Heater’s Pond bonfire warms the community

Ogdensburg. Ice skating, chicken soup, and cookies: An outdoors tradition started in 1954 is appreciated more than ever in the time of Covid.

| 02 Feb 2021 | 11:16

Ogdensburg continued a tradition the community has enjoyed since 1954 – the Heater’s Pond bonfire.

Last Saturday night, in the biting cold, residents gathered before the roaring bonfire. Kids played on the ice and skated with parents and friends.

The Ogdensburg Volunteer Fire Department organized this year’s event. Fire Chief Eric Slater said he was happy to see local residents come out to enjoy the festivities.

Slater and Billy Pierce chopped, cut, and fried all the ingredients that went into five gallons of delicious chicken noodle soup, which fortified the party-goers through the cold night. The fire department also served hot chocolate and cookies for the kids, all free of charge.

“This is all part of our community events and trying to bring back normalcy,” said Mayor George Hutnick. “It’s all about the fire department, their donation, soup, hot chocolate — everything is free —enjoying the outdoors. And it’s a great fire.”

Carolyn Sugar, a 15-year firefighter, said it was good for mental health, amid the Covid pandemic, for the townspeople to be able to socialize around the bonfire.

Sugar said and her family have been around firefighting her whole life. “We enjoy it,” she said.

Slater, a firefighter for 24 years, said the tradition started in the 1950s, when the fire department burned the Christmas trees they picked up around town. They served cookies and hot chocolate to residents who gathered around the fire at Heater’s Pond — and a tradition was born.

However, in 2010, New Jersey outlawed Christmas tree fires because the trees could be used for recycled material. Now, Slater said, Hardyston’s firefighters follow pit guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, have a permit, and burn donated lumber.

“Not one Christmas tree was burned here,” he said.