed throughout the Borough to sound the alarm when there was a need for the Fire Department to respond to an emergency, inaugurating an age “of wooden engines and iron men.”  Though technology and social progress would steer the fire department into new eras of service and capability, these first years established the absolute certainty that the people of the community who volunteer their time and energy to the service of the community are the most necessary component of the organization.
   
    This community-minded consciousness led to a celebrated inauguration of the firehouse on Bayview Avenue in 1917, which was built on land generously donated by the Wunsch family.  Also in 1917, “Exempt Certificates” were approved for firefighters by the Borough. This was the beginning of the Englewood Cliffs Firemen’s Exempt Association, which concerned itself with the welfare of the firefighters.
   
    The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has an extensive lineage of dedicated Chiefs, who headed the department through decades of challenges and successes.  In 1918, Frank C. “Pappy” Rose was elected to the position.  He had joined the department in 1914, at a time when the rest of the world was gearing up for World War I.  Though he had accomplished much for the fire department, one of his most notable contributions was a strong advocacy for the fire department’s members, specifically in championing an increase in insurance coverage.  The “Grand Old Man” of the fire department, his concern for his fellow firefighters continued past his tenure as Fire Chief, up until his death in 1962.
   
    In 1920, the Fire Department offered the Borough the use of its firehouse whenever it was needed.  This same year, the City of Englewood offered to help the Borough in any emergencies that might arise.  For the region, this was perhaps one of the first attempts at an organized mutual aid system among the local communities.  This sense of inter-community assistance would culminate in the formation of the East Bergen Mutual Aid Association, comprising ten neighboring towns that automatically assist one another in an emergency when called upon.
   
    Just as the fire service was bolstered by the development of a mutual aid association, it was also strengthened by improvements in technology.  In 1925, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department saw a change from hand-drawn fire-fighting apparatus to motorized equipment, with the purchase of a Larrabee pumper truck for $4,000.00.  This important piece of equipment would see a long service life of protecting lives and property in the Borough.


    As of 1935, Fire Calls were dispatched through Fort Lee.  Later in 1938, the Englewood Cliffs Police Department would use the rear of the firehouse as Police headquarters, exemplifying the Fire Department’s active role in the development of Englewood Cliffs.  In fact, the firehouse would later serve as a means for administering World War II selective service.
   
    In 1947, marking a significant development for the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department, an invitation was received to join the East Bergen Mutual Aid Association, which had been organized in 1946.  This association would be dedicated to helping neighboring communities with any emergencies that might arise.
   
    The following fifteen years saw a tremendous expansion in the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department, through the acquisition of numerous pieces of fire apparatus and added responsibilities.  The department commissioned a 1947 Ward-LaFrance pumper truck and later, a 1952 Ford Rescue truck.  In 1961, the department put a Mack 1000gpm pumper truck into service, which would be long considered the “work-horse” in the department’s stable.  In the interim years, the Palisades Interstate Parkway was built and the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department was delegated the responsibility of coverage from our South Borough line to the Greenbrouck turn-around.
   
    The combination of new equipment and added responsibilities by the end of the 1960s made it apparent that the Bayview Avenue firehouse could no longer house the Fire Department.  Just as the Fire Department was growing, so too was the Borough, which saw an ever-increasing population and new commercial buildings lining Route 9W and Palisade Avenue.  While the fire department would sustain itself at the Bayview Avenue firehouse throughout the 1970s, planning for a new home was already being considered.
   
    In 1969, the department’s expanded lineup of equipment included a new American LaFrance 100’ Aerial Ladder Truck, with a 1500gpm pump, which was purchased for $67,000.00.  In 1971, a new Imperial 1250gpm pumper truck was purchased to replace the aging Ward LaFrance pumper truck.  At this point, the need for all of the fire equipment to be centrally located and housed was completely evident and the Borough began the process of designing a new firehouse.
   
