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Erma Fire Co.

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

Great ideas are most often born of necessity. Such was the case with the creation of the Erma Volunteer Fire Company. Concerned about fire protection, community members gathered in early 1956 at the home of Howard Matthews to formulate plans that would culminate in the fire company's creation. Land was purchased on Seashore Road (known then as Old Shore Road) with money contributed by charter members. The dilapidated existing structure was razed and the volunteers worked nights and weekends to erect the new firehouse. More than a decade later, a bingo hall was constructed. The company dedicated the addition in May of 1969.

The company's first vehicles included a truck provided by the Villas Fire Company and a converted root beer truck donated by Syd Hess. The fire company purchased its first new truck in March of 1961, a 500-gpm Ford at a cost of $13,391.

As opportunities became available, the company expanded its capabilities. A 5,500-gallon tanker was purchased from Grace Oil Company in the late 1960's and two 1,000-gpm pumpers (6230 and 6231) were added in the mid-1970s. Following two years of planning, the fire company acquired a 1,500-gpm tanker/pumper (6232) in 1991 at a cost of over $250,000. After 30 years, the company was preparing itself for the next century with equipment designed to handle complex emergency incidents. The constant need to address changing firematic conditions caused the company to obtain a used 5,100-gallon tanker in 1995 and begin plans for a 1,500-gpm pumper (6230) and a six-person, four-wheel drive heavy rescue truck equipped with the Jaws of Life (6297). The two E-One vehicles were delivered in the summer of 1996.

Further updating followed in 2001 with the replacement of the 2nd Ford pumper (6231) with another new 1,500-gpm E-One pumper.

Through the years, the Erma firehouse served its members and the community well. Used as a meeting hall, a bingo hall, an emergency shelter, and even a schoolhouse, it became apparent in the late 1980s that the structure was failing and needed to be replaced. The original construction plan involved the acquisition of land adjacent to the existing site with construction of the new facility on that land. Wetland restrictions caused the site to be changed and the company entered into a partnership with the Cape May County Freeholders to construct a joint facility housing the Cape May County ARFF unit and the Erma Volunteer Fire Company. With funding provided by bond approval and an FAA grant, this beautiful firehouse became a reality. Ground breaking took place in February of 1995 and the members moved into the new building in December of the same year. The building was dedicated on October 4, 1997.

After more than 50 years of service to the community, the Erma Volunteer Fire Company continues to proudly serve the community. The spirit and commitment of the company's charter members is celebrated today as the current members stride to continue a wonderful tradition.

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DAMIEN DANISSenior Correspondent

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