Department History, Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

On August 16, 1920, Borough Commissioners appointed “The Fire Department of the Borough of Oaklyn” with Ed Bartels as Chief, Howard Fox as First Engineer and Herman Heiligman as Second Engineer and seventeen men as members. Those named were from both fire companies. The new department was never consumated as 139 residents and taxpayers protested and the Borough Commissioners voted to repeal the ordinance on August 27th and invested Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1 and Welcome Fire Co. with all the powers and duties of the volunteer fire companies in the Borough of Oaklyn. However, nine of the individuals had been sworn in. On September 3rd, Mayor MacMullen informed Chief Bartels by letter of the repeal of the ordinance. The mayor notified Deputy Chief, Oaklyn Fire Department A. Jost on September 23rd that he was to at once to form a Fire Squad for the purpose of taking charge of the Fire Apparatus belonging to the Borough and housed in the Borough Hall. The squad was to consist of fifteen men, more or less, and be under Deputy Chief Yost’s control. On October 1st Deputy Chief Yost informed the mayor that he had selected thirteen men for the squad pending the approval of the mayor. These men were sworn in on October 8, 1920. Adolph Jost was appointed Chief of the Fire Department with Charles Carter and Charles M. Edgar appointed Deputy Chiefs. Chief Jost and Deputy Chief Carter were members of Oaklyn Fire Co. No.1 while Deputy Chief Edgar and the other firemen were all members of Welcome Fire Co. They were to operate the fire equipment housed in the borough hall formerly owned by Welcome Fire Co. With the appointment of the Fire Squad, Welcome Fire Company’s existence came into question as its members were part of the Fire Squad. Minutes for the company no longer exist for this period, but a treasurer’s book survived and indicates limited activity until 1925. In January, 1921, Deputy Chief Edgar approached the new Borough Commissioners asking that the fire wagon be replaced due to its inadequacy. Borough Chief Jost stated that he felt the town was adequately protected with the current fire equipment and no further action was taken.

In the autumn of 1923, the Borough Commissioners offered to finance the purchase of a new fire apparatus for Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1 with the fire company accepting the offer. On February 1, 1924 the Borough Commissioners approved a bid of $4335.00 from Hale Fire Pump Co. Inc. for a three in one Fire Apparatus. The Commission also approved the purchase of 1000 feet of standard fire hose from the United States Rubber Co. The Reo/Hale 300 gallon pumper with the new hose was housed on February 9, 1924.

In March of 1925, the Borough Commissioners sold the old fire wagon to John Haney for $25.00. All fire fighting equipment was then housed at Oaklyn Fire Co. No.1 and Welcome was in a semi-merger situation with Co. No. 1. As fate would have it, a fire struck the Baptist parsonage at 14 West Bettlewood Ave. on the evening of August 16, 1925, while Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1’s members were in Philadelphia attending the funeral of former member Louis Fields. Mutual Aid calls were sent out to Collingswood, West Collingswood and Audubon for assistance while some of Oaklyn’s residents were able to drive Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1’s pumper to the fire where it was placed in service by some of the other firemen. Collingswood Fire Co. No. 1 responded to East Bettlewood Ave. before realizing the blaze was across the White Horse Pike. Meanwhile, Chief Fox of Oaklyn was telephoned of the fire and quietly assembled some of his fire fighters at the funeral home. They responded in a taxi cab. The home was heavily damaged.

Borough officials then realized the need for two active fire companies in the town. A plan to reorganize the Welcome Fire Co. was developed by a group of citizens and presented to the Borough Commissioners. The Commissioners approved the plan and Welcome held its first meeting on August 31, 1925. William J. Welsh was elected Chief on September 21st and appointed Deputy Borough Fire Chief on February 11, 1926. According to Welcome member Charles Abel, “the only equipment we had was a step ladder and some buckets. We were given permission to ride on Oaklyn Fire Company’s trucks.” There was a keen sense of competition between the two companies which hampered this idea. One of Welcome’s members was knocked from a fire truck and broke his arm. It was evident that the idea of two companies using the same equipment wasn’t feasible.

The Borough Commissioners received a petition from Welcome’s membership and other citizens on November 30, 1925 requesting the purchase of a “Combination Pump, Chemical and Hose Apparatus; motor driven, together with the necessary equipment for proper operation of the same.” The Commissioners agreed that a truck should be purchased but didn’t have the funds to do so. The fire company arranged to buy an American LaFrance 400 gallon Cosmopolitan apparatus at a cost of $6500.00. The truck was ordered in March, 1927 and delivered in June of that year. Welcome’s members stepped up and ran smoker evenings and held carnivals to raise funds to make payments for the new truck. This was Welcome Fire Company’s first motorized apparatus. In early 1927, the Borough Commissioners approved $1000.00 toward the initial payment of the new pumper. On the evening of June 29, 1927 the new LaFrance was housed in the borough hall (Welcome’s quarters).

Continued in Part 4.