Hopewell Valley Fire Departments

Our local fire companies – Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit, Pennington Fire Company and Pennington First Aid Squad, and Union Fire Company & Rescue Squad in Titusville – all need volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians. To learn how you can help, visit  http://ProtectHopewellValley.com.

We are continuing to celebrate the history of the Hopewell Fire Department and the four(!) fire companies that have served Hopewell Borough (see brief). And now we finally have found the 50th Anniversary booklet (PDF) of the Hopewell Fire Department (1911-1961), to join the 75th and 100th in the archives.

== View the brief on Hopewell Borough Fire Company History (PDF) ==

Hopewell Fire Dept. – 50th (1961), 75th (1986), and 100th (2011) Anniversary Fleets

These booklets each start with an extensive history and chronology of the Hopewell fire companies, with historic photos. They also provide overviews and lists of officers and members of the different divisions: the Fire Department, Ladies Auxiliary, Ambulance Corps, and the anniversary committees. Plus they are a great snapshot of their times, with many pages of congratulatory ads from then-active local groups and business.

And there’s the equipment photos, showcasing the evolution of the fire and ambulance fleet from 500 to 1000 GPM pumpers in 25 years, and then to a 4000 gallon tanker.

The Hopewell Fire Dept. 50th Anniversary booklet (1961, 52 pp PDF) also includes information on the anniversary parade from October 1961, with a map, prizes for participating fire companies and bands, and an impressively long list of the fire companies across central Jersey into Pennsylvania.

The Hopewell Fire Dept.75th Anniversary booklet (1986, 77 pp PDF) also includes a parade map and trophy list, plus a bonus fold-out photo of the department with names and autographs.

Hopewell Fire Dept. – 50th (1961) and 75th (1986) Anniversary Parades

And the Hopewell Fire Dept.100th Anniversary booklet (2011, 87 pp PDF) has additional sections on the Van Doren lumber yard fire, the local response to 9-11 (“It was a horrible, horrible thing that brought out the best in people”), and Hopewell Christmas traditions and Operation Santa. Plus the history of Hopewell Township Fire District Number 1, founded in 1989 to support all the Hopewell Valley fire departments (since Hopewell and Pennington actually cover into the township).

The 100th booklet also has the wonderful account of how fire alarms were handled in Hopewell before the arrival of dial phone service in the mid 1960s (see below).

Thanks to Carol Kehoe for providing the 50th Anniversary booklet.

Local fire districts:


By: James Riley
[from Hopewell Fire Department 100th Anniversary Booklet (1911-2011), p. 41]

The Hopewell Fire Department has come a long way since it was founded 100 years ago. I remember reading in 1961 about how the alarm of fire was spread in town 1911. The alarm was spread by ringing a locomotive tire that was hung near the fire house.

Now 100 years later the alarm is spread with all sorts of electronic wizardry, but 60 some years ago when my father Murph Riley was Chief of the Department [1957-1958], things were a lot less complicated than they are now, or were they, certainly less technical.

There was one large Siren located on a tower behind the fire house, where one is now located and that was it. The part that I have found interesting is the ingenious way the volunteers of that time received the fire alarm and rang the siren.

In 1957 if you wanted to report a fire you had to pick up a telephone and tell the operator. The operator would connect you to the person that was taking the fire calls. During the daytime Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm, the calls were taken at Cutters Drug Store located where the Hopewell Pharmacy is now. When an alarm was received at the drug store, the clerk would take the information, address etc. and then go outside on the rear of the building and push the siren button.

When the first engine rolled out of the fire house, (always #5 the 1953 Ford) they would always go out towards Broad Street so they could get the address and other information from the drug store. If someone called the Fire Department at any other time, then the operator would transfer the call to the Fire Chiefs home or where he directed the operator to call. If he was going out of town for some reason, then he would have to get someone else to take the calls. Usually it would be the First Assistant Chief that would do it.

When the Chief received the call he would rush to the Fire house while his wife or someone else in the house would call Mrs. Sinclair who lived behind the firehouse on Broad Street next door to Dr. Stults and the Telephone office, now the library. Mrs. Sinclair had a siren button on her back porch.

This is the way that Fire Alarms were handled in Hopewell until dial telephones came to Hopewell in 1965 or 1966 and the State Police Barracks out on Route 31 started to take fire and ambulance calls.

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