The Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department was organized on June 11, 1910, under the direction of the Mount Tabor Camp Meeting Association, to protect life and property of the homes in Mount Tabor and surrounding areas from fires angry rage. Supplied with two hand drawn hose carts, 30 concerned residents became charter members and George W. Earl was named First Chief and Elected First President of the Company. Officers of the department were subject to the board of trustee’s approval. The chief was also the town superintendent as all fire calls were initiated from the Camp Meeting office. The super lived in an association owned residence across the street from the office. The department was divided into two hose companies each with a hand drawn hose cart, and set of officers including an Assistant Chief, Foreman and Assistant Foreman. Company #1 was located on Simpson Avenue by the C.M.A. office. Company #2 was located on the top of the hill, by the water-retaining reservoir, on North Place. The original draft of the department’s by-laws was approved on December 21, 1911.
The first major fire to challenge the volunteers occurred in April of 1912, at the Old Saw Mill on the corner of what is now Rt. 53 and Front Street in Denville. (The original territory included part of Denville). The fire proved too much for the hose cart system of fire fighting and the building was lost, what wasn’t lost was the men’s’ enthusiasm and desire to improve. In the summer of 1912, in what was the volunteer’s first method of fund raising a concert was held and netted $203.60. Members purchased the first regulation type uniforms in the summer of 1913, it took three years for all members to be outfitted alike. The uniform at that time consisted of a hat, dark pants, white shirt and bow tie. Firemen were required to purchase their own badge at a cost of 50 cents a piece. That same year a 500-pound bell was installed to notify the members of a fire call. The Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated on February 11, 1915.
In April 1918 eight standard rubber fire-fighting coats were purchased in various sizes at a cost of five dollars each. The territorial boundaries of the Mount Tabor Fire Department were defined by the departments boundary committee, which reported; “The territory under the protection of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department are all those properties included in the following boundary lines. Beginning and including the property of Chas. Wythe; thence along the north side of the Parsippany Road to the Macadam Road, thence a direct line to and including the property of F.E. Parks, thence following the Ridge of Beacon Mountain in a northeasterly direction to and including the property of George W. Dickerson, thence in an easterly direction along the Fox Hill Road, including all houses on the north side facing this road to and including the Williams farm, thence to the place of beginning.”
Requesting a contribution of one dollar per household, the first fund drive letter requesting donations from property owners and other interested parties was circulated in August of 1919 and this venture netted a total of $201.00.
On June 19, 1920 the Fire Department of Mount Tabor joined the New Jersey State Exempt Fireman’s Association. Later that year in October a committee was appointed to consider the purchase of a motorized chemical apparatus to supplement the hose carts. This was completed in March l923 with the purchase of a $5,000.00 Buffalo Water Pumper with a thirty gallon pressed steel terne lined water reserve on a REO speed wagon chassis, under Chief Earl and President Albert D. Dickerson. This modern motorized fire apparatus got plenty of use as it was at the time the only pumper between Morristown and Dover. The old firehouse on Simpson Avenue, (which was used previously for bell ringing, hose drying, socializing and regular meetings), had to under- go extensive remodeling to house this proud addition. After gaining permission from the Mount Tabor Board of Trustees, work began to convert the building to the first “permanent” fire headquarters and engine room.
In November of 1923 a sterling hand crank siren was purchased from the Rochester Stamping Co. for the new truck at a cost of $35.00. It was not until November of 1925 that a portable heater and permanent electric lights were purchased and installed in the firehouse.
The Mount Tabor Fire Headquarters was first used in 1929 as an election-polling place. A use fee of $20.00 was charged for the use of the engine room. The same system applies for elections today. On March 14, 1929 the volunteers voted to join the North Jersey Volunteer Firemen’s Association. The first Mount Tabor delegates to the N.J.V.F.A. were Elmer Dickerson and Clarence E. Simonson with Albert Dickerson, Robert Cantrell and George Dickerson as alternates. In I928 the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills was incorporated.
