On February 10, 1894, a group of concerned citizens from the borough organized themselves into a volunteer firefighting unit known as Continental Hook and Ladder. Named as the first chief of the Fire Department was Genest Ottigon, affectionately known as "Pink Whiskers" for his stylish red beard, a trademark of the day. Westwood's first piece of apparatus was a hand drawn hook and ladder outfitted with ladders, buckets, axes, hooks, crossbars and rope - everything the modern firefighter of the day would need to meet any situation the fire scene might present.
Westwood resident George T. Brickell donated a parcel of land on Center Avenue for the construction of a firetruck house. Long before water hydrants were in use, Gary Cronk, whose stable was located across from the first firehouse, used his horses to pull the firewagon, (as seen in one of the great photographs in Westwood's archives; pictured to the right).
In years to follow, Westwood was to see the addition of a water system through which water mains with hydrants were installed on the principal streets of the community. With the advent of the new water system, the call for new equipment was met with the purchase of a two-wheel hose reel and 500 feet of hose.
By 1910, the Continental Hook and Ladder Company had seen the addition of two companies, whose members were transfers from the Hook and Ladder itself. On April 24, 1909, the Borough Council approved the transfer of twenty eight members of Continental Hook and Ladder to a newly formed fire company, Westwood Hose Company No. 1. Following the passage of a new fire ordinance in March, 1910, a second hose company, Continental Hose Company No. 1, was formed on April 6, 1910. The twenty two members of this new company were also Hook and Ladder transfers. As a provision of the ordinance, Westwood Hose Company was ordered to reorganize under the name of Westwood Hose Company No. 2. The reorganization gave the Westwood Fire Department the configuration that has lasted to this day. The spring of that year also saw the addition of "Prince and Belle" - a new team of black fire horses (no record of a wetdown exists).The original firehouse was torn down in 1928 and the land turned over to the borough. At the site the town erected the Municipal Building which housed the Police Department, Municipal Court, and Fire Department.
On July 19, 1935, the Westwood Fireman's Ambulance Service went into operation with 20 members covering the entire Pascack Valley (another Westwood first). The ambulance was owned and operated solely by the firemen. This tradition was to continue until 1973, at which time membership was opened to all Westwood residents forming the Westwood Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which to this day provides exemplary emergency medical care to the residents of the borough.In praise and memory of its deceased members, the Westwood Fire Department in 1953 dedicated the Firemen's Memorial Park using the first fire bell as its centerpiece. The name of each deceased member from 1894 to date, is inscribed on the monument. Annually, the Memorial Committee visits the graves of each deceased member to place department and exempt flags. This tribute is only a partial reminder of the proud tradition of the Westwood Fire Department and its members both past and present.In 1994, the department celebrated their 100th Anniversary by hosting the Annual NJ/NY Firefighter's Convention and Parade. At this time, members adopted the slogan "We honor those who came before us." A tribute to every member who had previously served within the department. The phrase is inscribed on several of the department's apparatus to this day.
A few years later, the Municipal Building, which now only housed the fire department, was torn down to make way for a brand new fire headquarters. The department was temporarily housed in a metal garage located next to the Westwood Department of Public Works. The garage was properly coined the nickname the "Tin House". After several financial and weather-related setbacks, the department finally moved into their new state-of the art facility in August 2005.Today, the Westwood Fire Department boasts over 70 members operating department equipment including: one 1998 Aerialscope/Spartan 95-foot tower ladder, a 1993 Swab/Mack 1500 gpm rear mounted pumper, a 1994 Swab/Mack 1500 gpm mid-ship pumper, and 2007 Rescue 1 rescue truck; fire inspector and chief's cars. The Department has such modern-day cares as the high-rise Westwood House senior citizen home, the Pascack Valley Hospital, an expanding business district and industrial park, as well as its overwhelming concern for the residential community. Donating thousands of hours per year, the Westwood Fire Department continues to this day to display its proud and unremitting dedication to duty, friendship and community that began that fine day in February, 1894.