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    Thumbs down Get the word out...

    Official vows to fight fire code

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/02/03
    By ERIK LARSEN
    MANAHAWKIN BUREAU

    DOVER TOWNSHIP -- The executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities has called a law allowing a state official to help coordinate firefighting efforts at major emergencies "bureaucratic ineptness" and vowed to fight Trenton on the issue.

    William G. Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, addresses a regular meeting of teh Ocean County Mayors Association.
    "We're talking about a fire code that dictates staffing codes and equipment codes for all 566 (municipalities), irrespective of paid or unpaid departments," William G. Dressel Jr. told the monthly meeting of the Ocean County Mayors Association. "If this is indicative of the thinking in Trenton, we're going to have a war on our hands."

    Dressel said the law -- the Fire Service Resource Emergency Deployment Act -- "could drive half of the volunteer fire departments out of business."

    The law and related regulations classify fire companies and restrict smaller, lesser-equipped companies from one municipality from responding with larger, better-equipped companies in a neighboring municipality during major emergencies. State officials said the law does not affect mutual aid arrangements for most fire calls.

    However, Dressel said the law is an effort to usurp home rule and move small-town volunteer fire departments to a paid fire service.

    "You know what your needs are, not some bureaucrats in Trenton," Dressel said, noting that paid fire services could drive property taxes higher.

    The handful of mayors present, including Dover Township Mayor-elect Paul C. Brush, voted unanimously for a resolution calling on the state Department of Community Affairs to repeal the special rules adopted as a result of the law.

    Pine Beach Mayor Russell K. Corby said he was putting the resolution on his Borough Council's next agenda.

    Island Heights Councilman Brian Gabriel explained that under the rules his town would not, for example, be permitted to provide mutual aid for a fire in downtown Toms River. Instead, Dover would have to wait for mutual aid from a comparable-sized town such as Brick or Lakewood.

    State officials said the bill does not change existing mutual aid plans.

    Beach Haven Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft complained that state fire coordinators would be making what could be life-and-death decisions over the local fire chief on the scene.

    "The system isn't broke and doesn't need fixing," Whitcraft said.

    Erik Larsen: (609) 978-4582 or elarsen@app.com
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Firefighters burn to repeal law


    Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/02/03
    By MARGARET F. BONAFIDE
    and ERIK LARSEN
    STAFF WRITERS

    Volunteer firefighters and area officials want the repeal of a law and related regulations intended to provide more efficient responses to major emergencies because, they said, the rules are muddled with legal interpretation that will impede their fire companies.

    State Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr., R-Ocean, has drafted legislation to repeal the Fire Service Resource Emergency Deployment Act. And the Ocean County Fire Chiefs Association is lobbying legislators to repeal the measure, saying it puts firefighters at risk by restricting what fire companies can respond to certain fires.

    State fire officials yesterday disputed contentions that the law will take away home rule and allow the state to take charge of local firefighting efforts.

    The rules set up five classifications of fire departments and restrict smaller companies from one municipality from responding with larger, better-equipped companies in a neighboring municipality. But this is only for large-scale emergencies, said Lawrence Petrillo, director of the state Division of Fire Safety under the Community Affairs Department.

    The law, which proponents said is aimed at establishing a more orderly response to large emergencies, was signed into law March 10. Related regulations were adopted on an emergency basis Oct. 20 with the impending arrival of Hurricane Isabel. However, the Department of Community Affairs is accepting public comment on the bill until Dec. 19.

    The measure was conceived after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when a number of well-intentioned fire departments -- both volunteer and paid -- sat backed up in staging areas hoping to help in New York City following the collapse of the World Trade Center.

    "It was bad," said Lawrence Petrillo, director of the state Division of Fire Safety.

    Connors said the original bill had good intentions, but rules and regulations that became affixed to the law by Community Affairs lawyers resulted in unintended consequences.

    "This law is set to turn many volunteer fire companies into paid fire companies," Connors explained. "This is going to cost municipalities a lot of money."

    Connors said most legislators who endorsed the law would not have voted for it under its current terms.

