Princeton celebrates its firefighters

The Home News
15 May, 1988

Princeton celebrates its firefighters

By Louise Kramer
Home News staff writer

PRINCETON BOROUGH — Beverly Hintson has had her share of fires.

She cannot begin to count how many times over the was dinner was interrupted when her husband was called to respond to an alarm.

“You just sit down to a meal and off it goes,” said Hinkson, whose family represents a long line of Princeton volunteer firefighters, with members as far back as the 1820s.

Yesterday, Hinkson and thousands of other well-wishers joined together to celebrate the 200th birthday of the Princeton Fire Department.

The centerpiece of the festivities was a two-hour parade down Nassau Street through the center of town.

Nearly 100 fire trucks, 80 volunteer groups,  several real dalmatians, one man dressed as a dalmatian dozens of Cubs and Boy scouts and a group of baton twirlers so young they to could barely walk made their way past the reviewing stand in front of the Hook and Ladder Co. on Sadiron Street.

Eighteen judges from the state Fire Chiefs Parade Judges Association scrutinized the marchers and took notes. Earlier in the day, they had examined every fire truck in the parade.

Association president Bill Carney of North-field, in Atlantic County, said the shiny red and chartreuse trucks that rolled by were “average.”

“They just bring their better pieces. We don’t know what they have at home,”joked the judge, who attends about 15 parades each year.

More than 80 trophies were awarded.

Jarriett Keith Robinson, 3, of Trenton, sat on his father’s shoulders, waving a plastic American flag. Asked to name his favorite part of the -parade, he replied, “Fire trucks.”

The Princeton Fire Department, one of the oldest in the United States, has 140 volunteers divided among three companies.

As in many municipalities throughout the state, the Fire Department is struggling to keep up its ranks.

Mark Freda, chief of the Hook and Ladder Co., said he hoped the parade would inspire younger residents to join. But the Route 1 development boom and rising home prices are “forcing younger people out of Princeton,” Freda said.

Those who can afford to live in Princeton often are too busy or simply not interested. “Fel-lows from Madison Avenue don’t want to get off the Dinky (the local commuter train) and fight a fire,” said Al Wright, who has been a member of Hook and Ladder for 32 years.

David Mohney, an architect in his 30s who joined a year and a half ago, said he volunteers out of “a sense of civic responsibility.” And, he added, “It’s a lot of fun.”

“It is like being part of a gang,” said one veteran of more than 30 years.

Larry DuPraz, a former chief of Mercer Engine Company No. 3, said the fire department will eventually have to hire at least some paid members.

Many potential daytime volunteers are lost because they are not permitted to leave work at a moment’s notice, DuPraz said.

DuPraz, a member since 1951, has witnessed such tragedies as two young mentally retarded girls who perished in a house fire.

He said belongs to the company “out of respect for our community.”

“Without them, we literally couldn’t survive, either physically or financially,” said Princeton Township Mayor Kate Litvack.

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