By Anya Bochman
Photo courtesy/Nick Witczak
The Brookside Engine Company #1 of Mendham can trace its roots to over a century ago; town records indicate that in 1916, the town leaders finally decided to rectify the problem caused by a lack of a fire response unit by forming Brookside. On January 28, 1916, chairmen were elected to organize a fire company, and a charter list was opened for those who wished to join.
Since then, the company has undergone a number of changes, although its primary purpose of responding to fire emergencies remains the same. Today, Brookside is one of two fire companies that make up the Mendham Township Fire Department. It consists entirely of volunteer membership, covers 18.1 square miles and serves approximately 6,000 residents.
In 2015, the non-profit organization purchased an SUV incident command unit – its first one since 1991, according to Fire Chief Nick Witczak.
The 2000 Ford Excursion unit operates as both a first response vehicle and mobile incident command post. It is equipped with incident management and lifesaving equipment and is assigned for use by the fire chiefs, enabling them to respond directly to the emergency scene.
“Before the command unit, responders would sometimes use their own vehicles at great personal risk,” Witczak said.
In an appeal posted on the company’s Facebook page at the beginning of April, the chief explained that the current unit is aging and in need of replacement. Citing its importance during such emergencies as the Nor’easter of 2018, Witczak wrote that the company is attempting to raise $35,000 to replace the unit with a newer, safer model.
“[The command unit] has helped us respond to major incidents such as the Pitney Estate fire and the Kings shopping center fire. In addition, the use of four-wheel drive enabled us to be able to go off road and locate a resident who went missing in the middle of the night, in a heavily wooded area of the township,” Witczak wrote. “Moreover, fast assessment of false alarms or ‘culinary mishaps’ avoids wear and tear and risk of rolling our larger equipment unnecessarily.”
One of the main problems with the 2000 Ford Excursion is its springing of oil leaks, which were determined by the service company to have caused significant damage, according to Witczak. Although the fire chief stated that the vehicle was in “good shape” when first purchased, his Facebook post revealed that “the condition of the current vehicle has unexpectedly and significantly deteriorated in the past year and is now in need of replacement.”
In an effort to ease the tax burden on residents, the fire company is funding the new vehicle. The Brookside Engine Company #1 is a 501(c)3 charitable organization and donations are tax-deductible. Those wishing to donate can make checks out to “The Brookside Engine Company No. 1, PO Box 196, Brookside NJ 07926”, with “New Command Vehicle Fund” in the notes line. Donations can also be made online at www.bec1.org/donate.html.
As of mid-April, Witczak stated that the company has already had several donations come in towards its $35,000 goal. He noted that the main strategy for soliciting donations has been via social media and mailings to town residents.
“The community has been very supportive towards the fire company,” Witczak said. “Donations to our company for this vehicle purchase will help save lives and protect property.”