January 12, 1931
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, January 12, 1931, include: “The chief reported on the active members’ drills and fires credit. The chief reported there was a fire at Anthony Felcone’s on Merline Avenue. Paul Paak reported Mr. Felcone received $500 from his insurance company. New Year’s Day committee reported the day was a success and all bills were paid. The committee was discharged with a vote of thanks. The delegates to Mercer County Firemen’s Association made a good report. The trustees reported the front door was repaired and that some one wanted to buy the pool table. The chief reported progress on the new fire engine. Edgar G. Weart spoke about blowing the siren.”
February 9, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, February 9, 1931, “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported there were a number of grass fires and a fire in J.H. Darrah’s car. Small damage. Chief James Hindley reported progress on the new fire engine. The chief reported the fire map was finished. Anthony Pilla reported a good Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting was held at Hopewell. Public Service showed a good picture about fire hazards. Under new business it was moved we buy Indian spray fire extinguishers. Chief James Hindley reported he had ordered two gas masks at $25 apiece.”
March 9, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, March 9, 1931, “Chief James Hindley reported progress on the new fire engine. The chief reported there were five grass fires and a fire at Blair’s at Eggerts Crossing. Small damage. He also reported he had received four Indian extinguishers.”
March 28, 1931
On Saturday, March 28, 1931, members of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association assisted Slackwood Fire Co. at the scene of an explosion and fire at 1 Vermont Avenue. The blast occurred while federal agents were in the process of dismantling an illegal still in the house. Eight people were seriously injured in the blast (one later died).
The following account of the incident was published in the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on March 29, 1931: “…The explosion occurred at 6:45 o’clock while federal men were dismantling the still. The raid had been made some hours earlier but the work of wrecking the plant, described as being of 1,000-gallon capacity, was held up pending the arrival of a wrecking crew. When the government men made their first visit, they found no one home and broke into the premise. Upon arrival of the wrecking crew, the work of pouring out alcohol and tearing down the apparatus was begun. Lawrence Chief of Police Joseph Hopkins, together with Henry Rossi of 2 Vermont Avenue and Michael Mazzatelli of 5 Vermont Avenue were watching the work. Stanley Swol, 22, who lived with his brother-in-law, Charles Coward, was bathing in the adjoining house.
“Suddenly there was a blast that detonated the neighborhood and which could be heard as far distant as Lawrenceville. The houses at 1 and 3 Vermont Avenue, which were built in a pair, collapsed like a house of cards and a sheet of flames leaped into the air. Shouts of persons in the neighborhood blended with the cries of the injured. Chief Hopkins was hurled to the street where he was pinned fast by the roof of the front porch. Swol, who was blown to the alley adjoining his home, was held fast by his heavy bathtub, while flames licked at his feet. Mazzatelli was tossed across the street but received no other hurts than a shaking up, while Rossi was held fast by heavy timbers. The federal men were knocked down by the concussion and stunned. Mazzatelli quickly recovered and dashed to the aid of Chief Hopkins.
“Many persons ran to help the other victims and an alarm of fire was sounded from the box at Brunswick Avenue and Mulberry Street, while calls were put in for the township apparatus. Thousands of persons were attracted by the blast and fire and in a few seconds pandemonium reigned. Engine Co. 9, with quarters at Brunswick Avenue and Pine Street, was the first firefighting detachment to arrive. Their first act was to rescue Swol, who was screaming in terror as the flames ate their way closer to his body. Capt. Samuel Homer then directed his men to search for other victims. A call was made to McKinley Hospital for an ambulance and the vehicle transported two of the victims to that institution while other vehicles were pressed into action for similar service.
“Slackwood Fire Co., under the direction of Assistant Chiefs Clifford and Howard Grant, was the second company on the scene and the members worked strenuously to free the pinioned victims from the approaching flames. Many theories were advanced as to the cause of the blast. One was that alcohol fumes were ignited by a spark caused by a short-circuit in the electric wiring. Another was that following the raid, the water in the boiler that operated the still was allowed to become low causing the apparatus to blow up.
