A meeting of the citizens of the town of Lebanon was held in the evening of April 11th 1923 to arrange a fire company for Lebanon Fire District #1. Elections were held and the fire company was founded. One member offered to donate $100 towards the purchase of an engine from the Morristown Fire Department for $1000 if nine other members would match this amount. On that basis Lebanon’s first fire truck was purchased – A Simplex Pumper. On April 18, 1925 a special meeting was held for the purpose of purchasing a 50 ft lot on Main Street. The lot was purchased and the fire company had its first home.
The next year a building was constructed to house the fire engine, Lebanon’s first and only firehouse. In the beginning, a general store occupied half the building. Eventually the entire building became the firehouse. Throughout the years, there have been many additions to the building, including adding additional bays to hold the much needed apparatus. However, the front of the building still looks the same today as it did back in 1925.
The Lebanon Fire Company’s origin can be traced back to 1923 when a Gas Explosion occurred in the original Post Office/Hotel on the corner of Main Street & Cokesbury Road which killed 11 people. It was at this time that Lebanon Borough agreed to start it’s own Fire Company. Coincidentally, the General Store which replaced the Post Office/Hotel after the explosion, caught fire and burned down in 1980. Today it is a vacant lot used for parking.
Originally named “The Lebanon Volunteer Fire Company #1” our name was shortened in the late ’80’s to just “Lebanon Fire Company” dropping the volunteer designation for a more professional title. We became Incorporated in the 1990’s and began complying with the new regulations concerning training and equipment. We began filing the NIFRS in 1991 which was a optional incident reporting to the state. Early Firefighting was different than today because of the training, equipment and type of incidents that occur. The State of NJ began keeping closer tabs on volunteers and regulations started to spring up to make the job safer and more efficient. In the early years of the Fire Company, residents would make a phone call to a fireman when they had trouble, this member in turn would respond to the station and ring an Iron Ring mounted in front of the station to signal a fire. Then the members would respond to get the apparatus. Later in time the Iron Ring was replaced by an electric siren mounted on the roof of the station, then a countywide 911 system went into place. The Iron Ring is mounted in front of our station in a garden to signify our long history and how far we have come. The electric siren was also utilized during time of war as an Air Raid warning and Civil Defense device and is still in service today.
In the past, all of the firefighter’s gear was stored on the trucks and members would respond to the scene and gear up when there. The trucks would roll to a call, sometimes with only one member, relying on others to show up. They didn’t have a City Water system and had to reply on the water that was carried on the trucks or drafting water from ponds and/or streams nearby the fire. The invention of Tanker trucks was a very welcomed technology. Now fire companies could bring water to the scene in tankers, some holding up to 2000 gallons, and with the addition of a City Water systems with Fire Hydrants, the fire companies could now rely on a steady water source located throughout the community. Using ponds and streams was still used in more rural areas and farms.
Early fire apparatus history is hard to come by due to the record keeping used during those times but to the best of our knowledge the history we have is below:
- 1920’s Simplex Pumper – Was orignally purchased from Morristown Fire Department for $1000 by Fire Company Members. Other History is not known.
- 1942 Ford Pumper – purchased after the war in 1945 was the front line pumper of it’s day. This truck had the famous Ford “Flathead” V-8 Engine and a manual transmission. The pump and water tank specs are not known. After being replaced it was sold to the Hunterdon Tall Cedars. The Cedars painted the vehicle Green & Gold and used it as their parade vehicle. In 2006 the Tall Cedars decided to return this Pumper to the Fire Company. The Ford will undergo a complete restoration here at our station and be returned to it’s original configuration and beauty. An interesting note, the engine was originally listed as a Ford/ American La France. Thanks to Past Chief John Smith Jr. we found this is not correct. It appears that someone attached the La France name plate to the back step, however there is no record of this truck being manufactured by American La France.
- 1953 GMC Tanker – 1200 gallon tender that had been donated to the fire company possibly by Van Doren Oil Company. It had previously served as an airport gasoline supply truck. F.L. Smidth, a local business and employer of then Chief Charles Mitchel donated the materials and man hours to make the compartments and tailboard for the truck.