As the 1930’s rolled in, the newly formed Parsippany-Troy Hills Township took a more active interest in the Mount Tabor Fire Department. An appropriation of $350.00 was made by the township to help with running expenses in as much as they were to take care of a much larger territory in Parsippany- Troy Hills. For two fall months in 1930 the department held their regular meetings in the Lounge Room of the Arlington Hotel on Simpson Avenue. There was much discussion on the fire company’s request that the Lounge Room be left intact for the fire departments use during the winter months, in the event the hotel was to be torn down. Contrary to popular belief the Arlington Hotel was not destroyed by fire, but was taken down by its owner. Part of the stone foundation is still present as the retaining wall of The Community parking lot between The Methodist Church and Durban Avenue. In one of the more interesting methods of raising funds, 1930 saw the fire department chance off 2 tons of coal, one ton at a time, to help raise money. In 1931 the Mount Tabor Volunteers established a “depression fund” with which throughout the big depression provided Christmas dinner baskets yearly to as many as sixty-five families who were in need.
On their first anniversary on March 13, 1935, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department was organized. There were 40 charter members and the first president was Mrs. Harry Goble. On their first anniversary on March 13,1935. The Ladies Auxiliary celebrated with a “1st Birthday Party” at which the firemen presented the ladies with a gavel. A much appreciated support group of the fire department.
On April 11, 1935 in the first recorded mutual-aid pre-planning program, Chief Earl declared that “in case of a fire at the schoolhouse that this department call Denville Fire Department to assist us.” On Mount Tabor’s Annual Children’s Day 1935, the first parade of fire trucks participated in the Saturday evening parade. The invited departments consisted of The Lake Parsippany Fire Department, Parsippany-Troy Hills Fire Association, Rainbow Lakes Fire Department and The Denville Fire Department.
In September 1935 at the annual election of officers, with the foresight of the major changes to come, the department bylaws were amended to read: “Any member of the fire department may be eligible for election to the office of chief of the department beginning September 1936.” At the same time the two hose companies were to be eliminated. This concluded the “first” twenty-five years of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department.
The time had come in Parsippany-Troy Hills Township for a more organized system of fire protection for this growing Morris County municipality. On January 29, 1936, The Mount Tabor firemen gathered for a special meeting called by President Ken Seath. The purpose of the meeting was to form, a fire district and a board of fire commissioners in accordance with state statutes. A list consisting of 3 firemen and2 non-firemen were nominated and placed upon the ballots along with the first fire department municipal budget for the voters to act upon. The Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills was divided into six fire districts. As we now know them; District #1 Mount Tabor F.D., District #2 Rainbow Lakes F.D., District #3 Lake Parsippany F.D., District #4 Lake Hiawatha F.D., District #5 Rockaway Neck F.D. and District #6 Parsippany- Troy Hills Fire Assoc. Each district has its own set of five fire commissioners whom oversee fire department operations and equipment as it applies to the township interests. The voters in each district are eligible to vote for the fire budget and commissioners of their district. The first such election was on February 15,1936, a Saturday, and the polls were open from 2:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Approved along with the budget were the first Mount Tabor F.D. Board of Fire Commissioners; Charles L. Lawrence, George W. Earl, Martin Rourke, William H. Wythe and William H. Heavey.
In April of 1936 the practice of blowing the fire siren at 7:00 a.m. to signal school closings due to “severe stormy weather” was initiated by request of the Board of Education. Later that year, the department sought a local department interested in purchasing the 1922 REO for their use and investigated the purchase of a new piece of equipment to replace the chemical pumper. At a special meeting on November 19, 1936 the membership, acting upon a recommendation of the New Truck Committee, agreed to purchase a two ton G.M.C. fire truck from the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation for three thousand dollars plus the present truck. Delivered and passed underwriters tests the new fire truck was put into service in March 1937. The REO was delivered to Mount Hope, Rockaway Township Co. #2, F.D. whom had purchased it for $400.00. “The reliable piece of equipment gave Mt. Hope’s bravest something to work with until it was retired in 1948.” Under Chief Earl and President Jack Wolfe the proud new piece of equipment began servicing the area residents. The old siren which for years screamed from the top of Mc’Cunes Garage was removed and discarded.
