“The residents of Mountain Lake and vicinity gathered at 4:00 PM, this date at the Mountain Lake Casino in order to hold a meeting concerning the establishment of a Fire Company.” So read the opening minutes of the first meeting of the Mountain Lake Fire Company. This was the day that the Fire Company came into being, sixty years ago, on April 16, 1949.
At this meeting the first slate of officers were elected. They were:
Vice President...……………………………………....Fred Thomas
Fire Chief……….…………………………Lewis Buckenmyer, Sr.
April 30, 1949 Meeting
“A motion was made that a Ladies Auxiliary be established, and the President requested that all members bring their wives to the next meeting with the view of establishing such an organization.”
The first piece of equipment was purchased in the summer of 1949. This apparatus, a 1923 Stutz Pumper, was purchased from the Stockton, NJ Fire Dept. and was in service for the next four years. This truck was affectionately referred to by the members as “Sarabelle”. This first apparatus for the Fire Company was housed in two garages next to the Mountain Lake Casino. These two garage bays, which were lent to the Fire Company by L.E. Buckenmyer, Sr., served as the Firehouse until 1961. When Sarabelle was eventually replaced by a new truck, she was sold. Over the years the members have followed the travels of Sarabelle and now know that she returned home in 1999, after being restored by the Butler Park Fire Company, outside Washington, NJ.
August 5, 1949 Meeting
A special meeting was called at the request of the President for the purpose of incorporating the Fire Company.
August 30, 1949 Meeting
“Chief Buckenmyer, Sr. reported that the Certificate of Incorporation has been received and that it has been recorded at the Warren County Clerks Office on August 17, 1949 in Book 7 of Corporations.”
In March 1953, a brand new Ford Darley Champion Pumper with a 500 GPM pump and 500 gallons of water, high-pressure fog, booster reels and doors with windows was purchased. The Fire Company made this purchase from a treasury of limited funds. The salesman remarked to them, “if you guys are crazy enough to sign this loan, then I guess that I am crazy enough to sell it to you.” This truck was used as the Company’s primary pumper until another Darley replaced it in 1988. Although replaced this truck still remains in service and is currently housed at the firehouse.
In February 1956, a used delivery truck from a dry cleaning company was purchased, to be used to transport auxiliary fire equipment, such as a generator, a portable pump, Indian tanks and first aid needs. The Fire Company now consisted of two pieces of apparatus.
May 8, 1961, land, for a new firehouse was donated by Henry “Hank” Buckenmyer. The Fire Company is still at this same location.
July 1, 1961 Meeting
Ground was broken on a lot at the southeast corner of Mountain Lake for the new firehouse. Later that year, a three bay, block building was completed by the members. This building replaced the two bays next to the Mountain Lake Casino that Fire Company called home for its first 12 years. A dedication of the new building was held later that year.
In December 1965, a 1939 White Tanker was purchased, by the members of the Fire Company, from the Upper Saddle River Fire Department. This truck enabled the Fire Company to respond to fires with three times the amount of water than they had previously. The Fire Company now consisted of three pieces of apparatus.
In 1969, a Ford Great Eastern utility Pumper was purchased with a 300 GPM Pump. With the arrival of this new apparatus, our old utility truck was retired. Also in 1969, the Township of Liberty recognized the Mountain Lake Fire Company as the Fire Company of Liberty Township. This recognition now meant that the members were covered by workmen’s compensation insurance for the first time.
During these years as the Fire Company grew and established itself amongst Warren Counties finest, all emergency calls were being answered by an unpaid individual, Betty Buckenmyer, at her residence at Mountain Lake. The signal to alert the Firemen was at first nothing more than the blowing of sirens attached to the roof of the Casino and the first firehouse. These sirens were activated from the residence once a phone call was made requesting help. The first firemen to answer the call would call Betty, she would tell them where the emergency was at and this fireman would then write the address on the black board in the firehouse for the other firemen to see when they arrived at the firehouse. This system was later replaced by Plectrons, which are radio signals that would set off tones in the Firemen’s homes and they would hear a voice message as to what the emergency was. These calls were handled by Betty, until 1980 when Liberty Township contracted with Washington Borough for dispatch services. The same system lasted until 1996, when it was replaced by the countywide 9-1-1 system.
