Our Story

Protecting life and property for Cherry Hill's residents and visitors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

1905 - 1948
Investments in organized fire protection in Cherry Hill – then known as Delaware Township – began in 1905 with the founding of the Church Road and East Merchantville volunteer fire companies. As the town's population continued to spread eastward from Camden and Philadelphia, other fire companies were founded in 1916, 1923, 1927, and 1948, eventually bringing a total of seven volunteer fire districts across the Township.
Cherry Hill historical photo
By the 1960s, Cherry Hill's population was booming. Cherry Hill went from just under 6,000 residents in 1940 to more than 31,000 in 1960 – an almost 450% increase in two decades. By 1970, the Township's population would double again, with over 64,000 residents calling Cherry Hill home.
Cherry Hill Population 1930-2020
The largest fire in Cherry Hill history and one of the largest ever in New Jersey, occurred On April 14, 1977. The fire destroyed the iconic Garden State Park Racetrack. The fire resulted in three deaths and at least 20 injuries.
Cherry Hill fire - 1977
Even with the setback of the fire, the explosive building and population growth in the Township continued. Career firefighters were first hired in Cherry Hill in the 1960s to keep up with growing emergency call demand. By the late 1970s, a group of these career firefighters realized that in order to improve their working conditions and compensation, they needed to organize into a labor union.
1960s - 1970s
October 16, 1978
On October 16, 1978, Cherry Hill Firefighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2663 was founded. Charter members of Local 2663 were Norcott W. D'Esteree, Thomas Fiorentini, Gary R. Krohn, Joseph R. Meng, Peter Nardone, Salvatore Paolini, Howard E. Scanlon, Kevin J. Scanlon, Michael A. Schaeffer, and Raymond E. Sooy.
Local 2663 Charter members
By the 1980s, Cherry Hill's population had approached 70,000 residents. To keep up with rising call volume and a continued decline in volunteers, the Township's paid firefighter ranks grew by another 32. As the Township's firefighter ranks grew, so did the need to have supervising officers. Cherry Hill Professional Fire Officers Association, IAFF Local 3198 was founded on December 1, 1988 with Hugh H. Gibson, III, Kevin Kenniff, Gary J. Saraceni, Michael A. Saraceni, Francis X. Segrest, and Michael A. Schaeffer as charter members.
Cherry Hill Professional Firefighters charter
December 1, 1988
January 1, 1994
By the 1990s, six fire districts covered the township, providing varying levels of service and taxation rates. As call volume and training requirements continued to increase, the ranks of volunteer firefighters protecting the township continued to diminish. On January 1, 1994, Cherry Hill's six independent fire districts dissolved. One new consolidated governing body, Cherry Hill Fire District No. 13, was organized and became the home of the new Cherry Hill Fire Department.
Cherry Hill historical logo
From 1994 into the 2000s, the fire district made significant investments to improve the quality of service provided to our residents. For example, the department held its first formal recruit training academy for a large class of 17 firefighters hired in 1998. In addition, the CHFD purchased several new, standardized fire and emergency response vehicles and constructed a state-of-the-art motor maintenance facility. These advancements paid significant dividends, with the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) issuing a rating of "ISO 2," the second highest possible, to the CHFD in 1999.
Cherry Hill historical photo
1994 - early 2000s
2002 - 2003
The district continued investing in public safety through the 2000s, including re-building or remodeling nearly all of the department's facilities. In addition, 2002 saw Engine 1322 placed into service, adding a sixth 24-hour company and another 15 firefighter positions to the department. In 2003, the CHFD took over EMS services in the Township.
Recruit Graduation historical image
2006 saw the Township's first new fire station in more than 50 years open. This investment to house Engine 1322 and BLS 1392 enhanced fire protection and EMS service to the Kingston neighborhood and center of town. Significant upgrades to most of the other fire stations in town and substantial investments in improving the firefighting apparatus fleet allowed the CHFD to receive an ISO 2 rating once again. Six front-line fire apparatus and a shift commander were staffed 24/7/365 with a minimum of four firefighters on each fire truck and 25 to 27 firefighters and fire officers on duty at any given time.
Cherry Hill historical photo
2010 - present
By 2010, likely reflecting the economic and housing crises of the time, investments in the fire department began to slow. The minimum staffing on fire apparatus dropped from four firefighters to just three. Float officer and firefighter positions were eliminated, designed to serve as battalion chief aides and reduce overtime. Training and safety, motor maintenance, fire prevention, and elsewhere saw multiple uniformed roles cut. Front-line fire apparatus had their life spans extended from 15 years to 20.
Cherry Hill historical photo
Yet, Cherry Hill's population continued to expand during this time and since. By 2020, Cherry Hill's population was nearing 75,000. The Township's population density surpassed 3,000 people per square mile, greater than places such as Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Charlotte, and Austin.
Cherry Hill Population Density 1930-2020
Cherry Hill's overall population also continues to grow older, with a median age of 43, more than New Jersey's median age of 40.2. In addition, the Township has seen hundreds of 55+ apartment units constructed in the last decade. Healthcare services have become one of the largest industries in the Township, with an expanding hospital, several major hospital-based medical facilities, approximately a dozen nursing homes, and community-based group homes in nearly every neighborhood. While these populations and industries do not add significant burdens to the school district or many other local government functions, they put a tremendous and constantly growing strain on emergency medical and fire department-related services.
Population Density by US City 2020
For several years in the 2010s, the minimum number of firefighters on each truck was raised back up to four. In 2016, the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) upgraded the CHFD to a Class 1 rating. It also became an internationally accredited agency through the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
Cherry Hill historical logosCherry Hill historical logo

