Every story has a beginning. Whether it is a character from a story, a sports icon watched by millions across the country or even a volunteer Fire Company, the story of how something or someone came to be exists, waiting to be told – and often most important – remembered.
Berlin Borough and the Berlin Fire Company did just that Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Berlin Cemetery when it invited members of its volunteer force, as well borough and county officials, to remember Joseph Walker, the company’s first fire chief.
“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been,” said volunteer Deputy Coordinator Richard Crain with the borough. “He’s where we started from, him and a group of citizens that got together and said we should be able to protect our citizens from fire.”
With the first fire company in Berlin having been formed at the end of October in 1909, according to documented history by native Charles Wright through his book “The History of Berlin (Long-a-Coming),” the borough decided to honor its first fire chief this month in honor of Berlin Fire Company’s 110th anniversary of protecting residents from fire and other emergencies.
Over a century of advancements in technology has transformed the way fire departments respond to fires, no longer using horse-drawn wagons with buckets and ladders. Instead, fire departments now use their highly advanced trucks with fire hoses, fire retardant gear, equipment and more.
“We know that we needed to memorialize him sometime this month, so we’re happy that we were able to get together and do this for him at his gravestone at Berlin Cemetery,” said Crain.
Ironically enough, according to Crain, the Berlin Fire Company responded to a fire call within the borough during the planned ceremony. However, Crain says that shows the company’s commitment toward protecting its citizens that was started over a century ago is still carried on today.
Borough Councilman Jim Pearce, responsible for public safety, was one of multiple councilmen to attend the meeting. Pearce says the event at Berlin Cemetery was eye opening and a way to remember the struggles residents dealt with several decades ago, while also providing the opportunity to thank an often-forgotten Berlin resident who helped played a key role in the borough’s past.
“With this man being the first fire chief, they didn’t have anywhere near half of the equipment back then that they do now,” said Pearce, in an interview with The Sun after the event. “He played such an important role in the borough’s beginning and we thank him for that.”
Camden County Freeholder Jonathan Young, liaison to the Department of Public Safety, also attended the event to remember an important figure.
“I have always said that public safety, and firefighters in particular, is so important and I have so much respect for what they do day in and day out,” said Young. “The century mark is such a tremendous mark to be able to reach, but to see that they’ve surpassed that and are making sure to remember their beginning just makes [the Berlin Fire Company] a second to none department.”
In all, borough officials believe support from its residents has helped allow the Berlin Fire Company to continue to succeed over the years in providing emergency assistance to those that need it.
“We appreciate the support, as a company, from the elected officials to the residents that have always been very, very supportive of us,” Crain said.