“Fire Chief Jeremiah McGill and Assistant Chief George McCrossan, who were in charge of the Trenton apparatus, say that the theory that the explosion was caused by a bomb is not at all remote. They declared that, in their opinion, the blast was far too violent to have been caused by alcohol fumes. They pointed out that the thick concrete foundation was ripped asunder, as if by dynamite. Destruction of the building was so complete, the officials said, that it is doubtful if the exact cause of the detonation will ever be determined. Firemen worked desperately in tearing away the debris is search of victims. Chains were lashed to the splintered and charred timbers and city and volunteer firemen hauled away on them while their comrades beat down the flames with high-pressure lines. Their efforts were aided by the presence of one of the Trenton department’s portable floodlight plants. The Trenton apparatus and the Slackwood company were aided in fighting the flames by other detachments from Lawrence and Ewing townships.”
March 30, 1931
A follow-up report published in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday, March 30, 1931, included this update: “Stanley Swol died yesterday at McKinley Hospital from burns about the entire body. Swol was taking a bath when the double house was hurled asunder by the explosion. He was pinned under the bathtub in the debris and was horrible burned when the wreckage was swept by fire.” In the same article, Mercer County Prosecutor Charles English said the owner of the still would face a manslaughter charge.
April 13, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, April 13, 1931, Chief James Hindley reported about the incident on Vermont Avenue. He reported that the company also responded to “five field fires and a fire at Dawley’s on Cherry Tree Lane. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that Paul Paak got hurt on March 14 going to a fire. The LaFrance Engine Co. gave a demonstration of a new 500-gallon pumper. Chief James Hindley reported about $2,000 was subscribed for the new engine. Under new business, Edgar G. Weart and Joseph Pilla were appointed to get fruit and cigarettes for injured Police Chief Joseph Hopkins from donations from the members. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla asked about stenciling the hose, and President Robert Rose offered to take care of stenciling the hose. Moved that the House committee buy a gas range. Chief James Hindley asked about having a carnival. A lively discussion followed. Moved we appoint a committee to get information about a carnival and report at our next meeting. Chief Hindley and all active members were appointed. Moved we have our 17th Anniversary on May 1. Moved that a committee of five be appointed to act with Chief Hindley to collect for the new fire engine. If they collect $2,000 the company will buy the engine. 18 yes votes; 11 no votes.”
May 11, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, May 11, 1931, “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported there were fires at Long Acres and a fence on Alcazar Avenue near Charles Lownies’, and one in Darrah’s woods. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that the chief’s coat, the Indian fire extinguishers and the axes were stenciled. Chief James Hindley reported that the active members did not want a carnival. It was moved and seconded that we do not have a carnival this year. Edgar G. Weart reported that we bought Police Chief Hopkins a bath robe and a basket of fruit and that the chief’s condition is improving. Chief James Hindley reported progress on collecting for new fire engine. Chief Hindley reported that the Sanford Engine Co. will be here Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to demonstrate their fire engine. A representative of the London Insurance Company gave an interesting talk on accident insurance.”
June 8, 1931
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, June 8, 1931, include: “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a Packard sedan was on fire at Brick Yard, and there was a fire at Reed garage on Fernwood Lane. Small damage. Chief James Hindley reported progress on the new fire engine. Moved that the House committee transfer $100 to the treasurer to pay the painting bills. Moved that the painters be paid as soon as the bills are okayed by the trustees. Walter Schoeller reported from Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting that the legislation had passed a law that the township committee should pay for liability and compensation insurance for the fire company. Moved that Joseph Pilla be given a vote of thanks for repairing cracks on the building and other odd jobs. Moved that the township committee and Mr. Ziegler be given a vote of thanks for the map of the township. Moved that the House committee get a frame for the map. Moved that a committee get a copy of the law on liability and compensation insurance and report back.”
July 13, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, July 13, 1931, “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported there was a fire at Peter Rossi’s. Damage was $2,575. Insurance paid. It was reported that the Sanford agent gave a good talk about their new engine. Chief James Hindley made a good report on the new fire engine. It was moved that the Soliciting committee report to the company at the August meeting what fire engine they want to buy.” The 1931 delegates to the Mercer County Firemen’s Association were then elected.
August 10, 1931
During the meeting held on Monday, August 10, 1931, “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire on a trolley pole in front of C.A. Baker’s residence. The report of the new fire engine committee was read and duly received. A rising vote of thanks was given to Joseph Pilla and Joseph Radlinsky and others for good work done on the quoit grounds and other work around the firehouse. President Ross gave a good and interesting talk about his visit to the Sanford engine factory and the good reports about the Sanford. Moved by C.H. Smith and seconded by John Hutchins that the trustees buy the new engine. Motion passed. Paul Paak and John Hutchins gave good talks about raising money. Moved and seconded that a committee of five be appointed to raise money for the fire company for the rest of the year.”
