Wherever and whenever people group together, build homes, and raise families, there is the need for protection from the dangers of wind, rain, and fire. Buildings serve to shelter from the first two elements, but only human effort can protect people from fire.

  1. Background
  2. Building a Fire Department
  3. Establishing Chain of Command
  4. Growth of More Companies
  5. Modernizing
  6. Conclusion


On June 27 1883, a number of concerned and aroused citizens of Bloomfield took steps to protect their lives and property by organizing the Bloomfield Fire Association. This was done after a series of memorable fires during the winter of 1882 through 1883 destroyed many homes causing the insurance rates to increase sharply. The final blow was a disastrous fire which destroyed the old John Archdeacon's Hotel which stood at the northeast corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Washington Street, and threatened to burn out the entire business district. Men and equipment were summoned from Newark, but their late arrival made it obvious that Bloomfield needed it's own fire department.

Historical Account

A special "Firemen's Edition" of the Newark Star Ledger published in 1933, the 50th Anniversary of the Bloomfield Fire Department, carried the following wry account of the incident:

The man most responsible for the formation of the Bloomfield Fire Department in 1883 was a chagrined Newark Fire Chief - For Bloomfield citizens in the late 19th century, there were few more things more exciting than a fire. The only persons who didn't enjoy a fire were the owners of the burning property, friends and relatives of the owners, and the Newark Fire Department. When the fire bell clanged in Bloomfield it wasn't the signal for volunteer firemen to rush to the scene, as much as it was for the citizens to head for the blaze and watch the drama unfold. But they had to wait for the Newark Fire Department, the nearest fire fighters. Some time later.. more often than not, when the building was burning to the ground, the crowd would hear the clatter and clop clop clop of horses charging up the road from Newark, and into the view would come the gallant horses, men, and wagons of Newark.

Time and time again the drama was repeated. the bell clanging bell, the wait, the thrilling arrival of the high spirited horses hauling men and equipment, and the usually futile effort to cut off  a fire that had too much of a head start. The Newark chief who responded each time was David E Benedict, a man who honestly felt he had to help any community in need, but for Bloomfield, even with the patient Benedict, the party was about over. The end came the night the John Archdeacon's Hotel, at the corner of Broad and Washington Streets, caught fire. When Benedict and his men arrived, the fire had burned through the roof and the walls had already started to crumble. Cursing and frustrated the Newarkers did their best, but the hotel was a total loss. With smoke still rising and water still sizzling in the ruins, the Chief Benedict climbed atop a pile of rubble and called for the large crowd to draw closer.

"Enough is enough" he announced, 'Get busy with your fire department for I am not coming again until you do!"

The crowd murmured and muttered, and after time began drifting away, most scoffing at the thought the chief would fail to respond to a call for help. "I warn you", he yelled, "I will only come to help again when you've started to do something to help yourselves."

Three times citizens looked in vain to the road from Newark. The chief had meant what he said and the buildings burned to the ground without much organized effort to save them.