On September 14, 1939 at the regular monthly fire department meeting Secretary William H. Wythe wrote: “This next I write with the deepest regret, Chief George W. Earl who has been our Chief and guiding light for the past twenty- nine years consecutively did on this night resign as Chief of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department. It is true that he had earned this surcease from duty and his request was respectfully accepted.”
Fred Lynch was elected the second Chief of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department for the year 1940. Past Chief Earl was honored at a dinner, given an engraved silver chief’s horn as a gift and was named honorary chief of the fire department.
In 1941 life membership was established to reward those firemen with fifteen or more years of service. As a life member dues and attendance requirements are waived, but active participation is encouraged. Also in 1941, to more efficiently handle response to fire calls, fire alarm boxes were installed by the Federal Electric Co. These boxes were located in Tabor, along Rt. 53 and as far into the district as Littleton corners, (Rt. 10 & 202). A tape punch machine was installed in the firehouse and members could identify the box that was pulled by the number of holes punched in the tape. In 1941, Elmer and Claude Dickerson donated to the department a Dodge truck to be used by the fire department first-aid squad as an ambulance.
In 1942 as several members of the Mount Tabor Fire Department were called to war, the department began purchasing war bonds and contributing to the Red Cross War Fund. President Harry Van Campen, Jr. had to resign his post to serve in the Naval Reserves. On May 12, 1942 the firemen appointed its first fire department chaplain. The Reverend Merritt Saunders was named as chaplain, given honorary member status and was presented with a special gold chaplain’s badge. The tradition of refreshments after the Children’s Day Parade in Tabor, for visiting firemen, was started on Children’s Day - 1942.
The office of Second Assistant Chief was established in 1945. Improvements were requested of the Camp Meeting Association to the Fire Department Headquarters to accommodate a second fire truck. In January 1946 with the approval of the requested improvements on the old firehouse, the department strengthened the floor to handle an extra load.
At the March 14, 1946 regular meeting, department representatives reported that “an army surplus fire truck, the same as had been purchased by the mountain Lakes Fire Department, could be purchased at a cost of $900.00.” The membership regularly approved the acquisition and prepared for its arrival. By May 1946 the truck had arrived, a front mounted pump on a 1944 Chevrolet Chassis. This truck came partially equipped so that a minimum of extra equipment was needed. Since it was a four-wheel drive vehicle, it was used extensively for brush fires of which they had many. This acquisition made the Mount Tabor Fire Department a two-truck company. At this time the firemen were actively pursuing a new headquarters as they were outgrowing the facilities available to them.
The operation of the fire siren was transferred to the Parsippany Police Headquarters in 1949, with a direct line telephone to the police station. In June of 1949 the Mount Tabor Camp Meeting Association turned over to the fire department. “To hold, forever-more” the 2 original hose carts. They were previously the property of the C.M.A. as it had directed the department through its early years.
A white fireman’s coat was purchased for the Chief, to easily distinguish the officer from the other black coats at a fire, and a portable resuscitator, a most valuable piece of equipment, was purchased in 1950.
On and off between 1946 and 1953 the volunteers, frustrated by the lack of space available, discussed either building, or moving to, a new location. Plans were drawn, meetings held, finances discussed, but nothing could be worked out. Finally, after negotiating with the Camp Meeting Association Trustees, they came to an agreement to rent the area under the tabernacle between the Camp Meeting Office and the Post Office. This gave them two nice size truck rooms and a meeting room, which could also be used for department socials. The lease was approved and the firemen moved in March of 1953.
The department had special needs, which at times could not be met by the firefighting equipment companies. Having some of the densest grouping of residences in the area, the department wanted some type of appliance to protect an adjacent home from the spread of fire. In 1953 Lawrence Zeh Sr. designed and built just the appliance to suit their special need. The “water curtain” was designed to be placed between two homes and when supplied with adequate water pressure sent a wall of water vertically to eliminate the danger of a major fire spreading to a neighboring structure.
It became apparent to the department in 1954, that the 1944 army surplus truck should be replaced, and the members voted to pursue the purchase of a more up to date piece of firefighting equipment. In November 1954 the Mount Tabor Volunteers ordered a custom built, 1955 GMC fire truck. Under Chief Floyd A. Becker, Sr., the department received it on August 12, 1955. The truck featured a high pressure, two-stage, seven hundred and fifty gallon per minute pump and carried 500 gallons of water and other equipment including foam and wet water.
