As necessity is the mother of invention, it took a large conflagration in the heart of Westfield to awaken the people to the fact that they had no Fire Department to handle such a situation, should it occur again.
The large fire spoken of above started in the store occupied by Dr. Wm. Gale on Broad Street and burned until it had destroyed the building occupied by Frederick Decker, where the New York Candy Kitchen; is now located, also store occupied by Moorehouse and Pierson, present location of The National Bank of Westfield, and then in a westerly direction destroying a building owned by John Darsh next to a three-story frame building now occupied by S. Sumter's Dry Goods Store, 157 East Broad Street. A call for assistance was sent to the Plainfield Fire Department. Chief T. A. Doane responded with a company and was able to stop the further progress of the fire.
As a result of this fire and the fact that Insurance Companies of good standing were adverse to accepting insurance business in the Township of Westfield, because of the lack of Fire Fighting Apparatus and therefore no protection against the most destructive element when not controlled, the people of the Township of Westfield decided it was time to organize a Fire Department of its own.
The Parent Fire Company, known as the Westfield Hook & Ladder Company No. 1, held its first meeting in the office of D. W. Lamon on Monday evening, March 1st, 1875. At this meeting Joseph L. Clark was elected Chairman and James L. Miller, Secretary. The following members answered to the roll call: S. S. Mapes, Joel Moffett, J. L. Clark, and J. L. Miller. A communication was received from the Trustees of the Westfield Fire Department Association directing the committee on apparatus and building, to loan until otherwise ordered, the fire apparatus and building, of the Westfield Fire Department Association, to the Westfield Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of the citizens of Westfield against fire.
The first fire house was located on a lot, the use of which was donated by Wm. F. Peek, on Broad Street, now 121 East Broad Street, now occupied by F. W. Spaus' Variety Shop.
The apparatus consisted of a Hook and Ladder Truck and a Little Giant Pump Chemical Engine. This apparatus was purchased by voluntary contributions of the members of the fire department and some citizens that were not members, one of which was John Darsh.
Westfield Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 was incorporated November 10th, 1876, for a term of 50 years, under an act of the New Jersey Legislature April 21st, 1876.
The bell and tower was erected by public subscription. Present fire alarm system consists of 25 boxes.
The original source of water supply for extinguishing fires was from brooks, ponds and four fire wells or cisterns. The present system of water supply was introduced in 1893 and consisted of eight hydrants, and the present day equipment consists of 333 hydrants, distributed throughout the town. The maximum water pressure today is fifty-five pounds.
The W. H. Grogan Hotel was the first consumer of water for commercial and private use.
The present fire department equipment consists of one Webb Pump and Hose Machine (the first motor pump fire apparatus in Union County), one Seagrave combination Chemical and Hose Machine, those two being purchased in 1911, 1000-gallon capacity American LaFrance Pump and Hose Machine purchased in 1921, and one American La France Aerial Truck purchased in 1922.
The Westfield Fire Department was incorporated February 5th, 1883, by two representatives from each of the following companies: Westfield Hook & Ladder Co., Bucket & Engine Co., and the Empire Engine Co.
The Fire Department as constituted under the Township Government ceased when the Westfield Fire Department of the Town of Westfield, N. J., was organized under an ordinance passed by the Town Council on December 14th, 1903. This ordinance called for the following companies and men:
Hose Company No. 1—Thirty (30) men.
Truck Company No. 1—Twenty (20) men.
Engine Company No. 1—Twenty (20) men.
This comprised the organization until March 25th, 1925, at which time the Town Council passed an ordinance and general rules to govern the Fire Department. The Westfield Fire Department of the present consists of a paid Chief, eight (8) paid firemen and the above mentioned volunteer companies with their quota of men.
1. "History of the Westfield Fire Department", Souvenir Program, Fiftieth Anniversary, Westfield Volunteer Fire Department, 1925, Westfield, N. J., Pages 9, 11, 15.