Two Firefighters Honored For 50 Years Of Dedication

Councilman James Quinlisk (center) congratulates Mark Autenrieth (l) and Stephen Hayes (r) for 50 years of fire service. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  TOMS RIVER – Two local firefighters were recently recognized for their incredible dedication to the Toms River community. Mark Autenrieth and Stephen Hayes boast a century of combined volunteer service with the Toms River Fire Department, Company No 1.

  Councilman  James Quinlisk led the tribute to the two firefighters held at the Henry Runco Firehouse downtown. A volunteer firefighter himself, Quinlisk presented Autenrieth and Hayes with individual proclamations signed by the mayor and entire council – acknowledging each of them for 50 years of service to the fire company.

  Autenrieth’s time with the Toms River Fire Company has been marked by his rise to notable leadership positions, including chief. Additionally, he has contributed to the fire service as Fire Commissioner in Fire District 1. Married to Diane, Autenrieth is a stepfather to four children and a proud grandfather.

  While in high school, Hayes became a member of the local fire company as a Fire Explorer. Over the years, he has served in various capacities, including as a captain. Hayes remains actively involved in Toms River Special Operations and Toms River Technical Rescue.


  Additionally, Hayes has contributed to roles such as the Toms River Dive Team and as a Toms River EMS/fire dispatcher. Formerly employed at the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention, Hayes, who is married to Kathleen with two sons, now enjoys the role of grandfather.

Councilman James Quinlisk hands Mark Autenrieth the proclamation signed by township officials in honor of his service. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Both Autenrieth and Hayes continue to remain active firefighters.

  “We had 46 calls last month, and I made 70 percent of the alarms,” said Autenrieth. “Steve made 78 percent of them.”

  Six fire companies serve Toms River, making it the largest volunteer fire department in Ocean County. Among them is Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, with 60 active firefighters answering emergency calls consistently. A dedicated group of exempt members have transitioned out of active firefighting but remain connected. Additionally, a team of retired firefighters continues to contribute their expertise and support to the organization.

  Fire Company No. 1’s service area stretches from Manchester to key locations like Hooper Avenue to Indian Hill Road near Target and Lowes and from Maple Tree Road to Indian Hill Road to Bay Avenue and Vaughn Avenue. Beyond handling local emergencies, the company plays a vital role in offering mutual aid whenever surrounding areas require assistance.

  Daytime staffing comes with its share of limitations due to decreased volunteerism and availability. Many of the six firefighters who show up for calls during the day are retired. The number of first responders from the local house doubles at night.

Councilman James “Jim” Quinlisk hands Stephen Hayes the proclamation signed by township officials in honor of his service. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Both Autenrieth and Hayes acknowledged they have noticed fewer people signing on to become volunteer firefighters. The department requires a significant time investment, with basic training clocking in at 240 hours spread across three days a week. Leadership roles demand even more extensive training and have been critical to the success of the two individuals honored for fifty years each of fire service.

  During his 36-year tenure with the Ocean County Engineering Department, Autenrieth had some flexibility with responding to emergency calls during the daytime. As a local municipal employee, Hayes contributed to the daytime response even before retirement. The two government entities recognized the critical nature of firefighting duties, and allowed both individuals to respond to calls during work hours.

  Tom Warrelmann, President of the Toms River Volunteer Fire Company, expressed his gratitude for Autenrieth and Hayes’ commitment to service. He also offered a brief explanation about the local fire service.

  “We own the name Toms River Volunteer Fire Company No. 1,” shared Warrelmann. “Fire companies own our own buildings here in Toms River. We lease the space downstairs to the township for the trucks and gear.”