In 1955, after considerable publicity, the alarm box system, which had only limited use, was done away with except for the one outside of the firehouse. Maintenance costs were quite high and it had reached the point where new parts were constantly required.
In 1957, the fire chiefs of the six districts and their assistants formed the Joint Chiefs Council, to work more closely together. Mutual aid drills and pre-planning have been held to better prepare to handle potentially devastating emergency situations.
The Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department joined the New Jersey State Volunteer Fireman’s Association in 1958. The N.J.S.V.F.A. is an organization designed to promote legislation favorable to volunteer firemen.
The fifties brought major growth to the fire district with many new homes and developments popping up throughout the volunteer’s area of protection. Park Road, Brooklawn Drive, Glacier Hills, Sedgefield and Puddingstone Heights, were fast developing in the woodlands which previously were only dotted with homes. It was time again for Mount Tabor to improve its fire fighting capabilities.
It was June 11, 1960, after many months of planning and preparation, that the vamps of Mount Tabor celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a gala parade along Route 53. Thousands of spectators cheered the two and one half mile long parade, which culminated with a festive gathering at the Golden Gate Park.
The township fire alarm system was modernized in 1962. Sirens were frequency tone activated from police headquarters, radios were installed in all trucks and base stations were installed for communication between firemen and police.
Due to the expanding residential development the Mount Tabor Fire Department in 1962 acquired a plot of land along Route 53, at the entrance to Glacier Hills at Tarn Drive. The department had purchased the property with the intent to build a new station and office/meeting room at a location closer to Route 10 to reduce response time and attract new members from the increasing populous. It was also obvious to the fire fighters that additional equipment was need to provide adequate protection to its’ citizens.
The charm of old Mount Tabor, the old firehouse and the outstanding condition of the 1937 pumper, attracted the Coca-Cola Co. into town to film a commercial for television in 1963. This special event gave a needed boost to the building fund, which had been started to acquire the funds necessary to build on the Route 53 property. The department was paid $1,000.00 for the use of the equipment and building, and the participants in the commercial, including firemen, women and children from the area were paid a collective $1,000.00. The participants in turn donated their earnings over to the building fund. Cory’s Sunoco on Route 53 was the site of an unusual means of raising funds in June 1963. Cory Chambers and his son Dick, owners and operators of the filling station, turned the pumps over to the Mount Tabor firemen. For the day $300.00 were raised, boosting the momentum of the building fund.
The construction of the new firehouse was begun early in 1964. The volunteers spent all of their free time, each donating his own expertise to this exciting project. With the help of George Bock’s architectural renderings the members labored until its completion in 1965. Also in 1964, the department purchased a most modern piece of fire apparatus. Under Chief Frank C. Scerbo, Jr. the volunteers put their new, 1964 cab over young, 1,000 gallon combination pumper, with two stage pump into service and stationed it in their brand new two story, two bay firehouse.
A generous citizen donated a portable resuscitator-inhalator unit to the fire department in 1965. Past Chief Floyd Becker’s son, overcome by smoke while fighting a fire, had to be treated by a portable resuscitation unit. A man witnessing its valuable lifesaving service was so impressed that he donated a like unit to the Mount Tabor firemen. In its first year of service the unit revived the life breath of a critically ill 55-year old man, whom had been found unconscious on the grounds of the Mount Tabor golf course.
By 1966, the full department membership had received plectron home alert systems to inform members of a fire. The units placed in the homes of firemen were activated by tones sent from police headquarters in Parsippany. Upon tone activation, the firemen are advised of the type and location of the reported fire.
The Mount Tabor Fire Department under Chief Carl N. Pauli, purchased a rescue/personnel carrier truck in 1967. The truck, a custom built Ford, was equipped with a portable pump and generator as well as ample compartment space for lights, first-aid equipment plus much more. The main function of the truck is for rescue equipment and rescue operations. The truck has self contained breathing apparatus mounted inside for easy removal, so firemen en route to a call could “Scott up” and be all set to enter a burning building immediately upon arrival. This truck was stationed at the Simpson Avenue Firehouse along with the 1955 GMC Pumper. The 1937 Buffalo Pumper and the 1964 Young Pumper responded from the Tarn Drive Firehouse.
