NPFD History

Our professional members and forefathers have been serving this community and its residents as a full time career department for over 100 years now. Many changes have occurred since 1904 when the department was created, yet the one thing that remains the same is the desire and ambition we have to fully serve the citizenry of North Plainfield.

The fire service produces a unique breed of individuals that appreciate the rich history of firefighting and strong sense of commitment and tradition that goes along with it.  The members of the North Plainfield Fire Department show their commitment to this community everyday.

North Plainfield Fire Department History

The history of organized fire fighting in North Plainfield predates the incorporation of the borough in 1885.  On September 1 1869, when North Plainfield was part of Warren Township, Warren Engine Company No. 1, was organized.  Located on Somerset Street, had only one hand drawn engine.  In those days, firefighting units responded to both sides of the Green Brook, often assisting Plainfield volunteers.  There were no paid or career firemen in either community. 

Organized some time later, the West End Fire Company was created and headquartered on the southwest corner of Harrison Avenue and Walnut Street.  An old locomotive bell was used to sound an alarm.  The bell, which now hangs in front of Borough Hall as a memorial to our deceased firefighters, was moved from its location at the exempt hall.  A steam whistle replaced the bell.  The addition of a fire alarm system with 12 boxes was used to call the volunteers to duty.
         1904 – FIRE HEADQUARTERS
     Currently used as Police Headquarters
1904 Fire HeadquartersThe volunteer fire department was run in those days by an elected fire board.  The board would certify its financial needs to the tax collector.  In 1903, plans to establish a part-paid department met with the protests of the volunteers.  So angry were they that they supported their own candidates for the Borough Council and managed to defeat three Republican incumbents known to support the part-paid idea.  However, their efforts eventually proved futile.

On March 14, 1904, Mayor Newton B. Smalley broke a 3-3 deadlock in the council, and the part-paid department was officially approved.   Julius J. Stahl, former mayor and tax collector, was the borough’s last volunteer Fire Chief.  Howard Woolsten was appointed as the first paid fire chief.  He received a salary of $100 dollars a year.  Serving with him was William Jersey Campbell, former Chief Fire Inspector, and his father, Ambrose.  They received about $12.50 per-week.  Callmen received $12.50 per-year.  The first part paid fire department was headquartered in what is now the police department.  The second floor of the building provided sleeping quarters for the men. 

In May 1904, Councilman James Arnold sought council approval to purchase a team of horses he had found at the stable of Stonewall Jackson, a local horse dealer.  The purchase was approved and the department stopped its practice of renting a team to pull the fire wagon that had been purchased for $350 dollars from the disbanded West End Hose Company.  Several years later the department bought its first motor-driven truck, and Nip and Tuck, the famous and beloved horse team, were sold.

Under state law, the former volunteer firemen became exempt firemen.  In 1907, they organized primarily as an outgrowth of the old West End Hose Company and the Warren Engine Company.  Ground was broken for their Somerset Street headquarters in 1924. 

In 1937, fire headquarters was moved from the current Police Station, to the new headquarters on Lincoln place.

      Built in 1937

1937 Fire Headquarters

Following Woosten as Fire Chief was William McCullough, Walter Chandler, Harry Schuck, Frank Renolds, Douglas DeNise Sr., Charles Kmosko, John Muglia, John H. Garnecki,  Peter Sylvester and Acting Chief Lane Solon.  The department is currently led by William F. Eaton and has been since October 6, 2003. 
In 1995 the department began providing emergency medical services to the Borough during the daytime hours.  With a borrowed ambulance, a hand full of cross-trained firefighters, and a mandate from the mayor to improve services, began a new chapter in the department’s history.  Currently most of the members of the department are cross trained as EMTs, and have the ability to provide the highest quality in basic life support care including External Cardiac Defibrillation.
The North Plainfield Fire Department has a proud history of tradition and service to the community, but never continues with a business as usual attitude.  Change in the Fire Service, and in our own department is a constant.  Sometimes subtle but more recently dramatic, these changes are met by the outstanding ingenuity and courage of today’s firemen.  The reasons for these changes are varied.  They can be political, a demand for improved or greater services by the community, all the way to reasons of world change.  If change is the certainty in our future, then the mechanisms of change must be a total effort with the participation of the borough government, the fire department, and the community.  By being proactive in this change process, we will ensure that the future of the department remains able to respond safely, professionally and efficiently to the changing needs of our community.