August 10, 1931
A contract with the Sanford Motor Truck Co. of Syracuse, N.Y., was signed by the trustees on Monday, August 10, 1931. The contract, which promised delivery within 60 days, quoted the apparatus price as $6,000.
September 14, 1931
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, September 14, 1931, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire at James Eaton’s house. Small damage. Chief Hindley reported that the township committee has taken over compensation insurance for this company and after December 31 they will take over the liability and property damage insurance on the engines. Moved the trustees have another door made in the front of firehouse. Moved we have an oyster supper on October 30.”
October 6, 1931
The following letter, dated Tuesday, October 6, 1931, was received from the Sanford Motor Truck Co.: “We have received your letter of October 4 notifying us to withhold delivery of your apparatus until October 15. The apparatus will be in Lawrence Road on the 15th and the Underwriters’ test run on the 16th. We regret it is impossible to arrange for the Underwriters’ test on October 17, as that date falls on a Saturday and the Underwriters will not run any tests on Saturday. It is necessary for our engineer to spend three days giving instructions when he makes delivery, therefore he will be in Lawrence Road October 15-17 to give instructions and run the test on the 16th.”
October 13, 1931
During the meeting held on Tuesday, October 13, 1931, “The chief reported no fires this month. The new fire engine committee reported $2,500 was on hand and ready to be turned over to pay for the new engine. The underwriters will be here on Friday, October 16, 1931, to test our new engine. Moved that we allow the committee $30 for refreshments when we christen our new engine Friday night. Spaghetti supper committee reported $59.05 made to date. Mr. Maxam was asked to explain accident insurance for our members. Moved that a committee of three be appointed to take care of the insurance and make arrangements for payment.”
October 16, 1931
On Friday, October 16, 1931, James Balaam, Walter Schoeller and Godfrey Slover accepted delivery of the Sanford engine. The apparatus, bearing the Sanford identification number 518 R12, was painted red and was powered by a six cylinder 90 brake horse power engine and a 160-inch wheelbase.
October 25, 1931
On October 25, 1931, the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published a photograph of the new Sanford engine, along with this article about the apparatus: “Tests of a new motor-driven pumper purchased by the Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Co. have been completed with a report obtained from the National Board of Underwriters of its approval. The apparatus, costing $6,000, is the first of its type located in Mercer County, being adapted to hard pulling in addition to having several pumping improvements. Alterations are in progress at the firehouse to provide an adequate doorway for the prompt departure of the equipment when calls are received. The company previously possessed only a motor-driven chemical truck. The new machine was purchased by popular subscription in Fire District 2 of Lawrence Township. A special committee conducted the solicitation, consisting of Chief James Hindley, Assistant Chiefs Anthony Pilla and Leo Balaam, with Spencer Cornell, Joseph Pilla, Anthony Colabiti, and Walter Schoeller. The apparatus is known as a Sanford triple combination pumper. It carries a 150-gallon booster tank containing an emergency water supply. The pump itself is capable of pumping 500 gallons per minute at 120 pounds’ pressure per square inch. In addition, the vehicle is equipped with 1,000 feet of the standard 2.5-inch hose, as well as two extension ladders. Trustees in charge of the transaction were James Balaam, Godfrey Slover, and Walter Schoeller.”
November 19, 1931
During the next meeting, which is dated in the minutes as having occurred on Thursday, November 19, 1931, Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported the company responded to a chimney fire at Mrs. Daubia’s on October 30; a grass fire at Stephen Henczel’s on November 3; and a grass fire at Dunn Field on November 7. “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that the Underwriters test on October 16 was okay and members of other fire companies were present. Paul Paak reported progress on the window locks. Spaghetti supper reported $58.95 turned over to the Fire Engine committee. Moved same be received and the committee given a rising vote of thanks. James Balaam reported we have the group insurance and that we have to make arrangements for payment. Assistant Chief Pilla reported a good meeting at the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting and that Chief Pierson from Hightstown asked every company in Mercer County to donate $2 for members at Boonton. Moved and seconded we donate $2 to Boonton. Vice President Charles H. Smith made a suggestion to open our charter and have a membership drive. Moved that the opening of our charter be considered at our January 1932 meeting. Moved that we have a dinner party around Thanksgiving.” Nominations for officers 1932 were then held.
