Fire Department History
During the early part of the 20th century, five separate volunteer fire companies independently organized to protect separate sections of Raritan Township, currently known as Edison.
The township was divided by fire districts, each containing elected fire commissioners with political and economic power. In 1926, the first career firefighter was hired, and since then, over 250 career firefighters have taken the oath.
The five separate volunteer fire companies in which Edison’s fire service originated from are as follows: Raritan Engine Company No. 1, Edison Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 (informally known as Menlo Park Fire Company), Raritan Engine Company No. 2, H.K. Volunteer Fire Company, and Oak Tree Volunteer Fire Company. A group of men from the Piscataway town section of Raritan Township formed Raritan Engine Company No. I and the charter was signed on June 14, 1916, with 42 original signatures. This company provided fire protection for the southern portion of Raritan Township, known as Fire District No. 1. The Menlo Park Hook and Ladder Fire Company formed in 1917 and, upon official recognition by the township seven years later changed its name to the Edison Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 in honor of Menlo Park’s famous resident, Thomas Alva Edison. In 1923, Raritan Engine Company No. 2 was organized to provide fire protection in the Clara Barton Section; they are also the only volunteer fire company in Edison that still operates out of its original firehouse. In 1927, two volunteer fire companies in the northern part of Raritan Township were formed: the H.K. Volunteer Fire Company and the Oak Tree Volunteer Fire Company.
Raritan Township was divided into five fire districts. Fire service for each district consisted of one of the previously mentioned volunteer fire companies and each district was managed by a board of five elected fire commissioners. Residents within a particular district paid a special fire tax that went towards operating expenses required by their local fire company. In 1926, the fire commissioners of District No. 1 hired a full-time firefighter to compensate for the lack of volunteer response during daytime hours. Throughout the years, more firefighters were hired, and by 1956, a total of 16 career firefighters were employed by Fire District No. 1 under the command of Chief Engineer Arthur Latham. The fire commissioners of District No. 3 were also inspired to hire career firefighters for the Clara Barton section of Raritan Township. As a result, two firefighters were hired in 1949 and within the next few years, three more were appointed.
In 1954, the residents voted to change the township’s name from Raritan to Edison. An even bigger change occurred in 1958 when the township changed from a commissioner-type of government to a Faulkner form of government using the Mayor-Council Plan. This change in government had a direct impact on the Edison Fire Department. Fire districts and fire commissioners were abolished and the Edison Department of Public Safety was created containing 3 divisions: Police, Fire and First Aid. All five volunteer fire companies were managed by a supervisor who was appointed by the Mayor. At this time there were about 20 career firefighters between fire Districts No. 1 and No. 2 who now fell under the direction of the Fire Supervisor. The hierarchical chain of command began when four of the firefighters became Captains.
Prior to the change in administration, the career firefighters from both districts decided to unite and form a union. After following proper procedure, they received a charter from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). As a result, the career firefighters became collectively known as the Edison Township Fire Fighters Association, Local No. 1197.
A fatal house fire took place in Northern Edison in 1967. Residents were distressed by how long it took the volunteer s to get to the scene. After holding a public meeting to discuss what happened they decided to staff career firefighters in North Edison. By mid-1970s, all firehouses in Edison, except Menlo Park, were staffed with career firefighters. In 1992, however, Edison Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 in Menlo Park could no longer provide adequate staffing, and career firefighters moved into the Menlo Park firehouse.
In 2004, Edison publicly announced plans of a new public safety facility to be built in Raritan Center Industrial Park. The grand opening of the facility took place on December 1, 2009. This facility has become the seventh firehouse within the township.
The Edison Division of Fire has developed into one of the finest organizations in Middlesex County. Its members demonstrate their dedication and professionalism at every alarm.