Contents - Left Side

HISTORY
of the
WILDWOOD CREST VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY No. 1

Condensed from the official History of the Wildwood Crest Vol. Fire Company
which was researched and compiled in 1989-90 by 45-year member Albert Stokes
1930 Postcard - courtesy of ROBERT W. ELWELL, Cape May Vol. Fire Dept. 
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The Early Years
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The development of the Borough of Wildwood Crest closely parallels that of the fire company in the early years. On April 6, 1910, Governor Fort recognized the new Borough of Wildwood Crest. The Borough held its first meeting for election of officers on May 3rd, 1910 and its first council meeting on May 9th. Phillip P. Baker was elected Mayor and served until his death in 1920.

The first meeting for the purpose of organizing a fire company was held on October 13, 1910. Phillip P. Baker was elected president pro-tem. Further meetings on October 20th and 27th of that year brought the final organization with the adoption of the Holly Beach Code for the By-Laws.

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W.G. Taylor was the first president of the company, and Samuel B. Taylor served as the first fire chief from November 10th 1910 until August 3rd, 1911. A record of the fire company's incorporation on November 17th, 1910 was recorded on November 23rd, 1910, in Corporation Book Two, Page 470 and continued, in the County Clerk's Office.

The corporate signers were W.G. Taylor, N. Diamond, William A. Thompson, Thomas Cross, William A. Justice, John Gloeckler, Peter Motley, Samuel B. Taylor, Richard Scampton, Russell Hamburg, Harry W. Lare, Joseph F. James, Leslie Haller and Harry L. Nickerson.

On January 2nd, 1911, Ordinance #5 officially established the Wildwood Crest

 
   

Fire Company in the Borough of Wildwood Crest. Later in the month of January, a charter from the State of New Jersey was recorded in the County Clerk's Office.

During the year, the first borough hall was established at 6106 Pacific Avenue, at Sweet Briar Road. The fire company had use of a garage-type section of the hall, with a room for meetings. This building was leased by the borough from Edwin B. Fagan. The fire company's appropriation from the borough, for that year, was $100.00.

At the October meeting, the company authorized the purchase of an air whistle with tanks and fittings to be used as the first automatic alarm. The company had in its possession at this time a hand-drawn hose cart.

 

Early in 1912, a hand-drawn ladder cart was built by Cal Augan, and housed with the hose cart. In 1914, a fund raiser in the form of a huge carnival was held at the Crest Pier.

On June 7th, 1915, the trustees approved a loan for the purchase of Herbert Davis' combination chemical and hose wagon. The cost was to be $2,400.00, but an additional $68.00 was appropriated to have a nickel plate finish, rather than plain brass. On July 28th, a check for $468.00 was given to Mr. Davis as part payment. The balance of $2,000.00 was on a note payable to Mr. Davis from the Wildwood Title and Trust Company.

 
 
In 1917, a major fire at the old Crest Pier, located at Seaview Avenue and Heather Road, totally destroyed the large frame structure. It had originally been built in 1905 and was rebuilt in 1920.
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The Old Firehouse
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At the March 30th, 1925 meeting of the borough, it was proposed to raise $2,100.00 under Ordinance #76 for the purchase of property at the southeast corner of Cardinal Road and Pacific Avenue.

This ground is the site of the first part of the present borough hall and former firehouse, a two-story brick building which consisted of two bays, a hose

tower, storage space, and an attached meeting room, measuring 35 feet x 35 feet.
 
Old Betsy
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At the January, 1927 meeting of the borough council, it was proposed that a sum of $14,000.00 be made available for the purchase of fire equipment. This led to the March 16th delivery of a 1000 gallon per minute American La France pumper which we now fondly refer to as "Old Betsy". All members of the fire company appeared in uniform on March 20, 1927 for pictures with their new apparatus.
 

On February 28th, 1927, the fire company, by resolution, opposed the consolidation of our borough with the cities of Wildwood and North Wildwood.

