Battalions of The Deptford Fire Department

Lake Tract Community Volunteer Fire Company: 1923 to 1979

In 1979, the officers of the Community Volunteer Fire Company in the Lake Tract
section were Andrew Snyder (fire chief), Pat Natalino (first assistant chief),
and Jerry Dunn (second assistant chief)..

In a sense, the Community Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 has had two distinct beginnings since the firefighting unit lost all its equipment during the Great Depression.

The company, which is sometimes known as the Lake Tract Fire Company, was organized in 1923 to cover the Lake Tract section of the Deptford Township. However, the company was formed with the name Progressive Fire Company by about 20 persons.

The company's equipment was housed in a firehouse on Egg Harbor Road. But tragedy struck when the Great Depression arrived in 1929 and the company's new equipment was repossessed in the 1930s.

Even though the company lost its apparatus, it never disbanded, recalled Andy Snyder, the present chief of the company who joined the unit in 1935.

"The only thing we didn't lose was the siren. I took it off the firehouse when I became a member," he noted.

The company reorganized and changed its name to the Community Volunteer Fire Company. During this time, the company also found a benefactor. The Paterson Oil Company of Paulsboro sold the company a Chevrolet oil truck for $1.

"We had to keep oil lamps underneath it to keep the bottom from freezing at night," Snyder said. The company refurbished the truck for "about $7", Snyder said, and stored it at a garage on Lake Road which served as a temporary firehouse.

Two years later, the company bought a second truck, a Reo cab, from the Paulsboro-based oil firm.

Slowly, the renamed company began to pick up the pieces. Another firehouse was built across the street from the previous one on Egg Harbor Road.

The firehouse was construct during the World War II years, but second-hand cement blocks had to be used because of the shortage of building materials, Snyder said.

At the time of the depression, Snyder recalled everyone was down-hearted but not just at the loss of the firehouse. "Hell, you had nothing to eat," he remembered.

During that period, some members of the company had paid off their dues all the way into the 1970s so the company would have money to purchase gasoline for the fire trucks, according to Snyder.

However, after the war ended, the prosperity slowly returned to the fire company.

The company purchased its first new fire truck in 1956. An engine room was added on to the firehouse during 1966-1967.

Today, the department covers the Lake Tract section of Deptford and is one of eight companies in that municipality. Included in the the fire district are such developments as Narraticon and Country Club Estates.

The fire district has changed radically since he joined the company, said Snyder, who had been chief of the company for 39 years.

"Delsea Drive used to be covered with stone and oil," he said. "Highland Road was gravel and you couldn't go over it sometimes as it was impassable for fire equipment," he added, noting the area was largely rural when he first joined the company.

In 1979, the company's firefighting arsenal consisted of a 1975 Hahn 1,250 gallon per minute (gpm) pumper, a 1964 750 gpm pumper and a Chevrolet van and utility truck.

The company responded to an average of about 125 calls per year in the 1970s.

Coming from difficult beginnings has helped make the company a strong one, Snyder believes.

"These new guys today don't know what hard times are," he said philosophically. "They've got it made today," Snyder said.