The Gloucester City Fire Department was organized on July 5th 1878. Prior to this, there was no fire department. Most people felt they didn’t need one; however one calm evening in 1876, everything changed. There was a fire in a shoe store located at Middlesex & Willow Streets. The store was owned by local businessman John Moffat. The townspeople were threatened as they watched the fire grew in such great intensity. Other businesses and homes were in danger. Near by Washington Mills came with their fire brigade and saved the day.
After this, the people realized that had it not been for the firefighting forces from Washington Mills, they would have lost much of their personal property. This inspired them to form a fire department in Gloucester City.
So on July 5th 1878, an ordinance was passed to establish a fire department. Council also formed a five member board. Their first meeting was on September 11th 1887
They appointed Patrick Mealy as Fire Marshal. John Graham & John Lafferty were appointed as assistants and they had 10 other members at that time.
Now that we had a fire department they needed a firehouse. Council solved this when they approved money to build a new brick building on Bergen Street behind City Hall. In 1889 the construction cost was $5,892.47. This building served as Fire Headquarters’ until it was replaced in 1939 at the same site.
Over the years, the fire service continues to evolve. Today we have an exciting and technologically advanced service. Our department operates from two fire stations with both career and volunteer members. Many things have changed, however the legacy of colonial firefighters can still be seen in fire department operations and organization across the country to this day. The wooden hydrants are gone but the iron willed determination of American firefighters is as strong as ever.