After a rash of devastating fires over the past year, including one that claimed the life of an 89-year-old woman, some city residents are calling for a career company to take over the local volunteer fire department.
But the city is standing behind its crew, arguing a career department isn’t necessary with mutual aid agreements already in place. The city is also reviewing its building codes and other ways to mitigate the disastrous effects of structure fires in the densely developed seaside resort.
“Departments nationwide are trying everything they can to recruit and retain volunteers, and it’s just a never-ending battle that isn’t getting won,” Cape May County Fire Marshal Connie Johnson said. “Here, our numbers have been declining, as far as going through the academy. Our last class was 18. Back in the day, 20 years ago, I can remember having three dozen in a class.”
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When there is a medical emergency, every second counts – and Princeton residents have learned that they can rely on the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad’s emergency medical technicians to come to their aid.
That’s why Princeton Council honored the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad’s top three responding emergency medical technicians – all volunteers – at its June 10 meeting.
“Nine times a day, the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad responds to calls,” Councilman Tim Quinn said. Do the math and that’s more than 3,000 calls for help every year – and they arrive in about 5 minutes after getting the call, he said.
Of those 3,000-plus calls, top responder Lana Musa handled more than 400 calls for help, and Elizabeth Blizzard went out on more than 350 calls. Neil Havkin responded to more than 200 calls to help people, said Mark Freda, president of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad.
“They put in a lot of hours,” Freda said.
Paterson's fire department will be featured on "Live Rescue," a new A&E show that follows police and fire departments and EMT squads as they respond to calls.
The city council adopted a resolution June 11 that allows them to enter into an agreement with Big Fish Entertainment LLC, which will begin filming episodes June 14 in Paterson.
"This will give us the opportunity to show the world one of the finest fire departments on the planet," Mayor Andre Sayegh said.
Sayegh said the fire department helped talk down a man off a windowsill this past week and last year, a fire captain rappelled down the Great Falls to save a dog that was stuck.
Other departments featured on the show include Mesa, Arizona; St. Louis, Missouri; and Sacramento, California. The show also has filmed in Bayonne.
Jerry Speziale, public safety director for the city, said crews will film Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and the show will air Mondays. Speziale said he will be out there overnight while episodes are being filmed.
North Jersey.com (Bergen County Record & Herald News)