The Cresskill Volunteer Fire Dept. was organized in 1858, the official incorporating of Cresskill as a borough did not occur till some 36 years later in 1894, thus marking our service to the town of 117 years. The original firehouse stood on the property of Gerald Ochse located at 41 Union Ave., initially housing horse drawn apparatus eventually giving way to motorized apparatus such as a 1914 REO pumper and a 1929 Maxim Quad style pumper, 1939 White pumper a 1947 Mack Quad ladder truck, and a 1953 Mack pumper, the last “new” piece of apparatus to be housed here. The firehouse served as the main communication center as it was positioned centrally downtown on Union Ave., with close proximity to police headquarters, hosting an air horn atop the building above the old hose drying tower, to alert members for calls. After many years of service as our firehouse this building also served as the DPW garage, ambulance headquarters, and the teen center, before giving way to several restaurants including it’s current occupant, the Hanami Restaurant. In 1955 a modern day firehouse was constructed on borough property located at 51 Madison Ave. the current firehouse which serves as our headquarters.
Until 1975 the Fire Dept also operated the Cresskill Volunteer Fire Ambulance signified by the maltese cross patch on the doors of the rigs, the ambulance station now resides alongside the firehouse at 63 Madison Ave. Lester DeVries Jr. known to most as “Jimmy” served as a 2 term Captain (4 years apiece) of the ambulance squad a 2 year stint as Fire Chief and a distinguished 41 year career with the Cresskill Police Dept. culminating in 1988 retiring at the rank of chief. “Jimmy” to this day the only person to hold the rank of chief and or captain in all 3 depts.
Christmas Eve 1975, at approximately 10:52a.m., was a day to be remembered, as this marked the Kings Supermarket fire, front page of the Daily News. Mutual aid from some 10 FD’s assisted in this blaze that was believed to have started in the old incinerator located in the rear of the building. Amazingly all shoppers and employees were evacuated escaping harm and injury.The building and shopping plaza had to be razed and was reconstructed with other businesses taking residence along Union Ave.
While the ever changing world of technology and development seem to have changed the landscape of Cresskill, the dept has evolved from purchasing the apparatus by our members, to our borough now supplying our apparatus and equipment and storing them in our member owned firehouse. In 1984 with some diligent work by outgoing Chief Keith Brigley and incoming Chief Charles Stuart along with a generous donation from Lipton Tea Co. our first chief’s car was presented to the Dept., a 1984 Ford Crown Victoria station wagon. Today we supply our 2 chiefs (2009 Chevy Tahoe, 2007 Dodge Durango) and captain (2005 Ford Expedition), with vehicles. We currently house a 2009 Ford F-550 light rescue, a 2001 Ferrara pumper, a 1992 E-One Rescue Pumper, a 1988 E-One 80’ aerial, a 1985 American LaFrance pumper.
A piece of history was retrieved when our 1939 White pumper, which after serving Cresskill for 22 years was sold to the Borough of Rockliegh, was returned to us by a private owner from Baltimore Maryland who was going to donate it to the fire museum in Baltimore. Instead, with some leg work done by our membership, we were able to obtain our piece for $1.00 in 1987 and returned it to our firehouse. Today our apparatus is equipped with the latest in firefighting and detection equipment with various gas meters and thermal imaging cameras as well as every firefighter having a portable radio and the latest in personal protective equipment.
On a brighter historical note Cresskill also had the honor of hosting and protecting the President of the United States, on Wed. Oct. 6th 2010 as he was a guest at a dinner party hosted by one of our residents. The FD had the distinction of supplying protection for his arrival and departure, as well as our firehouse, housing the presidential limos and other escort vehicles for his motorcade.
Today the Cresskill Fire Dept. and Association participates in many community related activities and supports many organizations should the need arise. Cresskill is a charter member of the New Jersey and New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association having been recognized in 1914 as a member We even had the honor of hosting the convention in 2011. We are also members of the Interboro Fire Mutual Aid/Northern Valley Fire Chief’s Association.