WOODLAND PARK — The West Paterson Fire Company No. 1 held its 100th anniversary celebration with festivities at 3 and 5 Garret Mountain Plaza On Saturday.
Hundreds of people turned out for the occasion which featured food, music from a disc jockey and live band, and firematic competitions.
Fire Co. 1’s started on March, 10, 1909 in then-known West Park, a former section of Little Falls. At that time, the outfit was called the West Park Fire Company, which was located in Tempes Garage on McBride Avenue. The first apparatus was a two-wheel hose cart with long rope, pulled by at least 15 men.
The landmark event officially began at 8 a.m. with the New Jersey State Exempt Firemen’s Association 123rd annual convention at Memorial School. The conference drew fire departments near and far and was held in conjunction with the West Paterson’s Exempt Firemen’s Association’s 85th anniversary.
Come afternoon, the action switched to Garret Mountain Plaza. At 1 p.m., a firematic muster, an antique fire apparatus judging competition, took place with about two dozen fire departments participating.
The celebration drew many out-of-town fire departments, some of which traveled considerable distance such as Stirling Fire Company of Long Hill. In addition, half a dozen departments vied in firematic skill matches, according to Joe Macones Jr., Fire Co. 1 assistant chief.
The party continued through the afternoon in a cordoned off party site that included a large canopy. By the evening, Macones said the turnout was lighter than expected.
“We were expecting 2,000 people. We have 400 to 500 people. It’s starting to pick up.”
For $15, visitors enjoyed unlimited soda, beer, and food. Collectibles were also on sale, such as commemorative mugs or T-shirts. The 100th anniversary bash brought out the Fire Co. 1 brotherhood. Long time veterans, both active and social members, were seen enjoying the event. One of those legends was Bill King of Fort Myers, Fla.
King has been affiliated with Co. 1 for 48 years, 28 as active firefighter. He said he came to Woodland Park just for the celebration, adding that he was glad to see old friends. He said attending the party brought back happy memories.
“I enjoyed my years. We used to have parties and all,” he said, describing the fire company’s fraternal atmosphere.
King said he recalls, in his day, finding volunteers was no problem.
“When I was there, there were 35 active members. Every one of them was active.”
Another tribute paying veteran was Vince Olivo of Woodland Park, a 47 year Co. 1 member. Olivo also noted how the passage of time has brought change. Olivo said he has noticed increased sensitivity towards regarding the fire department’s needs.
“We had to fight for radios and Scott packs, but today it is a different game.”
According to Olivo, one of his cherished memories is serving under Chief George Moussab, a Co. 1 member and one of the department’s founding fathers. Another recollection is the company’s 60th anniversary event at Memorial Field.
Olivo said his fire service involvement has seemingly whizzed by.
“Time flies. It went by fast.”
Another present Co. 1 legend was Phil Mizzone Sr. of Woodland Park, a member since 1958. Mizzone said the 100th anniversary celebration evokes the company’s rich history. He said saluting the century mark is an unforgettable experience, especially for the company’s old timers.
“We don’t have many guys with my time left.”
Naturally, Mark Pinder of Woodland Park, Co. 1 and general fire department president, had meaningful words to say about the 100th anniversary celebration. Pinder said preparations for the bash began three years ago. He said the momentous affair brings people together and benefits fire department recruitment efforts.
“It’s good because you get a lot of people who don’t come around.”
Councilman Keith Kazmark said Co. 1 well deserves to hail its century of service to the town.
“One hundred years is absolutely something to celebrate. These guys work hard to keep our community safe and protect us. Certainly, these are volunteers that sacrifice a lot of time away from their families, so that the borough is properly protected.”
Garry Colletti, former borough mayor, said the event fosters community and fire department solidarity.
“This is what a town is all about; people coming out to show their appreciation for the fire department.”
At about 4 p.m., trophies were presented to the muster and firefighter skill competition victors. After that, a number of visiting fire departments departed on a lofty note. Fire engines intermittently left Garret Mountain Plaza, blaring their sirens and air horns in congratulatory bursts. At about 5:30 p.m., the Sensational Soul Cruisers, an 11-piece band based in Rumson, took the stage as the party continued into the night.