After thirty-three years of service a “tired” 1937 Buffalo Pumper was replaced by a new, 1970 Cab over Young, 1,000 gallon single stage pumper truck. Under Chief Dominic DePalma the newest truck went into service and a buyer was sought and subsequently found for the 1937 Pumper. In the short span of ten years the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department had built a new firehouse and purchased these new fire trucks and membership had grown to fifty active members.
The 1970’s were financially quiet years as the volunteers went about their business of protecting lives and property of residents while keeping up to date with state of the art firefighting equipment and techniques. The district was fast developing and the department considered a third fire station located off Route 10 in the vicinity of Powder Mill. But the cost of property was prohibitive and the idea lost momentum, until it was no longer considered a possibility.
With consideration to the present needs, but most importantly, the future needs of the fire district, the department, under Chief William R. Steinle purchased and received a custom built 1980 Mack Fire Truck. The Mack is a triple combination pumper, diesel automatic vehicle, with a two-stage pump and five hundred gallon water tank. This truck was the first and only “lime green” colored apparatus in the traditional “fire engine red” fleet of equipment. The 1955 GMC was retired to use as limited duty apparatus mainly responding to brush fire calls.
Having five fire trucks, the department needed another truck bay, so, the officer’s room was removed and the Tarn Drive Firehouse converted to a three bay station. An addition was then built on the rear of the firehouse with a new officers/commissioners office and much needed work/ storage room. The volunteers completed this construction in 1981.
A junior fire department was organized in 1982. Open to residents of district one, age 16-17 years old. It is intended to produce interest in joining the volunteer fire department in a full membership capacity at age 18. The junior firemen under the guidance of the assistant chiefs, have limited duties, a firematic function curfew and hold their own meetings. New junior members are always welcome.
The “Jaws of Life” heavy rescue equipment package is an invaluable addition to any fire department and rescue squad. In 1983, a package was purchased and several of the fire fighters attended extensive training classes exclusively on the operation of this complicated lifesaving equipment.
On March 24, 1984, the Ladies Auxiliary celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a dinner-dance at the Hearthstone Restaurant. In April of 1985, one of the original hose carts was restored to “like new” condition by the Mount Tabor Ladies Auxiliary to help the firemen celebrate their 75th Anniversary. On June 15, 1985 the Mount Tabor Fire Department celebratedits seventy-fifth anniversary with a gala parade alongRoute 53 starting at Dickerson Road and ending at WarnerLambert in Morris Plains.
In 1988 the department purchased a new Ford P&L Customrescue truck to replace the 1967 Ford that was in service at thetime. The new truck had more compartment space, mountednight time scene illumination lights, an onboard generatorand air compressor. Modeled after the New York City rescueunits, this truck features a 14’ walk in box with bench seating,SCBA racks and was put into to service with a brand new setof Hurst rescue tools ready to service the people and visitorsto the area. The 1967 Ford was sold at auction after the newtruck went into service.
“INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM” (1990 – NOW)
The 1990’s brought about many more milestones for the Mount Tabor Fire Department. The district was growing with more commercial occupancies and residential homes and condominiums. The district saw the increasing population and fire risk and responded by starting the plans to purchase a new pumper to replace the 1963 Young. The new 613 was ordered from Pierce Manufacturing with a pump capable of delivering 1,250 gallons of water per minute, boasted a 750 water tank and was the first truck to feature a top mounted pump. This advancement allowed the pump operator to see completely around the truck and had the safety feature of removing the operator from the roadway. The Young was sold to a township in Georgia after the new truck was in service. This truck went back to Pierce Manufacturing for a total rehabilitation in April 2010 allowing the truck to be in service to the community for another 15 years.
