In the fall of 1928, a meeting was held at the Holmes Marshall school on River Road in Piscataway Township, the purpose being to organize a fire company in the River Road area. With a vote of approval and contributions from members present, the River Road Fire Company was realized. Donations also came forth from the Community Club of Bound Brook Heights, area residents, and the New Market Fire Company, the latter having donated a model "T" Ford fire engine. Formally organized the following year, 1929, Mr. Jacob Beitz was the first head of the newly established company, elected as Captain while under the jurisdiction of the New Market Fire Company, Fire District #1. The first fire to be fought by the organization under the command of Captain Beitz occurred soon afterwards in a house located on riverside property between Centennial Avenue and Netherwood Avenue (the structure was reported to be a farmhouse that was utilized as servants quarters for an adjoining speakeasy - the foundation of the farmhouse is still visible today). In 1931, two significant events took place. First, the organization legally and officially incorporated as the "River Road Fire Company" and second, the secession from the New Market Fire Company, District #1 to the assignment of its own Fire District, namely, Fire District #2 which enabled the fire company to receive taxpayer funds from the Township of Piscataway with an elected board of Fire Commissioners overseeing its budget and policies.
Despite the importance of the two aforementioned events, the early days of fighting fires were not easy. As charter member Joe Smith once stated, "the original company had to rely on teamwork and sheer courage than on technology and theory when responding to calls". Due to fire apparatus not always being in the best working condition they sometimes had to be pushed up uphill slopes. Once at the fire scene the problem of where the water would come from to fight the blaze often arose. During the winter, the firemen frequently had to break through ice covering brooks to feed their pumps, use water from the house that was burning, or in one instance, tap the flaming structure's septic system.
In subsequent years the fire company progressed, growing in stride with the needs of the community. More modern and reliable fire apparatus was purchased, the introduction of fire hydrants provided a dependable means of supplying water, and a central alarm system was added to alert firemen of and emergency. Additionally, the Possumtown Fire Company and the Holmes Marshall Volunteer Fire Company formed in 1948 and 1954 respectively, joined Fire District #2 in response to the ever increasing volume of fire calls. Seventy-five years since its beginning, the River Road Fire Company continues to provide protection for the 25,000 residents of Fire District #2, covering the southern-most section of Piscataway and answering about 300 calls per year with an all volunteer force. Fire calls once dominated by field fires and building fires have been replaced by carbon monoxide investigations, false alarms, hazardous materials incidents, motor vehicle extrications and mutual aid assistance.
The most impressive statistic, however, is that in 75 years of fighting fires, the company has never lost a fireman in action. Surely, though, many lives were saved as many blazes were conquered.
Written by FF Vincent Gulbin, Jr.