In 1970 the Fire Company was accepted into the New Jersey State Firemen’s Relief Association. After many hurdles, this was a great accomplishment and would not have happened without the much needed help from Mr. George Brahler. The Fire Company is eternally grateful to him for this.
In 1974 a new Ford Great Eastern “Super” Tanker replaced our old White Tanker. This truck was one of the first tankers to see duty in Warren County. The new tanker with 1,500 gallons of water and 750 GPM pump was a welcome addition to the fire fighting apparatus at Mountain Lake.
In March 1984, the Fire Company decided on building a new building in the same location at Mountain Lake and ground was broke. Many problems occurred, but the building committee, members and friends overcame them. The members worked many hours and in the end had a building they were all very proud of. This new building would now allow the Fire Company to try many new and different fund raising activities.
In 1988, with the price of trucks going out of sight, the Fire Company realized that the days when they were able to raise funds to purchase their own equipment were over. A committee from the Fire Company met with the Liberty Township Committee and the first fire truck owned by the Township was purchased. This new Ford Darley Champion pumper with 1,000 gallons of water, 1,500 GPM pump and jump seats replaced our 1953 Darley pumper as our main fire attack truck and the days of riding on the rear bumper of the fire trucks came to an end. In 1999 the Fire Company had the 1953 refurbished and it is still in service and used as a back up today.
In 1990 the Fire Company had the 1974 “Super” Tanker refurbished. The truck went from 1,500 gallons of water to 2,220 gallons of water. The Fire Company paid for the cost of this upgrade.
In 1994, the Fire Company saw the coming of a larger response area as a result of the 9-1-1 emergency calling system that was soon to begin. With this new coverage area, The Fire Company realized that there would be an increase in calls due to responses to vehicle accidents. The Fire Company approached the Liberty Township Committee about this concern and together with the Fire Company purchased a 1995 Pierce Rescue Pumper. This truck is equipped with a 1,250 GPM pump, carries 500 gallons of water and 30 gallons of foam. In addition to the fire suppression gear, this truck also carries the “Jaws of Life” and other rescue tools to be used at the scene of vehicle accidents. With the realization that the Fire Company would sometimes be the first emergency responders at some scenes requiring medical attention, members began first aid training and some members became Emergency Medical Technicians, while others were trained as First Responders.
In 1995, the Fire Company began construction of a new 4-bay building so that they could convert part of 1984 building into a meeting room able to host functions without the worries that freezing weather brought each time that the trucks were parked outside. Once again many long hours were put into this building and a dedication was held later that year.
In 2002, the Fire Company replaced the 1974 “Super” Tanker with a 2,300 gallon Four Guys Tanker that pumps 500 GPM.
In 2003, the 1969 Great Eastern Utility was replaced with a Ford 4-door Utility truck that contains a cascade system. The purchase of this truck was the direct result of numerous fund raising activities held by the Fire Company and Ladies Auxiliary.
In late 2004 the Fire Company contracted a complete remodel and expansion of our kitchen. This project was completed in six months and included a commercial dishwasher, sinks, grill, convection ovens and steam table. This addition has aided the Fire Company and Ladies Auxiliary tremendously with our fund-raising endeavors.
In 2005, with the assistance of a grant from the Federal government we purchased a Fire Safety House Trailer. This has been a valuable asset to our fire company as well as others within Warren County. The Fire Safety House is used to teach families and children about fire safety and how to handle an emergency in their homes. The Fire Safety Trailer has been used at various towns Community Days, at our schools during Fire Prevention Week each October, and spends the week at the Warren County Farmer’s Fair, where it literally sees hundreds of people. This trailer has been invaluable to Warren County.
In 2008, it became necessary for the Fire Company to replace its’ 1988 Darley Pumper. With assistance from both Liberty and White Townships, the Fire Company placed an order for a 2009 Darley Pumper with a Spartan chassis. This truck will have a 1,500 gpm pump and will carry 1,000 gallons of water. The truck will also be equipped with a CAFS or Compressed Air Foam System. Delivery of this truck is expected in January, 2010.
Over the past sixty years the Mountain Lake Fire Company and Ladies Auxiliary has been proud to serve the residents and businesses of Liberty and White Townships. We would like to acknowledge our mutual aid companies for their help over the years and we know that when called, either us or them, we are there for each other. As we continue our duty to the community, we look forward to serving all of you with sincere dedication. Thank you for your continued support.