In the spring of 1829, there were
several fires in Jersey City (pop. 1,025) and public opinion
demanded protection against fire. The Board of Selectmen listened
to the demand but the city treasury did not have enough money
for fire protection. There was also no way of raising the needed
funds through a tax .
An ordinance was passed which prohibited
public auctions unless the auctioneer was licensed. A total of
$839.50 was collected from the licenses. This money was used
to pay for the needed fire protection.
A committee was appointed to find out how much a fire engine
would cost. The committee decided to order a new engine from
Henry Ludlum of N.Y. for $800.00. It was delivered on August
28, 1829, along with 100 feet of hose purchased for $87.50. The
next problem for the Selectmen was to organize and form a fire
company. Any citizen could sign up and become one of the first
firemen in Jersey City. Thirty citizens signed on. On September
21, 1829, Liberty Engine Company No. 1 was organized and the
engine was placed in the stable of Hugh McCutcheon's "Farmers
Hotel" at 42 York Street.
The first Chief Engineer ( Chief ) of the fire department
was Samuel Bridgart. He was appointed by resolution on February
In 1870, the fire departments of Jersey City, Bergen, and
Hudson City consolidated under Chief Coyle. A volunteer force
at the time was not adequate for such a large area. Because of
this, the decision was made to organize a paid fire department.
The working force for each company was uniformed, paid, and required
to remain in the engine-house. A supplemental force known as
"Buffaloes" was organized for each company . They were
semi-volunteer and paid a small salary. Their duty was to respond
to every alarm and perform the same fire duties as the full paid
From these small beginnings the Fire Department of Jersey
City has grown into a professional fire department of the highest