Department History

Excerpt from 75th Anniversay Book

Formerly called the Pompton Volunteer Fire Department when it was organized on February 25, 1907. The name was changed in 1958 to the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department.


It was a tragic event that happened over ninety years ago that led to the organization of what is now the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. MacWithey, a resident of the village of Pompton, returned home to the news that his wife and two children perished in a fire that consumed there house that day. This incident spurred the town citizens to organize, as they put it, "To preserve and protect property from and during such fires as may occur in the village of Pompton N.J. and vicinity."

Twenty-three men were present in Post's Mercantile Shop on the Hamburg-Paterson Turnpike at 8:15pm on January 2, 1907 to discuss the organization of a local fire department.

Mr. Irwin Titus was nominated and elected temporary chairman and C. E. Banks was elected temporary secretary. The first order of business was the preparation of three subscription lists for the raising of funds by popular subscription. Messrs. J. Haycock, W. Gormely, and A. Hopper were appointed as the subscription committee, each to cover a specific portion of the village. It was noted at this meeting that Mr. E. R. Richards started the list with a donation of $25.00 and pledged a similar amount for Mr. J. C. Richards. At this same meeting, an Apparatus Committee was appointed to investigate and get data concerning fire-fighting equipment.

An important election took place at this first meeting of the new fire department: what to name this group of stalwart men dedicated to the fighting of fire and to the preservation of life, limb, and property. Two suggestions were made - Pompton Fire Department and Federal Rock Fire Department. "Pompton" won out by a vote of fifteen to eight. 

In addition to the previously mentioned, the remaining founders were: Messrs. W. Slingerland, C. Williams, L. Coutts, A. Demarest, J. Demarest, L. Slingerland, J. Brinkerhoff, M. Brown, L. Werling, G. Mead, J. Close, F. Siebald, G. Fallon, W. Mathews, C. Lawton, and I. Van Duyne.

At the second meeting, held on January 9, 1907, the following officers were duly elected and installed: I. Titus, President; G. Mead, Vice-President; C. Banks, Secretary; C. Mead, Treasurer; and J. Demarest, J. Brinkerhoff, and W. Slingerland as Trustees. E. R. Richards was elected Chief at a subsequent meeting. This election took up so much time, because of a contest, that the balance of the officers were duly elected at another meeting. At that time, the following officers were installed: J. Demarest, 2nd Asst. Chief; J. Shroeder, 3rd Asst. Chief; G. Mead, Capt. of Engine Co.; J. Brinkerhoff, Capt. of Hose Co.; H. Miller, Lieut. of Engine Co.; A. Brown, Lieut. of Hose Co.; C. Mead, Engineer; A. Hopper, 1st Asst. Engineer; and W. Slingerland, 2nd Asst. Engineer. 

The Pompton Volunteer Fire Department was officially organized on February 25, 1907. At a later meeting in March of 1907, the Chief, E. R. Richards offered to donate ten (10) pails to the department, but the department felt that they could purchase a number of pails and empowered the Apparatus Committee to purchase "three dozen pails and paint them red." As early as 1907, according to the minutes, the committee investigated the feasibility of an electric fire alarm system, but was turned down as being impractical. At a later meeting, Mr. W. Gormely was authorized to "build a two wheeled truck, to carry ladders, at a cost not to exceed $10.00." A decision was made at a subsequent meeting, later that first year, to purchase a gasoline engine from the Howe Fire Engine Co. of New York.

After meeting in various stores for a year, the firemen rented the building of the Riverdale Social Club, located on Arlington Place, for $1.00 per month, which covered five meetings. Dances were held during the summer months at the Pavilion, which is now the present site of Richard's Funeral Home. These dances helped to raise money for the department. 

In 1913 the firemen began meeting in their first firehouse located on the Hamburg-Paterson Turnpike, where the Tri-County Safety Industrial Supply now resides. When the Village of Pompton became the Borough of Riverdale in 1923, the men decided to retain the name of Pompton Volunteer Fire Department. It wasn't until 1958 that the name was changed to the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department. In the early 1960s the Fire Department was united with most other Borough organizations at the present municipal building located on Newark-Pompton Turnpike. As the years went on the Fire Department expanded in its membership and equipment. With such growth they sought a larger structure to facilitate the growing needs of the department and the Borough of Riverdale. In 1980 the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department moved into the Jersey Central Power and Light (GPU) building located at 56 Post Lane, where it still remains today.

In the mid 1980s, with Route 23 expanding and Interstate 287 under construction, the fire department expanded its services to include vehicle extrication. Currently all members are certified to operate the Jaws of Life.

The early 1990s brought new challenges for the fire department. A rapidly expanding Borough was just one of these challenges. Even with new challenges facing the department the membership remained stable. In September 1993 Riverdale and nine other Morris County towns formed the Northeastern Morris Mutual Aid Association (NEMMA). NEMMA members organized the resources of the ten towns involved so they could be deployed quickly and effectively in the event of any emergency. The monthly NEMMA meetings are used to discuss firematic issues affecting all towns, share information, and to train together. Every October one-town hosts a large-scale simulated disaster drill in which all NEMMA towns participate. 

During the mid to late 1990's the Riverdale Fire Department responded to a variety of major incidents. Fires erupted at the Mathews Avenue Condos, Powder Horn Mill, Valley Spring Lake, Cotluss Avenue Plastic Factory, and the Acme in Pompton Lakes. In addition, there were many motor vehicle extrications on Route 23 and Interstate 287. 

As the century turned Riverdale continued it's growth. Multi story Condominiums, Senior Housing and a large retail complex were constructed. This development increased the total number of emergency responses for the department. To ensure firefighter safety state regulations required additional training, certification and testing. In order to be a Fire officer you now have to be state certified. 
Over the last decade the Mayor and Council, as well as the residents continued to support their Volunteer Fire Department by providing top quality facilities and equipment. Additions and renovations to Fire Headquarters, Heavy Rescue Truck , Engine, two Command vehicles, Ladder, and new breathing apparatus were purchased. In 2001 the Voters approved the Length of Service Awards Program(LOSAP) to help recruit and retain membership. For the first time in decades membership is over 30 firefighters. 

As with any organization, over the years the officers have changed and members have come and gone, yet the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department continues to provide fire and rescue protection to the Borough of Riverdale while remaining an active participant in community events. Work drills are held Monday evenings at 7:00pm and monthly business meetings take place every fourth Monday at 8:00pm. New members are always welcome and are urged to stop by the firehouse any Monday.