As far back as the 1970’s the district had always considered the possibility of the areas expansion requiring the addition of a third firehouse in the Powder Mill section. The district had lacked the required funds needed to build and outfit a station though. The plans we shelved for years until the Gates Court complex was finished being constructed. Due to the immediate increase in population in that area a new firehouse and new truck would need to be put in service. With a donation from the building of Gates Court the district was finally able to start planning the third firehouse. The first step was to order a new Pierce 100’ aerial tower ladder that would be capable of firefighting duties at the new complex. The new Tower 1 (611) features a 2000 gallon per minute water pump and a 200 gallon water tank. A new firehouse at the corner of South Powder Mill Road and State Route 10 was constructed to house the new 611. The firehouse was dedicated in 1998 to Past Chief and Past Commissioner Frank Scerbo.
At the start of 1999 the district purchased a Scott Thermal Imaging Camera to assist in search and rescue. Since then the district has purchased three additional units. These cameras provide invaluable assistance to standard search techniques. During the course of the year the department’s publicity committee establishes the first department web site. Since then the web site has progressed into the interactive site that you see today. In May the district donated 615 the 1970 Ford Young pumper to the town of Armenia, Columbia after an earthquake devastated the region destroying their firefighting capabilities.
In early 2000 the district took delivery of a new truck that would become the new 615. This was a Pierce Saber class A pumper with a 500 gallon water tank, and a 2,000 gallon per minute pump. A compressed air foam system (CAFS) was later added to truck. Adding to its versatility 615 has the ability to be stationed in the Simpson Ave station if necessary.
During the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 the district responded in many different ways. Members of the department were fully prepared to go into New York City and assist as needed. Though the Port Authority had requested assistance the need to physically respond was not needed. In an effort to provide assistance the membership responded by being a drop off location for the public to donate food, water and other supplies that were needed for the rescue efforts. Our involvement was very successful in generating a large volume of supplies that were delivered to ground zero and used by personal working.
In 2004 the district took delivery of a Pierce Ford 550 mini pumper with a 250 gallon water tank, a 20 gallon class a foam tank, and the ability to pump 500 gallons per minute. The truck is equipment with four wheel drive and has the capabilities of going into places that the traditionally larger apparatus can’t get into.
During 2005 the membership of the department was in a position that they were able to have the upstairs meeting room of the Tarn Drive station renovated. This was the first update to the building that was constructed in the 1960’s. The update included a new commercial grade kitchen, a new bar, and new windows. The update included a new commercial grade kitchen, a new bar, new windows, high efficiency lighting and appliances.
In late 2007 the district took delivery of a new Pierce Enforcer Rescue Unit. This new truck has more compartment room, multiple hydraulic reels to power the Holmatro extrication tools, and a battery powered rescue tool. There is a 35 kilo-watt PTO driven generator to power the light tower that provided a great amount of light to aid members at a nighttime operation. There is a heavy duty winch system that can moved to multiple points around the truck as needed, as well as multiple tethering points. The truck has highly efficient LED lighting all around. The 1988 P&L Custom unit was sold to a fire company in Mt. Pleasant, PA. In 2009 the 1980 Mack 612 was sold to a former member and is now in Georgia.
The department’s members, in addition to normal fire service training, have been training in the specialization of being a rapid intervention crew (RIC). The sole purpose of a RIC is to intervene in fire fighter emergencies and recues when all other mean of egress appear to be impossible for that trapped fire fighter. The exhaustive training is performed once a month on a special night in addition to normal training.
In celebration of the department’s centennial anniversary, the department hosted a gala reception on April 10, 2010 at the Birchwood Manor.
2011 turned into the busiest response year for the MTVFD in their 101 year history. March floods, Hurricane Irene and heavy snow in October sent the members of the department to respond to 469 calls in 2011. Not only did they assist residents of their immediate community, but also responded to all 5 mutual aid fire departments within Parsippany, plus Denville, Randolph, Cedar Knolls, Morris Township, Morristown, Lincoln Park, Mountain Lakes and even Millburn.
The Mount Tabor Fire Department is deeply rooted in its traditions of yesteryear. The original hose carts are still owned by the department and are housed in the Simpson Ave station. The original Ticker Tape machine is on display in the Tarn Drive station, and George Earle’s watch, which was given to him by the department members as a sign a gratitude for his service, is also on display at Tarn Drive. Today the membership of the department has the same dedication and loyalty to the residents as the charter members did in 1910 when the department was organized.