December 15, 1931
During the next meeting, which is dated in the minutes as having occurred on Tuesday, December 15, 1931, Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that the company responded to a fires on December 8 near Oscar Bone’s home and a grass fire at Martha Murphy’s. No damage. On December 14, the company was called to Thomas Lyncky’s home but there was no fire. “There was discussion about the fire hazard at Oscar Bone’s at Eggerts Crossing. Chief James Hindley said he would take care of it. Chief Hindley gave a lengthy report on active members.” Officers for 1932 were then elected.
In 1932, members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to 23 fires (according to the report given by Chief James Hindley at the first company meeting of 1933).
January 13, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, January 13, 1932, “Chief James Hindley reported the engine was okay. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported three grass fires. James Balaam made a New Year’s report. Moved the committee on New Year’s be given a rising vote of thanks. Moved we open our charter for three months and reduce the initiation fee to $2. Moved we have the doors painted and have handles put on the doors. Moved that the secretary write to the baker at the corner of Heil and Brunswick avenues and thank him for bread and etc. given to the poor people around Christmas.”
January 24, 1932
The following news brief was published in the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on January 24, 1932: “Pancakes will be served at a supper to be held by the Lawrence Road Fire Co. for its members, their wives, and the Ladies Auxiliary tomorrow night in the firehouse. Serving will start at 6 p.m. A program of entertainment will be followed by dancing. The committee in charge consists of Edgar G. Weart, William R. Sharp, W.G. Slover and Henry Dettman.”
February 8, 1932
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, February 8, 1932, include: “Chief James Hindley reported a fire above Lawrenceville on Pennington Road and that our company did good work. Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire next to John Hutchins’ and that we pumped out the cellar at the Eldridge old house. Godfrey Slover reported he loaned the hall to the Girl Scouts last Friday night. The pancake supper was a great success.”
March 14, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, March 14, 1932, “Anthony Pilla reported a fire at Underwood at Eggerts Crossing and two grass fires. He and Robert Reikosky filled four extinguishers at Eldridge Park School. A new head gasket was put on engine. Moved a rising vote of thanks be given to Godfrey Slover for cleaning the ballot box and contents. Moved that Stephen Ragolia be given a rising vote of thanks for the frame he made to keep engine blue prints. Moved we loan our hall to James Eaton for a musical for the unemployed of Lawrence Township.”
April 11, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, April 11, 1932, “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire, a car on fire at the Albano Inn, and a grass fire at Colonial Lake Lands. President Robert Ross gave a good talk about using our new engine to pump out cellars. It was moved our new engine be used for fire work only. Recommended by trustees and House committee that our janitor service be discontinued in the interests of economy to take effect April 30, 1932. It was further recommended that the firehouse be opened every evening during the summer months, except Sunday, and that two members of the company be appointed by the president to serve a term of one week to take care of the games and refreshments. Recommendation was adopted. Moved that members volunteer service and at least one man be present each night and have privilege to close the firehouse at 12 o’clock. Passed. The young people will hold a dance Wednesday night and, if successful, every other Wednesday night. Moved that a committee see Public Service about having the siren attached to the Pilla’s home.”
May 9, 1932
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, May 9, 1932, include: “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire at Ludwig. The Siren committee asked to have a letter written to Public Service about having the siren attached to the Pilla’s home. Chief James Hindley spoke about a board for fire engine donation names. Moved we give Peter DiAntonio a rising vote of thanks for the use of truck and men to haul dirt for the quoit grounds.”
May 13, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, May 13, 1932, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a chicken house fire at S. DePaolo’s and about 350 little chickens were lost. Anthony Pilla gave a good report on the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting and also reported about fire drill in Bucks County. Chief Hindley reported that Mr. Oldeck and Mr. Howard from the Sanford Co. checked our engine and reported everything was okay. Paul Paak reported for the Memorial committee that flags were placed on all graves excepting Al Pastor and Joseph Murray. Moved we have an American flag in our firehouse and we salute the flag when we open our meetings.”
July 11, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, July 11, 1932, “Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire on June 26 at Meyer Dantzig’s. About $50,000 damage, partially covered by insurance. James Balaam reported the water was connected to the curb. Peter DiAntonio promised pipe for our water connections. Letter from Schedule Rating Co. that insurance rates were reduced from June 1, 1932. Letter from the State Firemen’s Association about death rates being reduced to $300 was read and filed.”
