The Upper Greenwood Lake Volunteer Fire Company is located in the Hewitt section of the Township of West Milford, NJ. The township spans more than 80 square miles. Company 5 is one of six volunteer fire companies that comprise the West Milford Volunteer Fire Department. Company 5 is the primary responder for the Upper Greenwood Lake section of the township, commonly referred to as “The Mountain.”
The UGLVFC was formed in 1934 and received its Charter from the State of New Jersey on March 4, 1935, with a membership of seven. The first firehouse was built on Warwick Turnpike opposite Cedar Brook Road and was dedicated on September 22, 1935. The first fire apparatus was a pick-up truck with two 55-gallon drums to hold water. The second truck, which was built as a fire truck, was purchased for $50, used, from Budd Lake Fire Department. A third vehicle used was a 1929 La Salle touring car which was modified with a 30-gallon chemical tank donated by the Greenwood Forest Fire Company. The original new truck purchased by the Fire Company was a 1935 “Diamond T” pumper with a 200-gallon tank and, a 200 gallon per minute pump. This pumper was placed in storage until 1970 or 1971 when it was rediscovered in a barn in Warwick, NY, and later sold.
The method of reporting fires in the early days of the Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Company was similar to other companies in the township. Old railroad wheels were placed at key intersections and were struck with a hammer until the firemen arrived and were led to the scene. Today an alarm is called into the police desk and the firemen are summoned by radio communication and E-Dispatch system. As the lake community grew, it was felt that a second firehouse should be built on the east side of the lake. This house, located on Lakeshore Drive near Papscoe Road, was occupied until the late 1980s. The building could no longer be used, due to deterioration. Our current firehouse, located at 776 Warwick Turnpike, was dedicated on June 4, 1978 in the memory of Bill Telgen and Ben Auerbach who were killed in the line of duty on September 19, 1977.
In 1978, an ordinance was passed by the Town Council to incorporate all of the volunteer fire companies into a township-wide fire department. Although they are partially funded by the township, the companies are still independent organizations, with some group purchases made through the department. The fire department is led by the Chief’s Association, represented by the Chief of each company and a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. Each company was required to purchase their own apparatus until the late 80s when equipment regulations and costs exceeded the capability of the volunteer organizations.
Fighting fires in Upper Greenwood Lake is very unique. This section of West Milford has no public water system of any type, therefore there are no hydrants. Water must be brought to the fire scene in the truck and tanker that we operate. If additional water is needed, we have several standpipes located in the district, but in most cases, tankers must be placed at the lake to draft water and relayed to the fire scene, and mutual aid tankers must be called from other companies. The geography of the Lake Community also causes problems for us, with miles of narrow mountain roads that bend and wind in all different directions throughout the district. To this day, many roads remain unpaved. Because of our location, the Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Company services a portion of Vernon Township to the NJ/NY state line.
Being a firefighter requires extensive training in firematics as well as safety-related jobs. We are also called on to evacuate residents during heavy storms and rescue accident victims. We perform water rescue in summer months and ice rescues during the winter months, as well as flood assistance in the spring and fall. The officers and members of the Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Company would like to thank the men and women who have served as Firemen and Auxiliary members over the years, as well as those members of the community who have supported us for the last 85 years.