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Department History, Part 4

Continued from Part 3.

Meanwhile, Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1 purchased a Hale 500 gallon pumper for $6105.40. It was housed on December 4, 1926. The Borough Commissioners approved $1000.00 toward the purchase price.

Also in 1927, a bell was placed atop the borough hall to sound the alarm of fire. This bell was cast from various metals and silverware collected in a house to house canvas by Welcome’s members. It remained in use until replaced by an electronic siren. Oaklyn No.1 already had an electronic siren on their station which was installed during 1923.

During the 1930s, Welcome’s American LaFrance had upgrades including replacement of the chemical tank with a booster tank for water. Equipment was upgraded for both fire companies.

On July 30, 1940, the most devastating fire in Camden County’s history destroyed the R.M. Hollingshead Company chemical plant in Camden. Both fire companies rendered valuable service during this conflagration. This disaster led to the creation of an organized County Mutual Aid System, of which Welcome’s Chief Edward Flemming was chosen chairman.

In November 1940, the old borough hall was torn down to make way for a new building. The new structure would house both the police department and Welcome Fire Company as well as borough offices. During the construction Welcome’s equipment was housed in member Clayton Dorsey’s garage on West Collingswood Ave. and White Horse Pike. The garage became Welcome’s temporary quarters until the new building was completed in 1942.

In 1942, the Borough purchased an International stake body truck (only a few months old) from a junk dealer in Camden. This was for Welcome Fire Co. Its members removed the stake body and the chassis was driven to Hahn Motor Co. in Hamburg, PA who built a fire truck body per specifications drawn up be Welcome’s members. The apparatus was delivered in early 1943 with a 250 gpm front mount pump. The Borough also purchased a 1939 Brockway truck with a 1941 motor for Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1. It, too, was driven to Hahn Motor Co. and customized to the company’s specifications. This engine was delivered in March of 1943. It should be noted that metal supplies were quite limited during the war as most were aiding the war effort. Thus, the purchase and outfitting of two used trucks for fire fighting was highly unusual. A local car dealer donated a 1934 Ford panel truck to Oaklyn No. 1 during World War II. Members converted it to a rescue truck and utilized it for four years. When it gave out, the 1926 Hale pumper was utilized not only as a pumper but also as a first aid wagon.

Both companies also trained on and operated a trailer pump which was purchased to protect the Bettlewood section of Haddon Township during World War II. Oaklyn’s fire companies provided fire protection for that area.

Construction began in late 1946 for a bay addition to the south side of Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1’s building which was completed in early 1947. A new engine was being ordered to replace the Brockway which had been taken out of service due to severe brake problems. The new Ford 250 gpm pumper with booster reel was delivered on July 3, 1947. 

Another bay was added to the north side of Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1’s building. It was dedicated on September 18, 1949.

Borough Council provided Oaklyn Fire Co. No.1 with a 1952 Ford 500 gpm pumper for their 50th anniversary. After the new pumper arrived, members stripped down the old Hale pumper and converted it into a rescue truck which replaced the converted panel truck. The following year Council ordered a Ford/ Great Eastern 750 gpm pumper for Welcome Fire Co. It replaced the 1927 LaFrance which was sold to Gibbsboro, NJ

In 1958, Welcome’s members purchased a new Willys Jeep with a cab over engine. Asst. Chief Joe Dooley Sr. designed a rescue body and the Reading Body Company of Reading, PA built the body to his specifications. It boasted a removable rack that carried the company’s stainless steel rescue boat.

Oaklyn No. 1 purchased a new 1959 Plymouth station wagon for use as a first aid squad and later as a fire police unit. The next apparatus purchased by the Borough was a 1963 Ford/Great Eastern 750 gpm pumper for the Welcome Fire Co. This replaced the 1942 International which had served the company well. Oaklyn Fire Co. No. 1 received a Ford/Great Eastern 750 gpm pumper in 1966.

The topic of unification arose again in 1968 when Mayor Kern requested that committees from each fire company meet to discuss such a plan. The first meeting was held on March 25, 1968. Numerous meetings occurred over the next few years. Borough Council agreed to build a new fire station provided the two companies merged. Members of both fire companies approved council’s offer and consolidated into The Oaklyn Fire Department in April, 1976. David G. Aron was elected Fire Chief and Frank Burgo, President of the newly combined fire department.

Continued in Part 5.