August 8, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, August 8, 1932, “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire in back of Stace’s home. Anthony Pilla reported that wires were dropped so we could run the siren wires over to Pilla’s. President Robert Ross thanked all members for work in installing water. Paul Paak offered to paint the ladies’ room. Moved the wiring for the clock be left to the trustees. Moved that we run a card party to raise money so we can entertain the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting.”
September 2, 1932
On the morning of Friday, September 2, 1932, a violent thunderstorm passed through the region. In that night’s edition of the Trenton Evening Times it was reported that “the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were called out to the Muelhausen Cooperage on New York Avenue early today to extinguish a fire in the office. A short circuit, the result of a transformer being hit by lightening, was to blame. Damage was slight.”
September 18, 1932
On Sunday, September 18, 1932, the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded mutual aid to a house fire in Ewing.
The following account of the fire was published in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday, September 19, 1932: “Trapped by dense smoke, four children were seriously endangered last night at 1434 Heath Avenue, off Princeton Avenue, until firemen came to the rescue. A boarder, Andrew Proboba, 45, sustained burns about the arms and hands and required treatment at McKinley Hospital. He had been asleep in the attic when the blaze started mysteriously in a closet on the second floor.
Fireman George Malone, a driver attached to Trenton Truck Co. 3, carried three of the children to safety. A fourth child was standing bewildered at the head of a stairway when found by Lt. Charles Jenkins and assisted to the open air. The children were left in the care of the boarder while their mothers attended a social at St. Joachim’s hall. The flames ruined the house, while adjoining properties suffered to some extent from water. Furniture in the homes at 1432 and 1436 Heath Avenue was covered with tarpaulins to reduce the damage. Volunteer companies from Prospect Heights, Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Pennington Road responded.”
November 14, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, November 14, 1932, “Chief James Hindley reported a fires at: the Anthony Coliveto’s home; Simon Bonetobia’s hay stack; C. Lee Boyle’s brakes on auto on fire; and grass fire at Slackwood. Moved that secretary write to commissioner and ask for help in us getting water at cost price. President Ross reported there was a good Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting in our firehouse. Trustee James Balaam reported half the heater was bricked and now burning hard coal. Moved we have a pancake supper on November 22. Moved that a committee be appointed to meet with the township committee in reference to having the city water run through the Eggerts Crossing Road to the Battery. Moved that the pool table be left to the trustees to sell.” It was reported that about $127.66 was made on the recent oyster supper. Nominations were held for the 1933 officers.
December 12, 1932
During the meeting held on Monday, December 12, 1932, “Chief James Hindley reported there were two field fires at Slackwood, and the planks were finished. Moved that the chief be given power to buy flashlights and tire chains for the new truck. Chief James Hindley reported progress with the water lines to Battery B. Anthony Pilla reported a good Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting and moved and seconded we send $2 to Alonzo Pierson for the Boonton home. Moved and seconded we give Chief Hindley and his assistants a rising vote of thanks for their work in 1932. Chairman Cornell reported the pancake supper was a great success. Moved that a committee be appointed to take care of pancake supper on January 17, 1933.” Elections of officers were then held.
January 9, 1933
During the first meeting of 1933, held on Monday, January 9, “Chief James Hindley reported that there were 23 fires in 1932. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that Meyer’s coal truck was on fire at Dr. Russell’s. He gave a good report on active members. W. Godfrey Slover gave a very good yearly report of the House Committee. He received a vote of thanks. Moved that the secretary write to the township committee asking about liability and property damage insurance for our engines. H. Dettman reported a good time on New Year’s Day and that same was a success and James Balaam reported all bills paid. The report was received and a rising vote of thanks given to the butcher. Moved a rising vote of thanks be given Stephen Ragolia for making frames. Walter Schoeller was appointed press agent. John O’Hara reported there will be a card party for the benefit of the Boy Scouts to be held Friday night at the 112th Field Artillery and he asked the members to attend.”
