Emma Vernell, Woman Firefighter in New Jersey
The Westside Hose Company and the Red Bank Fire Department are honoring the memory of Emma Vernell, the first recognized woman-firefighter of the State of New Jersey.
A Red Bank Firefighter. Emma Vernell born in 1875, was an admirable woman who lived in Red Bank at 264 Leighton Avenue. She lived straight across Westside Hose Company's firehouse, which at the time just began serving the community with fire protection.
When her husband Harry died from injuries sustained fighting a fire, Mrs. Vernell decided to join the same fire company. On April 26, 1926 shortly after her husband's death, Mrs. Vernell became Westside Hose Company's first female firefighter and carried on the Vernell's family fire fighting legacy.
As a member of the Company, Mrs. Vernell was active in fire duties as well as being on the house and grounds committee for many years. One of her responsibilities included the opening of the bay door and signaling the alarm for any report of fire.
Mrs. Vernell received her fireman's exemption papers making her the first recognized female firefighter of the State of New Jersey, in 1936. In 1947, at the age of 72 she marched proudly with her company in the 75th Anniversary of the Red Bank Fire Department.
In Long Branch on November 9, 1970, after a prolonged illness, Emma K. Vernell past away at the age of 95 years old. She was buried at Fairview Cemetery with her husband and son. Not having any close family or anyone attending to her at that time, the date of her death was not added to the headstone. Westside Hose Company arranged, on April 2000, to have the date engraved on the Vernell family granite headstone.
To Honor Emma Vernell. In recognition of her devotion and loyalty to serving her neighbors and community, the Westside Hose Company has erected a memorial to this fine Lady. The memorial was dedicated in front of Westside Hose Company's firehouse at 261 Leighton Ave., Red Bank. It includes a garden with a flagpole, landscaping, and a granite memorial stone dedicated to Mrs. Vernell. The memorial was inaugurated on October 20, 2002.
"This is a woman who truly deserves a memorial for everything she did, not only for us but for the community."
—Ex-Chief Thomas J. Welsh