At the May 15th, 1935 meeting, the company accepted a chemical and ladder truck built on a new Dodge chassis. The body was built by two members of the fire company, Thomas Young and Edward Hendricks.

The cost of the vehicle was $500.00 and was financed by a note from the Marine National Bank. In October, 1936, the borough, by resolution, granted a $500.00 tax exemption to all volunteer firemen who owned homes. The fire company responded to 18 fire calls in 1936.

During the 1930's, the fire company provided ambulance service to the Borough; however, in 1941, our ambulance was destroyed in a bad accident, and the company decided to abandon the program.

Due to our country's involvement in the war effort, activities other than basic fire duties were halted.

 
Post-War Progress
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In 1947, Charles A. Kern became president of the fire company. He went on to hold that position for thirty years. That same year, Albert Stokes became treasurer and held that position for twenty-five years.

In 1948, the Crest Pier building was moved one block eastward, from Seaview Avenue to Atlantic Avenue.

In 1952, Harry Stokes, Jr. became fire chief, a position which he held for twenty-five years. During that time, he brought about many important changes in our fire company and in the county firemen's association.
 

During the month of April, 1952, an American LaFrance 750 g.p.m. "Quad" apparatus was received, replacing the Dodge ladder truck, and was housed with Old Betsy.

Photo provided by Greg Neill

 
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Photo of the "Quad" Housing Ceremonies in 1952 at the old firehouse at Pacific Avenue and Cardinal Road.  Truck in the right foreground is Rio Grande's 1950 Mack; second from right is Pine Avenue's American LaFrance.

Photo by Wildwood Crest resident Ken Lee

 
1950s Growth
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During the 1950's, a building boom forced the fire company to expand.

An American LaFrance 1000 GPM pumper was added in 1959, followed by an American LaFrance 1250 GPM pumper in 1962.

1960 Photo showing the
'52 quad and '59 pumper

 
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The addition of this equipment necessitated a two-bay addition to the firehouse, which was completed in December,1962.
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Chief Harry Stokes and Captain Al Beers, circa 1963, shortly after the first refurbishment of "Old Betsy", the 1927 American LaFrance pumper.
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The 1962 LaFrance is parked in
front of the firehouse as the
1964 Housing parade passes.

Trucks shown in the line of march include Wildwood's Mack, Rio Grande's 1950 Mack,Erma's
1962 GMC, and Villas' Ford
(far right).

Photo courtesy of
Greg Neill

 
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Housing of the '62 and '59
American LaFrance Pumpers
was held in 1964. The new
trucks were pushed by hand
into the two recently constructed bays by members of our mutual aid companies.

Photo courtesy of
Greg Neill

 
In January, 1964, Charles T. Bradley became secretary of the fire company, a position that he continues to hold after 45 years!

An International step van was placed in service in October, 1965 to carry additional fire-fighting equipment.
 
Continued Rapid Growth
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In December of 1968, our American LaFrance 80-ft. Aero-Chief platform was delivered, bringing the fleet of apparatus to five active apparatus - and Old Betsy.

In January of 1973, a new American LaFrance "Mini-Quad" was put in service to replace the 1952 truck.

In June of 1974, a letter was received by the Fire Company with an offer to purchase "Old Betsy". A motion was immediately passed to never sell "Old Betsy"!

 
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The company assisted the Wildwood Fire Department at three serious boardwalk fires in 1975-76. In 1977, Gus Olson became Chief, serving in that capacity for thirteen years, and Ronald Stokes became President, continuing a family tradition of service to the fire company. On March 28th, the company held a surprise testimonial dinner for Harry Stokes, Jr., commemorating his twenty five years of service as fire chief.

In 1978, our American LaFrance 1500 GPM pumper was delivered, and the 1959 model was sold to the Dennisville Fire Company.
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In May of 1979, the company responded to assist the Cape May Fire Department at a fire which totally destroyed the old Windsor Hotel on the Cape May beachfront.

In 1980, the company fought a fire that destroyed a home on West Aster Road.