March 5, 1933
An elderly township man was killed when his home caught fire on the morning of Sunday, March 5, 1933. The following account was published in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday, March 6, 1933: “Charles Harris, 75, burned to death yesterday when his home at Eggerts Crossing, Lawrence Township, was destroyed by fire. Another occupant, Arthur Brogdan, 22, escaped by leaping from a second-story window. The fire is believed to have been caused by an overheated stove. Brogdan was awakened in his room at 8:30 a.m. by dense clouds of smoke. He leaped from a window and then attempted to enter the blazing dwelling by a rear door in an effort to save Harris. His attempt was futile, the flames driving him back. The Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies responded but by the time they arrived the frame dwelling was doomed. It was owned by Mrs. Lillian Derry of Eggerts Crossing, who estimated the loss at $3,000. The body of Harris was found by firemen on the twisted fragments of his bed. He was burned beyond recognition. The corpse was removed to the morgue…”
March 13, 1933
Details of the fatal blaze were recorded in the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, March 13, 1933. Other items of interest recorded in the minutes on that date were: “Chief James Hindley reported two grass fires. The chief reported the fire hazard at Oscar Bone’s was reported to Fire Marshal David J. Newell. Anthony Pilla gave a report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Groveville. The House committee reported it was working on the ping-pong table. Joseph Pilla reported that he had planted some hedges in front of the firehouse and would like to have some shrubbery. Joseph Pilla reported that the front door was broken. Moved we have a committee to see about a minstrel show. A letter from John Hofner, clerk of Lawrence Township, about liability insurance was read and filed.”May 8, 1933:
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, May 8, 1933, include: “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported two grass fires. Chief James Hindley reported he bought six nozzles for the Indian pumps. Under new business, Anthony Pilla asked members to help grade around the firehouse.”
June 6, 1933
A raging fire that required extensive mutual aid broke out in Ewing Township early on the morning of Tuesday, June 6, 1933. The Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was among the many companies that responded .
The Trenton Evening Times published the following account of the blaze on the front page of that night’s edition: “Twisting sheets into the form of a rope, the family of Luigi Garzio reached safety from bedrooms on the second floor of their home on Grand Avenue, West Trenton, shortly before 4 a.m. The residence burned to the ground because firemen lacked an adequate water supply. The fire apparently started in a stairway leading from the kitchen to the floor above. Chemicals used by the Pennington Road Fire Co. failed to check the blaze as other companies were being summoned.
A dog’s barking outside the house at 3:40 a.m. first aroused the family. The pet apparently detected the blaze or smoke before the Garzio family was aware of their peril. By that time, the entire first floor was in flames. Escape by the stairway was out of the question. The height of the second-floor windows from the ground made a leap seem foolhardy. Hastily, the sheets were yanked from the beds. Working frantically the older members of the family tied the corners of the bedding together with stout knots. One end was secured tightly to a bed and the other thrown out the window. It reached practically to the ground. Recklessly ignoring their danger if their hands slipped, one member of the family after another clambered down the makeshift ladder. Neighbors had rushed to the scene but there was little they could do to assist. Inside the house, an inferno was raging and the saving of the furnishings was out of the question. Seven of the Garzio children were rescued by being brought down the makeshift ladder.
The 2.5-story house was situated at the intersection of Grand and Ewing avenues, the main corner of West Trenton. Hose lines were extended from the house to the creek on Airport Road, near the State Hospital farm. Eight fire companies cooperated in the task, with Ewing Township police also assisting in building a dam. However, 45 minutes elapsed while the work was in progress. Groups at the scene included Pennington Road, Prospect Heights, Lawrence Road, Slackwood, Pennington, Yardley, Morrisville, and Engine 8 of the Trenton Fire Department. A call was also received by the White Horse Fire Co. but it was cancelled because of the length of time that would elapse for the run to the scene. Officer Clarence Morris, who was one of the first to reach the scene, said the flames were just spreading fanwise from the kitchen when he arrived but got beyond control within a few minutes. Officers Charles Whitehead and Howard Morris and Chief Forst also were at the scene. Neighbors prepared coffee for the firemen. The loss has been estimated at $7,000, with insurance covering $2,000 on the house and $2,000 on the furnishings.”
June 12, 1933
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, June 12, 1933, include: “George Arrowsmith reported that the committee placed flags on the graves of our departed members. The chief reported the wires are fished over to the Pilla home. Moved that Vice President Charles Smith see J. Russell Brown about connecting the siren. Members were nominated and elected to the Mercer County Firemen’s Association.”
June 29, 1933
The early hours of Thursday, June 29, 1933, proved to be very busy for members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association as two alarms, including a fatal traffic accident, occurred before dawn. The first alarm involved a bus fire. The Trenton Evening Times published this account of the blaze in that night’s edition: “Flames caused by a short-circuit routed 16 passengers on a Philadelphia-bound motor bus early this morning on the Lawrenceville Road, directly in front of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. The blaze spread rapidly. Damage to the bus, which was coming from New York, was estimated at $500. Another machine brought the passengers to Trenton. Under command of Assistant Chief Pilla, members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. extinguished the fire, which was reported about 12:30 a.m.”