NFPA 1710: Standards for Minimum Staffing Levels of a Career Fire Department

But due to growing budget concerns, the minimum number of firefighters was cut down to three on each truck in 2018. This new shift minimum of just 19 firefighters and fire officers is at severe odds with recommended standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Career Firefighter / Fire Officer Staffing
NFPA 1710, "Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments," specifies a minimum of 17 firefighters dispatched on an initial alarm to a "low hazard" single family dwelling fire.

Open-air strip malls and garden-style apartment complexes, which dot Cherry Hill's landscape, are specified to have a minimum of 28 firefighters dispatched on the initial alarm.

High-rise buildings, set to be those over seven stories tall, and which Cherry Hill has more than a dozen, call for a minimum of 43 firefighters on the initial dispatch.
Cherry Hill multi-story building fire
"Cherry Hill’s professional firefighters continue to do more with less with increased risk to our health and safety."
"The safety of our families, community, and the firefighters who protect them relies on sound and continued investment in personnel, equipment, and training."
While the minimum number of firefighters on the street has often been down to just 19 – from 25 in 2018 – Cherry Hill’s professional firefighters continue to do more with less with increased risk to our health and safety. Our call volume, scope, and geographic response area continue to grow. Each of the six trucks on duty responds to neighboring towns through automatic and mutual aid agreements. On a near daily basis, firefighters from Cherry Hill respond to emergencies in Barrington, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Maple Shade, Mount Laurel, Pennsauken, Voorhees, the New Jersey Turnpike, I-295, and many other towns and areas.
Our firefighters are also leaders in rescue task force (active shooter), technical rescue and hazmat response and mitigation – all of which require our firefighters to participate in countless hours of training every year. Their certifications and reputation for handling these specialized incidents result in them responding throughout the entire region when these hazardous incidents occur.
Firefighters on rescue boat
While our firefighters continue to answer the call of service, we're heading toward a new chapter in the department's young history. Members from the inaugural recruit academy in 1998 are gearing up for retirement, and many more members are eligible to leave in the coming years. Experienced members are the guiding hands that develop new firefighters and introduce them to the fire service culture.
Cherry Hill members
The safety of our families, community, and the firefighters who protect them relies on sound and continued investment in personnel, equipment, and training. Fire department and local political leadership are responsible for committing these investments. This commitment level must match the known risks facing a community to prevent and reduce civilian and firefighter injury and death and property loss. In 2022, Cherry Hill lost it's ISO 1 rating and was moved back up to 2.
Cherry Hill firefighters
Your Cherry Hill Professional Firefighters are committed to protecting life and property for Cherry Hill's residents and visitors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our members respond, without hesitation, to an ever-growing scope of emergencies across Cherry Hill... Camden County.... New Jersey... and beyond - thousands of times each year. Our members are there when you need us most. We ask that you continue to be there for us when we need it most.
"Our members are there when you need us most. We ask that you continue to be there for us when we need it most."