In 1972, the fire department responded to the Rahway (Avenel) prison riots where the utility truck spent the next twenty-four hours in steady sleet. As a result, the fire department realized the need for an enclosed truck to carry our equipment. So, they purchased a G.M.C. step van to replace the International in 1973.
The cost of this truck was four thousand dollars. The truck's first response was to a fatal Christmas morning fire, which occurred in Avenel's district of Colonia. Because of this fire, a meeting was arranged with the township council to redraw the district lines. Avenel did an excellent job at the fire. However, many residents felt that they had to travel to far because three major highways had to be crossed to get to them. Consequently, the district lines were changed. Colonia #12 and Iselin # 11 divided the area on the West Side of route # 27.
In the mid 70's, the Fire Company received one of its most memorable members a Dalmatian, which we named "Sparky". "Sparky' was a gift from a Colonia resident and his original name was Whiskey. He spent ten years with us riding to calls on the fire engines. The most memorable call was the response to a working fire at Frystock Motors in Colonia. While the fire was being fought, 'Sparky' ran off and he found a house with an open front door. He ran right into the house and jumped up onto the dining room table, which was set for dinner and ate the prepared dinner. The very irate homeowner called the police about this and was informed about the fire. 'Sparky' was returned to the fire scene, as the fire was a very tough one and 'Sparky' lightened it up alittle. 'Sparky' was also known as "daddy' to many of the area dogs. He was a member from 1967 to 1977 when he retired. He died about two years later.
In 1973 we started escorting Santa around our fire district on the fire truck on Christmas Eve, Santa sat in his sleigh atop the pumper. We would cover the whole district, stopping to let children sit on Santa's lap and ask for gifts, usually finishing around midnight. The people would wait in front of their homes or all meet at one neighbors house to wait for us. It was an instant success with the firemen and the town.
In 1975, the company purchased the "Jaws of Life' to assist in removing people trapped in car accidents. Colonia district #12 was one of the first in area to use this tool. On a daily basis, we were called upon to assist in car accidents throughout the township and nearby union county towns.
In 1978 our 1969 Mack Pumper was featured in a book by Chartwell Books Inc. called Fire! The Story of the Fire Engine by Simon Goodenough. It was on pages 150 & 151; it used three quarters of the pages for the picture.
To meet the increasing demands in 1979, a large bay was added to the building and also an elevator. The cost of this addition was ninety seven thousand dollars. The elevator was to enable the handicapped accessibly to events being held in the hall upstairs or to the commissioners meeting room also upstairs to attend their meetings. With the new addition, the commissioners finally had a meeting room and a storage area was also added for the hall. The commissioners also purchased the corner lot to expand the parking lot for the hall. While they tried to purchase the entire lot from Inman Avenue to Florence Avenue the taxpayers voted this down.
The first pagers were bought to facilitate communications. The men could carry them anywhere enabling them to know there was a fire call.
In 1975 the Colonia Fire Department with the other eight districts and Carteret started the Woodbridge Township Fire School. All firemen were sent to this school and all new members attended this school. We would give classes in the different fire houses.
Also, in 1979, the next new pumper was delivered, a 1979 Mack pumper with a 1250 g.p.m. pump, 600 gallon booster tank, and designed like the 1969 Mack with the addition of two 1 ½ " crosslays and a foam system. A 1979 Chevy Suburban for company use was also bought. The cost of the pumper was one hundred thousand dollars and the cost of the truck was eight thousand dollars. The cost of the car was eight thousand dollars.
In 1979 we expanded our Santa, Christmas Eve escort by using two pumpers now that we had two that looked exactly alike. One pumper would escort Santa around the streets west of the parkway and the other would escort him on the East Side streets. Both had Santa's in sleds on top of the pumpers.