A short time later, Lawrence Road firefighters responded to a horrible head-on collision involving two trucks on Brunswick Pike. Three men suffered fatal injuries when the trucks burst into flames. The Trenton Evening Times published the following details of the crash on the front page of the June 29, 1933, edition: “…The two heavy trucks, each with a trailer, crashed about 1 a.m. today on the Brunswick Pike just beyond the canal bridge in Lawrence Township. Frank Melchiore of Waterbury, Conn., told Lawrence Township police he was driving in his proper lane on the highway when the southbound truck, operated by Samuel Scheff, 38, of New York City, suddenly swerved across the road and into the northbound lane. Wheels of Scheff’s truck locked with the wheels of Melchiore’s trailer, the impact causing a gas line to break. Flames suddenly spurted from the wreckage. Scheff and his passenger, Giovanne Montella, 29, of Brooklyn, were trapped in the cab of their blazing truck. Melchiore’s unidentified passenger likewise was a prey to the flames. Passing motorists quickly extricated the three identified men, but fire drove them away as they attempted to rescue the fourth. Confusion prevailed as the rescue work proceeded. Fire alarms were sounded, bringing out the Slackwood, Lawrenceville, and Lawrence Road companies. Patrolmen Ball, Akroyd and Stonicker of the township police force and the Penns Neck state police rushed to the scene. Firemen battled the flames for four hours, but when the blaze finally died out only the charred chassis of each vehicle was left. Scheff’s truck contained a cargo of raw worsted and silk, while Melchiore’s vehicle was loaded with general merchandise.” Scheff and the unidentified man (possibly a hitch-hiker) died of burns that day, while Montella died of his injuries at McKinley Hospital on July 2, 1933. It is unclear if Melchiore, who suffered a skull fracture in the crash, survived or later died.
July 10, 1933
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, July 10, 1933, include: “A letter from Pennington Road Fire Co. thanking us for our work at the fire in West Trenton was read and ordered filed. It was reported that the siren is connected with the Pilla house. Moved that a committee of two inquire the cost of lumber for the quoit grounds and report at the next meeting. Moved that President Robert Ross inquire about the cost of a garage and report next meeting. Moved that we have an outing in August.”
July 11, 1933
Another fatal accident occurred on Brunswick Pike early on the morning of Tuesday, July 11, 1933, and Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters responded. The following narrative appeared in that night’s edition of the Trenton Evening Times: “One man is dead as the result of a collision, explosion and fire involving two trucks on the Brunswick Pike at Slackwood at 4:40 a.m. today. Two others miraculously escaped with slight scratches. The man killed was John Patterson, 23, of Penns Manor, Pa. Patterson was within five miles of his home. He was returning from New York, where he had delivered a truckload of beans for the King Farms Co. The other truck, carrying a cargo of paper, was operated by R.C. Tull, 39, of Chester. He and a helper, Barney Duke Jr., 30, were severely jolted by the sickening impact but extricated themselves almost unharmed. In the crash, the Patterson vehicle hit the gas tank on the other truck and exploded. Both vehicles were in flames almost immediately and firemen as well as police and scores of nearby residents hurried to the scene. Patterson died within a half-hour of his arrival at McKinley Hospital, where he was taken by a passing truck driver. His injuries consisted of a fracture of the skull, a compound fracture of his left arm, burns about one hand and cuts and abrasions. Tull told police who investigated that he observed Patterson’s truck swerve to the left side of the road when the vehicles were about 60 feet apart and traveling in the opposite directions. He knew that a collision was imminent, but he was powerless to avert it. He swung aside as best he could but it was too late. The Patterson truck ploughed against the side of the other truck with a wrenching of metal and wood. The explosion followed almost instantly. Coroner Carl Whitney was called to the hospital after Patterson’s death. Meanwhile officers of the township police force took charge of the investigation and the handling of traffic. The Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies answered the alarm and extinguished the blaze.”
