1960’s – Squad on FIRE!

The 1960’s were a VERY eventful time for the Arbor Rescue Squad in Piscataway. In, 1961 the River Road Rescue Squad was formed. Though it is understandable with a growing and developing community to add more services, there were mixed emotions from both sides. The biggest point of argument between the veteran Arbor Rescue and newborn River Road Rescue were boundary lines for districts. Arbor didn’t want to give up “territory”, but River Road wanted room to prove themselves. Overtime however the two departments came to understandings and started developing professional and friendly relationships. In the end, everyone was just trying to help their fellow neighbor and do good in the community they lived. Arbor members even road along side the new River Road members for their initial calls to help gain their training quickly.

During the early morning of Sept. 14, 1963 at roughly 3am a local resident went outside and saw smoke coming out of the top of the rescue squad’s recently finished building. Literally, they had just completed the final project of a $2,000 kitchen (don’t you wish a new kitchen still cost that much?). The concerned citizen called the Police Department, which then activated the Arbor Hose Company (many of which were also squad members) to respond to a possible fire right next to their very own building. Within minutes both squad members and firefighters were on scene, but so were the flames bellowing out of the roof and almost every window of the second floor. Frantically Police officers and squad members started getting all the vehicles and rescue equipment out of the first floor. This was critical as many oxygen cylinders were in the building and if those got heated enough, could explode causing injuries and fuel the fire to burn hotter and spread faster. Firefighters and squad members quickly hooked up every hose they could and helped each other battle the blaze. Other fire departments rushed over to help fight the fire, many members driving directly to the scene forgoing their fire protection gear to help subdue the fire before their fellow brothers lost their would be home. After more than 3 hours of effort from members of the Piscataway Police, Various Fire Departments, and Rescue Squads the fire was finally put out. Sadly, the second floor was completely destroyed, the first story while touched little by the flames, endured heavy water damage from the amount of water used to put out the fire. Afterwards everyone was emotional regardless of being a squad member or not, everyone in the community was hurt by this tragic event.

The members were made of strong stuff and never missed a call and were back in service answering calls for help the very next day. The Arbor Hose Company and New Market Fire Dept respectively each graciously housed both of our ambulances. Thankfully just as in the previous decade, the entire community, actually the ENTIRE AREA rallied to the rescue of the squad. Fund drives and donations poured in from not only Piscataway’s own citizens and merchants, but Plainfield, Dunellen, North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Green Brook, and so many others. In, 1964 demolition of the second story and construction of a new first floor extension in the back of the building was both started and completed with the help of many volunteers providing both their time, skills, machinery, and materials. It filled the hearts of the rescue squad members to see so many people and business show their support and caring. On April 05, 1965 the new and finally completed building was rededicated in a community ceremony.

1965 was treated like business as usual with the squad not missing a beat, but in fact stepping it up. The squad was to head a massive New Jersey State First Aid Council Drill that year involving…… a plane crashing into a school bus (yes you read that right, 1 in a billion chance, but that wasn’t going to stop the New Jersey volunteer rescue squads from training for it!). With the building worries over, the squad was able to purchase only two years later in 1967 two brand new twin ambulances and soon after in 1968 buy a new “Crash Truck” to use as a special rescue vehicle including car extrication. Later that year the members of the rescue squad would finish off the decade with gaining great notoriety from the community for rescuing a construction worker from a ditch that collapsed in on him, eventually freeing him alive and rescuing a little girl from Lake Nelson that had drifted off in a canoe alone. This does not by any means discount the thousands of other calls that they answered day or night all year every year.