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The early 1980's saw several serious Boardwalk fires, including one in 1981 which totally destroyed the Starlight Ballroom and threatened the central section of the 'walk' and an adjoining amusement pier. In October of 1984, another American LaFrance 1500 GPM pumper was placed in service replacing the 1962 LaFrance.
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The old firehouse at Borough
Hall and apparatus in 1985.
The two bays on the left
were part of the original
building which was
constructed in 1925.
  The bays on the right
were added in 1962.

 
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In 1986, the last of four lots was acquired at Pacific Avenue and Primrose Road. This site would become the location of our new firehouse. Also in 1986, our company was honored by the appointment of one of our members to be Cape May County Fire Marshal.  Albert Beers continues to hold that position.
 
The New Firehouse
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During 1989, the Borough Commissioners initiated funding that brought the new firehouse project to fruition.
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The present firehouse
consists of apparatus
bays for all of the
company's equipment, administrative offices
and a hall.
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In January, 1990, the fire company moved into its new 5-bay firehouse. The $927,620.00 building features a hall with a complete commercial kitchen which was funded entirely by the Ladies Auxiliary. The scenes of leaving our old quarters at borough hall and moving into the new firehouse were recorded on video tape by our past president Edward Grassi.
 
Updating for the New Millenium
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In May of 1993, the 28-year-old equipment van was replaced by an Emergency One Special Service truck with a 10-man custom tilt cab chassis, walk-in body, and a 6000 psi air cascade system. The cost of the $267,325.00 truck was borne by the fire company with a 5-year note.

A 1999 Emergency One 1500 GPM pumper was received in February, 2000 to replace the 1973 American LaFrance Mini-Quad.  A year later in March 2001, a new 2000 Emergency One 91-ft. Bronto aerial platform with a 1500 GPM Pump arrived and replaced the 32-year-old Aero-Chief platform truck.

The cost of the $282,665.00 pumper and $648,030.00 aerial platform truck was borne by the Borough of Wildwood Crest, with about $35,000 worth of additional equipment added to the two trucks by the fire company from funds received from donations and fund raisers.

 
After The Turn of the New Century
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In May of 2000, "Old Betsy", our 1927 American LaFrance pumper, was sent away to be refurbished.  On August 11, Betsy returned in "better-than-new" condition!  The truck had been dismantled down to the frame rails and meticulously reconstructed and painted in it's original dark "American LaFrance Red" color.  Several old photographs were used by the refurbishing shop to assure that every detail, including the gold leaf trim, would be duplicated as closely as possible to the original appearance.  The cost of refurbishment was paid entirely by donations and fund-raisers, including a generous donation by the Wildwood Crest Historical Society.

In January of 2003, Engine 439, the 25-year-old 1978 American LaFrance pumper was sold to a collector in Lafayette, LA.

In the fall of 2003, a bay was added to the front of the hall.  The 12' x 38' "museum bay" was built to house and properly display Old Betsy and other artifacts owned by the company.

In 2006, the fire company purchased a 1993 Chevrolet Suburban utility vehicle from the Stone Harbor Fire Company.

In August, 2007, a 2001 E-One 2000 g.p.m./ 75-ft. Quint was purchased from McKinley Fire Company of Abington Township, PA. The $340,000 cost of this "new" Engine 439 and additional equipment was paid by the fire company with fund-raiser funds and donations.

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At this point in time, it can be said that the Wildwood Crest Fire Company is in excellent position. We look forward to continued progress and success.
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For more information about the History of Wildwood Crest,
visit the website of the
Wildwood Crest Historical Society
www.cresthistory.org

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Contents - Right Side
343 - Never forgotten.
Cape May County
Fire Stations

(from CMC Fire Chiefs website)

We are Station 4
2016
The 139th Annual
NJ State Firemen's Convention
in Wildwood:
Sept. 16 & 17, 2016
Golf Tournament - 9/15/16
Exhibits- 9/16/16 8am-5pm
and

  9/17/16 8am-1 pm
Parade- 9/17/16 1:00 pm

Fire Company Facebook Page

Auxiliary Facebook Page


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