July 23, 1933
Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association members again responded mutual aid to Ewing on the evening of Saturday, July 22, 1933. The following account of the blaze was published on the front page of the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on July 23, 1933: “Two persons, a 69-year-old farmer and a gypsy baby were rescued late last night when a spectacular blaze destroyed a barn on the old Heath farm in Prospect Heights. Andrew Johnson, 69, who occupies the premises, was carried to safety by John Brown, 49, of Spruce Street. Fumes from gasoline were ignited by a lantern while Johnson was siphoning the fluid from the gas tank of his auto to use in a motor-driven water pump. Brown was approaching Johnson’s house about 11 p.m. when flames suddenly leaped out the barn door. He ran the short distance. There he discovered Johnson momentarily befuddled by the sudden flareup and attempting to extinguish flames on his trousers. Brown dragged him from the barn and beat out the flaming clothing. Johnson was burned about the right leg, while his rescuer, Brown, also suffered burns about the hands. The gypsy baby was momentarily trapped in a tent that was set afire by sparks. A tribe of gypsies has been camping at the farm for several months. The father carried the child to safety and then beat out the flames with his hands. The youngster was unharmed but the rescuer was burned slightly. Firemen treated all the victims at the scene. The location of the barn on a ridge made the fire visible from a considerable distance in all directions. Motorists glutted the roads with their cars. One vehicle went into a ditch along the lane leading to the farmhouse. Police and firemen later extricated it. Firemen from five companies responded to a general alarm. The loss was estimated at $2,000. Included was Johnson’s auto, which he valued at $500, and a tractor of about the same worth.”
September 11, 1933
During the meeting held on Monday, September 11, 1933, “Chief James Hindley reported no fires. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that the old fire alarm had been removed from Clark Reed’s and was now at the firehouse. James Balaam reported on the delinquent members and recommended that the financial secretary send a letter, drafted by committee, to the delinquent members. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla gave a good report of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meeting held at Dutch Neck. Joseph Pilla gave a report on the quoit building. Moved a committee be appointed for our annual oyster supper. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla made a suggestion that we have some refreshments at our next meeting. Moved we have a lunch at each meeting and our janitors act as a committee on same.”
October 9, 1933
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, October 9, 1933, include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a chimney fire at John Mulchay’s residence. Chief Hindley gave a good report on the duties of active members. Progress was reported on the oyster supper. Under new business, it was moved that a committee be appointed to procure a suitable gift for past-President Stephen Ziegler, same not to exceed $20.”
November 13, 1933
Details of a fire inspection made by the members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association of the schools in the district are recorded in the minutes of the meeting held on Monday, November 13, 1933: “Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported they inspected the extinguishers at the schools and found the hoses of two to be in bad condition. Moved that the secretary notify the School Board that two extinguishers were broken.” Other highlights from the meeting include: “Chief James Hindley reported there was a truck fire on Brunswick Pike. Moved that we hold a fire demonstration when the Ladies Auxiliary of the Mercer County Firemen’s Association meets here. James Balaam reported the committee gave past-President Stephen Ziegler a traveling bag and bath robe. A letter from past-president Stephen Ziegler was read and filed. Moved that the resolution for past-President Stephen Ziegler be spread upon the minutes.” That resolution read:
“We, the undersigned committee, appointed by the president and representing the entire membership of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, take great pleasure in presenting to you, on behalf of the company, this small token of the esteem and respect in which we hold you, with the hope that you will accept it in the same generous spirit that it is given, and also with the hope that you clearly understand that it is a mere appreciation and to be considered in no sense payment for all the valuable service you have rendered this community, not only as a member of our company but also as a private citizen and public servant. We give you full credit for originating the idea of a fire company in this neighborhood. You were responsible more than any other presiding officer for 14 years; you had more to do with the erection of the original building than anyone; and no one can honestly claim more credit for the present fine home of our company than yourself. Your counsel and wisdom and energy were evident when holding carnivals, harvest homes and festivals. As further evidence of our appreciation of your efforts to the fire company, you were unanimously voted a life member at a special meeting held Tuesday, October 10, 1933. Signed, James Balaam, Charles H. Smith, W. Godfrey Slover, William R. Sharp, and Spencer H. Cornell.”
Highlights from the minutes of the final company meeting of 1933, held on an unclear date in December, include: “Chief James Hindley reported that the battery in the Sanford engine was no good. He also reported on two truck fires and three grass fires. The chief made a report on the fire demonstration held for the ladies auxiliary. Moved that the secretary write to past-President Stephen Ziegler and wish him a Merry Christmas. Moved we rent the club room to the Italian American Club for $15 in advance for the last Sunday of every month and if they want the hall they pay the regular fee.” Elections of officers for the following year were then held.