- 1954 GMC/1928 LaFrance Ladder – This unit was purchased by the company in 1984 and was stripped down, cleaned and refurbished in our station by the members. The unit was painted by Jeff’s Auto Body in Whitehouse, NJ. This unit was a 1954 GMC chassis with a 1928 American LaFrance Ladder rack on the rear. It carried (2) 35′ Wooden extension ladders, (1) 50′ Wooden Banger ladder, (2) Wooden 25′ Truss ladders, Flood Lights, Stokes basket & wooden pike poles. This unit was mainly for parades but did respond to a few Incidents where it’s ladders and lighting was utilized. After being stored for years it was also privately sold to a collector and it’s location today is unknown.
- 1956 Mack B-Model Pumper – Was originally built to FDNY specs as part of a deal with the city. It became available for sale and was purchased new by our company in 1956. This pumper was “State of the art” in the ’50’s carrying 800 gallons of water, 750gpm pump, Flood lights and Booster Hose Reel. It was powered by a rare “Chrysler 331ci Hemi” Industrial engine with a 5 speed manual transmission. This truck was supposedly 1 of 13 built with this drive-train combo. This unit remained in service with the company until the early nineties. It was removed from active service and stored. After much debate of the fate of this apparatus, it was privately sold to a Fire Apparatus collector. It’s location is unknown today.
- 1971 GMC 2500 Brush Truck – Was purchased in 1971 to replace the Dodge Powerwagon RAM the company had been using. This unit was outfitted with a portable pump unit, Front Sprays and a water tank custom built by Local business, F.L. Smidth on Cherry Street. This 4 Wheel drive unit had a Chevy 350 V-8 with a manual transmission and was slated for replacement in 1985 when the company ordered a Pierce Custom Mini Pumper but remained in service until 2002 when it was retired and sold to one of out members. Today it retains it’s original paint and lettering.
- 1971 American LaFrance Engine – Purchased new in 1971 with funds from Clinton Township this unit was the front line pumper. It carried 500 gallons of water, 1250gpm pump, SCBA, Pre-connect attack lines & water supply hose. This unit had the Detroit 671 Diesel engine and manual transmission and was refurbished in 1986 having a new Century cab installed and High Side rear compartments. It remained in service until it’s sale in 1996 when it was replaced by a Spartan/Quality Engine. The Sea Bright Fire Department purchased this engine and it’s still in service with them today.
- 1978 GMC 7500 – GMC Chassis was donated by Christy Halsy Oil Co. It was sent out to 4 Guys Fire Apparatus in 1984 and had a 1500 gallon tanker body installed. It had a 1000 gpm pump and a rear 8″ Jet Dump. It was powered by a GMC 366 V-8 with a 5 speed manual transmission. This tanker was in service until replaced in 1993. The truck was sold to a Fire Company in Colorado.
- 1982 American LaFrance 75′ Water Chief – This ladder truck was purchased in 1985 when a deal with South America fell through and a lot of apparatus was sitting in Elmira New York’s old American LaFrance Plant. The truck was purchased for $175,000 by Lebanon Borough and was the company’s first areal ladder. The truck carried 500 gallons of water, 1500 gpm pump, 75′ Ladder, and a host of structural related equipment. It had the Detroit 6V92 Diesel engine and an Automatic transmission. This truck was in service until 2002 when it was replaced by a Seagrave “Meanstick”. It was sold for $45,000 to Oyster Bay Fire Company in Alabama and weathered the recent Hurricane “Katrina” remaining in service today.
Past Chiefs of Lebanon Fire Company
- Thomas Pryor – 1923-1925
- Norwood Hall – 1926-1928
- Ross Smith – 1929
- Grover Schomp – 1930-1932
- Raymond Hockenbury – 1933-1937
- Leslie Manning – 1938-1939
- G. Nelson Ramsey – 1940-1942
- Ross Smith – 1943
- G. Nelson Ramsey – 1944-1947
- Ross Smith – 1948
- G. Nelson Ramsey – 1949-1951
- Gordon Wilbur – 1952
- G. Nelson Ramsey – 1953-1956
- Charles Mitchell – 1957
- William Freeman – 1958-1971
- John Smith – 1972
- William Freeman – 1973-1975
- Richard Case – 1976-1983
- Mark Saharic – 1984-1986
- James Boyer – 1987
- Mark Saharic – 1988-1990
- Peter Pellowski – 1991
- Mark Saharic – 1992-1994
- Kevin Saharic – 1995-1997
- Mark Saharic – 1998-2000
- Glenn Hagan – 2001
- Kevin Saharic – 2002-2006