The Oceanport Hook & Ladder Fire Co. is one of two companies that comprise the Oceanport Fire Department (OFD). We are a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, who operate and maintain our firehouse directly through the generosity of the residents of the Borough of Oceanport.
History of the OPH&L, circa 1950:
The history of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company goes back to March 18, 1895, when the Village of Oceanport was a part of Eatontown Township. It was on that date that a group of Oceanport men held their final organization meeting and requested a certificate of incorporation for the newly formed Oceanport Hook and Ladder Fire Company.
This request of incorporation for a term of fifty years was signed by nineteen Oceanport residents and submitted to the county clerk of Monmouth County. Notable among the signatories at this request was Charles R. Walling, Police Chief of Oceanport Borough in 1950 and the only living charter member of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company at that time. Chief Walling officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the new Fire House in 1950 as well.
Being duly organized in 1895, the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company purchased a one story building previously owned by the Oceanport Fife and Drum Corps. That same building on Oceanport Avenue near Main Street, with a second story added in later years, was been used by the company till June 3, 1950, when the new Fire House was Dedicated.
A horse-drawn hook and ladder wagon was the original rolling stock of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company. This wagon was pulled by the willing hands of stout-hearted smoke-eaters to many a fire.
When this original truck became un-serviceable, a chemical tank wagon and a hand-drawn horse reel were purchased for the company by Eatontown Township.
The next milestone is December, 1946, when a Building Fund was started. The money for this fund was raised by fairs and automobile raffles. By the hard work of the members, this fund grew to the extent that a new building could actually be started. On November 25, 1949, a contract was signed with Anthony J. Piccola of Eatontown, to erect the splendid new building. Four years before the signing of the contract, the old fire house was auctioned off to the highest bidder, on November 21, 1949.
In April, 1909, the second-floor addition was added to the original building; and a horse wagon was obtained. Nine years later, in April, 1918, a used Ford auto-Model T of course-was purchased and converted, in order to motorize the old horse wagon
Two years prior to the purchase of the Ford, in March, 1916, the Oceanport Fire Department had given birth to a second fire company, the Port au Peck Chemical Hose Company. In that same year, 1916, Mr. C. Whitney Conrow became President of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company, an office which he was to hold for 28 years, until 1944. Under his able guidance, the company prospered and progressed.
The year 1920 marked the formation of the Borough of Oceanport, a new municipality which offered its residents the superior protection of two fire companies, one in Oceanport proper and one in the residential district of Port au Peck.
In February, 1923, a Mack Triple Combination Truck, equipped with a 500-gallon pump. was purchased for the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Company by the Borough of Oceanport. This truck was affectionately termed a “Bulldog Mack” truck; and is remembered to this day for the service and dependability it gave. Also in 1923, a one-room addition was added to the original building, to be used as a furnace room and kitchen.
The Ladies Auxiliary to the Fire Company was first recognized in February, 1924.
In March, 1936, the present Mack Triple Combination Truck was purchased for the company by the Borough of Oceanport. This truck is equipped with an efficient 550-gallon pumper.
In December, 1945, the Ladies Auxiliary was reorganized and recognized by the company.
Such is the history of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Fire Company from 1895-1950. In 55 years it grew from a man-drawn and horse-drawn truck in a one story building to a modern firefighting equipped company housed in a handsome spacious quarters.
In 1950, the Oceanport Hook and Ladder fire company outgrew its then-current firehouse on Oceanport Ave. The company purchased land and a small house through fundraising and donations and build a new brick structure adjacent to the existing small home. The two-apparatus bay firehouse on 21 Main St had a meeting room upstairs and two offices. The offices provided space for the borough tax office and police headquarters. The Oceanport Borough Council would hold their meetings in the upstairs meeting room. The firehouse also housed the first aid squad until approximately 1980. In approximately 1964, the company demolished the house adjacent to the firehouse and added two more bays to the structure to hold additional apparatus.
In the middle of the night of December 4th, 1987, the sky over 21 Main Street was lit with flames. A passing delivery driver activated the alarm and the Oceanport Hook & Ladder Fire Company was dispatched to their own building. Pulling the trucks out of the burning building first, and with the assistance of multiple surrounding companies including Ft. Monmouth, the fire was contained to the second-floor meeting room, offices, and first floor members’ room. Trophies, photos, and memorabilia were destroyed.
Over the last several decades, the Oceanport Hook & Ladder has had several pieces of apparatus including a 1968 Mack CF pumper which was retired in 2008. The company still operates this piece for special events including parades and wet downs. The company has responded with several aerial ladder trucks throughout recent decades. The company acquired a 1957 B model Mack 100’ ladder truck from the City of Long Branch in 1979. This truck would serve until the early 90’s when it was replaced by an American La France ladder truck. In 1995, this truck was replaced by a 1974 Mack CF 100’ Ladder truck which was bought from the City of Long Branch. In 2000, the company acquired the first brand new ladder truck the town has ever owned. This truck is known as a quint– as it is a 75’ aerial with a pumper. The company proudly still responds which this piece today.
The Oceanport Hook & Ladder prides itself on history and tradition. The Oceanport Hook & Ladder continues to serve the community as it has since 1895. Membership and funding are two challenges the company has faced since its inception. Facing a severe membership shortage in the early 2000s, they created an explorer program that allowed teenagers between 14 and 18 to join the ranks in a limited capacity. This program helped the membership shortage and encouraged participants to raise the ranks to become officers and chiefs of the department.
The company still owns their firehouse and conducts annual fundraisers to support the operation of itself– including the annual ham dinner, Santa run, and other various fundraisers.
2020 brought not only a pandemic but a major loss to the Oceanport Hook & Ladder of their long-time member, advocate, and Ex-Chief Clem Sommers. Passing away at the age of 92, Clem had been an active member of the Oceanport Hook & Ladder for over 70 years. The company was honored to pay tribute to Clem as the hearse passed his firehouse for the last time. Clem left few long-time Ex-Chiefs behind including Carl “Mo” Christiansen, Ralph Marra and Edward Ryan, all serving over 60 years.
Today, the company responds to over 200 calls for service per year, operates two pieces of apparatus, and supports many community events.