In April 1912, a pharmacist by the name of Henry O. Adams used his spare First motorized engine for Florence Township Fire Departmenttime to gather signatures from the townspeople of Florence in order to start an organized volunteer fire company. Mr. Adams’ efforts paid off and a charter was created and the Florence Fire Company No. 1 was born. The first piece of apparatus, a chemical engine, was purchased on April 19, 1913 for $909.00. This engine also holds the distinction of being the first motor driven fire engine in Burlington County.
As the township grew, so did the expansion of the fire department. In February 1927, The Florence Fire Company No. 2, located at Florence Station, was established to cover the eastern part of the township. In 1947, after the closure of the Roebling steel mill, The Roebling Volunteer Fire Company No. 3 was formed, bringing the total number of companies protecting Florence Township residents to three. In 1948, the services of the fire department expanded when the Florence Fire Company No. 1 formed a First aid squad, station 409. The Roebling Rescue Squad which was formed in 1945, was also providing first aid to residents, but until 2006, was a completely separate entity from the fire department.
Although all three fire companies were working together to serve the residents of Florence Township, it was not until 1951 that a formal “Board of Fire Engineers” was established. This board worked to establish common objectives between the three fire companies and also created a system where the Township Chief would be selected on a rotating basis from each of the three companies.
On April 4, 1952, the department suffered its first line of duty death. Chester “Chet” Sutphen lost his life when the apparatus he was driving was involved in a fatal collision at the intersection of west third and summer streets. On April 18, 1968, a second line of duty death occurred. Former Chief, Alfred “Paddy” Brown was struck by a hit and run driver on Florence-Columbus Rd while performing fire police duties at a motor vehicle accident. Both of these honorable men are memorialized and remembered at a monument located at Clark T. Carey Volunteer Park, located at the boat dock in Florence.
By 1980, training requirements and the rising cost of equipment made it very hard for the volunteers to fund fire protection with fundraisers and bingo nights. They turned to the residents for help and the residents voted to create the Florence Township Fire District No. 1. This enabled a tax to be collected to fund the department, offering a much more stable financial future and a governing body to administer the departments business. A small by product of this was the Florence Emergency Squad split off from the Florence Fire Company No. 1 to become its own separate organization. The switch to a fire district paid off fairly quickly as the department purchased 3 front line engines in 1985, replacing apparatus purchased in the 1950’s and 60’s. In 1989, the department purchased its first ladder truck and in 1993, purchased two front line engines, bringing its fleet up to date completely regarding firefighting methods and safety features.
Another milestone for the department was on January 1, 1996, the first full time Fire official/Fire Marshal was hired. In September 1999, a second employee was hired, to supplement the Fire Official as big changes were coming. On January 1 2000, the Florence Township Fire Department named Edward Kensler its first career Fire Chief. The appointment of a career Chief replaced the system of rotating chiefs that had been in place since 1951. To this day, the supporting chiefs and line officers continue to be volunteers. In August of 2001, three career firefighters were hired to help supplement the two township emergency squads during the daytime hours, assist with building inspections and perform fleet maintenance.
Throughout its history, The Florence Township Fire Department has relied heavily on its volunteers. In the late 1990’s and early parts of the 2000’s, it became evident that with increasing demands on volunteers time and a smaller pool of volunteers, that changes would need to be made. In November, 2005, after two years of research and a lot of back and forth, the first of those changes was the consolidation of the three fire companies into one single company. The name was changed to reflect the change. The Florence Township Fire Company No. 1 became the sole provider for fire protection in Florence Township. The two EMS agencies in town were feeling the same effects and between November 2005 and July 2006, the Roebling Rescue Squad and the Florence Emergency Squad became one with the Florence Township Fire Department.
On July 1 2006, The Florence Township Fire Department moved into their new single station located at 401 Firehouse Lane as one organization providing fire protection and prevention along with EMS and rescue services. In 2012, The Florence Township Fire Department celebrated 100 years of service to our community with a large parade and fireworks.
Currently, The Florence Township Fire Department operates 2 command vehicles, 2 Engines, 1 Tower Ladder, 1 Rescue Truck, 1 3000 Gallon Tanker, 2 State Certified Ambulances, 1 Boat for Delaware River Operations, 1 Fire Police Vehicle, and 3 support vehicles. We cover an area of approximately 10.18 square miles, along with areas on the NJ Turnpike, Interstate 295 and State Highway 130. We provide Fire suppression, prevention and investigation along with EMS and Rescue services to 14,000 residents and an estimated 50,000 per day transient population using our interstates and highways. We serve with a combination staff of career and volunteer professionals dedicated to serving their community and the communities surrounding them. We look forward to meeting the challenges of the future head on.