    In 1979, construction began on the site of the old Municipal Building (475 Sylvan Avenue). The old Bayview Avenue firehouse was given to the Borough in exchange for a 99-year lease on the new building at 475 Sylvan Avenue.  During construction, the old cornerstone from the original firehouse was installed, as was the old gong, which still serves as a reminder of fire fighting from another century.  The site of the old Bayview Avenue firehouse became the Englewood Cliffs Senior Citizens Complex.
   
    In 1980, the East Bergen Mutual Aid Association switched dispatching centers from Cliffside Park to Fort Lee.  Along with this change, all radio communications were enhanced and improved.  All of the member fire departments moved to high-band radio frequencies, which would improve penetration and reception in larger buildings, as well as cover larger distances.
   
    In 1981, the Fire Department purchased a Lucas Rescue Tool for $10,000.00.  These “jaws of life” were instrumental in saving many lives from devastating automotive accidents throughout the Borough and on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.  This same year, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department Rappel Team was organized, whereby a team of specially trained firefighters would be able to perform high-angle rescues and descents on the cliffs of the Palisades to assist injured or trapped people.
   
    In 1985, after an increasing need for rescues and extrications, due to bustling highway and parkway traffic, the department acquired a new piece of apparatus: a Hahn/Grumman Pumper-Rescue truck with a 1,000-gallon water-reserve tank.  This truck would serve as yet another workhorse in the daily calls for emergency assistance.
   
    In 1989, recognizing a need to support the members of the volunteer fire department, the Englewood Cliffs Mayor and Council approved a proposal that allowed for a $150.00 per month stipend for firefighters who responded to at least thirty-five percent of fire calls.

   
    Today, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department is composed of nearly forty volunteers and utilizes five varying pieces of fire apparatus: EC-2, our new 2003 Pierce Lance 2000gpm pumper/rescue truck; EC-3, the 1985 Hahn/Grumman pumper/rescue truck; EC-5, a 1984 utility vehicle; EC-1, the 1971 Imperial pumper truck; and EC-Truck, a 1994 Seagrave 105’ Aerial Ladder truck.  In addition, our Chief and Assistant Chief have vehicles that allow them to respond directly to the scene of an emergency to establish immediate command of the scene.
   
    In addition to an extensive list of firefighting equipment, that includes Scott Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus air packs, as well as a myriad assortment of rescue and extrication tools, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department also puts a strong emphasis on training and drilling among the members of the department.  This commitment to training and involvement led to the establishment of the Junior Firefighters Auxiliary program by Michael Cioffi and Howard Mann, whereby young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen can learn about the importance of community involvement and service in the fire department.
   
    The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has taken part in assisting the citizens of Englewood Cliffs, as well as their neighbors, throughout the past ninety-nine years.  On September 11, 2001, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department sent firefighters and a piece of apparatus into New York City, along with other communities in the East Bergen Mutual Aid Association, to assist in the rescue efforts after the attacks on the World Trade Center.  The fire department earned a New Jersey State Senate Resolution and a United States Congressional Recognition for its participation on September 11, 2001.  While that day held a great number of uncertainties for all those involved, as well as a tremendous sense of loss for an entire nation, the same spirit of community dedication and involvement that fostered the establishment of the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department was present on September 11, 2001 in the hearts and minds of a new generation of firefighters.
   
    As the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department inaugurates over 100 years of service to the Borough of Englewood Cliffs, the members of the department will always retain that same sense of community involvement that has guided generations of volunteers through a century of service and into a long future of continued dedication.  The “Espirit de Corps” that was established in 1905 continues to thrive in the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department.  As our community recognizes the Department’s centennial, it is clear that the history of the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department is the story of Englewood Cliffs’ citizens, from those who served in all major wars throughout the 20th century, to those who served in elected office.  Through all of the trials and decades, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has always responded when needed and it is the continued commitment of the Department and its members to always respond to any emergency, resolutely and proudly.


                    - Compiled By:  Michael Cioffi and Joseph F. Cioffi


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