The New Jersey State Fire Chiefs’ Association was organized on February 15, 1905. There were 15 charter members:
John Stagg – Paterson
John Conway – Jersey City
D. J. O’Neil – Ridgewood
George W. Arnett – Lambertville
W. A. Morton – Manasquan
C. Ahrens – East Rutherford
Robert Kiersted – Newark
T. W. Spencer – Hackensack
E. A. O’Donnell – Cranford
C. S. Allen – Trenton
C. S. Mount – Red Bank
T. O. Doane – Plainfield
J. S. Rush – Ocean City
August Gerstung – Elizabeth
J. V. Nicol – Bloomfield
John Stagg was elected President and C. S. Mount was elected Secretary.
It is interesting to note that John Stagg was elected president of the International Association of Fire Engineers (a predecessor of the International Association of Fire Chiefs) in 1905. He presided at the 1906 convention of that Association in Dallas, Texas.
The next regular meeting of the Association was held at the Firemen’s Hall, Newark, on May 10, 1905. Nineteen chiefs joined the organization:
Fred Decker Westfield
J. J. Butler Bound Brook
John Burns Belleville
G. M. Fetzer Maywood
C. H. Carroll Glassboro
I. D. Applegate Hoboken
A. T. Crane Rahway
Charles Sheehan West Orange
Charles Meyer Scotch Plains
P. Mealey Gloucester City
E. D. Longstreet Red Bank
Thomas Moran Caldwell
H. P. Ross Bogota
Charles Anderson South River
S. J. Blair East Orange
S. T. Elfreth Camden
H. F. Woolston North Plainfield
D. K. White Long Branch
William J. Black Atlantic City
The Constitution and By-laws were adopted at this meeting; the preamble reading very much the same as it does today.
On January 18, 1919, the Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey.
The Benefit Fund was inaugurated in September of 1919 by a resolution at a regular meeting. The first death claim was paid to the beneficiaries of Robert Kiersted of Newark (a charter member) on June 16, 1920. The amount paid was $400.00.
The Association interested the volunteer and career fire chiefs of the state. The membership increased each year. It became one of the outstanding Fire Chiefs’ Associations in the country and has proven to be of great value to its members.
The motto, “In Union there is Strength” is the foundation of the success of the organization.
Charles Greenfield was the longest serving president of the Association. During his term, Chief Greenfield spearheaded a meeting in the spring of 1927 to form the Eastern Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs—an initiative of the IAFC. Greenfield became the first President of the Division and served until 1933.
In the late 1940’s, the activity of the Association was centered in three membership meetings each year. The meetings were held on Saturdays and at locations around the state at the invitation of the local Fire Chief. There was a business meeting followed by educational presentations. In some cases there was an industry or business in the host community that provided a program. In other instances, the Association arranged for the programs. A lunch was supplied and local fire apparatus was displayed.
The Valor Awards program was established in the 1960’s during the term of Chief Jake Lewis. The program was for volunteer firefighters and complemented a program that was started earlier by other organizations to recognize valorous acts of career firefighters.
A newsletter, The Five Trumpet Journal, was created in 1977. The Journal was printed four times a year; three times to announce each of the meetings, and once to summarize the business of the annual meeting. In addition to news of the Association, New Jersey legislation, other state and firematic news, and relative articles were included.
Attendance at the membership meetings started to decline in the ‘90’s. Several reasons were suggested: with two in a family working outside the home, more time was needed for personal reasons; a lot of the information presented at the meetings was more rapidly obtained from firematic publications—and later from the Internet; more members were participating in the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference and Fire Rescue International; many of the programs previously presented at the State meetings were increasingly being presented at county meetings.
The Fire Chiefs tried scheduling meetings around the State on Friday evenings; leaving Saturday open for the members. Then, Friday meetings at a central location—the Middlesex County Fire Academy—were tried. Attendance didn’t increase.
The Board of Directors implemented several changes to keep the New Jersey State Fire Chiefs’ Association relevant to the members.
• One membership meeting will be held each year
• It will be held in Wildwood during the period of the State Firemen’s Convention
• The Board of Directors will meet more frequently and become more proactive
• The Five Trumpet Journal will be printed five times per year
• An E-mail newsletter, The RELAY, will be sent on a bi-weekly basis to any member providing an E-mail address
• The Association will cooperate with the Division of Fire Safety to hold a yearly educational symposium
Now the Association is approaching its 100th anniversary. The charter members would have trouble recognizing the size and operation of the organization, but they would be right at home with its mission and objectives.
The early history of the Association is based on information compiled from old records in 1956 by Clarence H. Dougal who was Secretary at the time.