    But Petrillo said there is no change in local firefighting. He and William Kramer, division deputy director, said the procedures for fighting fires in municipalities does not change from the current mutual aid plans.

    Kramer said the only time the state would assist in coordinating firefighting efforts is when the local, mutual aid companies and the county and regional fire coordinators say, "I can't handle it." Petrillo said the state would not come to fight every single house fire that erupts.

    "We were never given an opportunity to review this and get the input of the fire department," Beach Haven Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft said.

    Whitcraft said the law was discussed at a meeting of the fire commission for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

    "It gives a state fire safety coordinator the authority over any individual in the local chain of command such as the incident commander on the scene," Whitcraft said.

    A resolution approved by the Island Heights Borough Council and circulated among municipalities has also called for the repeal of the law. The resolution states the rules create unnecessary classification of local fire departments, and the classification dictates which fire companies may aid others in emergencies.

    Petrillo said the state has no intentions of fighting local fires, and there have been plenty since the emergency adoption, "and the state didn't show up at one of them."

    Joseph F. Paolo, Seaside Heights firefighter and the president of the New Jersey State Firemen's Association, strongly opposes the rules.

    "The main thing is it takes away home rule," Paolo said. "They are putting people in as coordinators that are not as certified as the guys we have."

    Petrillo said, "This may be so."

    He said these are the "minimum standards" put in the rules for the position. If a county or municipality wants stronger requirements for the position, then so be it, he added.

    Paolo said the classification of the fire departments is also vague.

    "I believe their system goes by population, but it doesn't spell it out how they pick the numbers," he said.

    There is no classification that accurately categorizes a town such as Seaside Heights, where the population is just a few thousand in the winter but can soar to more than 100,000 in the summer, Paolo said.

    "No one in the state can tell me better how Seaside Heights fights our fires and how we work with Lavallette, Dover and Seaside Park," Paolo said. "The coordinator should know who is where and what they have. They have knowledge of the area and its background, and they have been there be-fore.

    "This was passed without input from the volunteers, and the majority of our state is volun-teer," he added.

    Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, R-Monmouth, said he is also con-cerned about the regulations.

    "If this is something that fur-ther makes it more difficult (for volunteers), we have to look at changing that," Kean said.

    Chris Aldrich, a captain at the Pleasant Plains Fire Company in Dover Township, has 14 years experience in fighting fires. Aldrich has been busy drumming up support to get the law and its rules repealed. He said he rejects the authority a state fire coordinator would have over local fire chiefs.

    "I don't need a state fire coordi-nator to come in and tell me what to do," Aldrich said.

    Fred Fritz, president of the Ocean County Fire Chiefs Asso-ciation, said the rules will "se-verely hamper our firefighting efforts and what we already have in place as a county. More so than that, laws that have been in place for years on mu-tual aid and shared services agreements and all that will be-come obsolete."

    Volunteer firefighter and Is-land Heights Councilman Bri-an Gabriel said: "We're not looking to get the law re-worked. We are looking to get it repealed."

    William G. Dressel Jr., execu-tive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said that group opposes the law.

    "The area of fire emergencies is traditionally under local con-trol," Dressel wrote to Michael Ticktin, chief legislative ana-lyst with the Community Af-fairs Department. "There is good reason for this tradition. Municipal fire officials are best equipped to know local condi-tions and therefor to determine the most effective way to deal with such emergencies."

    Sen. Andrew R. Ciesla, R-Ocean, said he and his 10th District Assembly partners agree withy Connors.

    "When you have a situation that clearly does not apply as in this neck of the woods," where the the firefighters are volunteer-based, it would threaten the "spirit of volun-teerism" in Ocean County, Cies-la said.

    The act jeopardizes mutual aid arrangements and takes away what is best about Ocean Coun-ty -- volunteerism, Eagleswood Mayor James R. Pine said.

    "I don't know what they meant to do with this act," Pine said.

    The law provides for a $10,000 penalty for violating the state's authority.

    Staff writer Brian Prince contributed to this story.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    The gist of this law is in regards to major emergencies, but the way it is written could affect each and every fire call that occurs. I'm fairly sure that is not the intention, but unfortunately is the result.

    Get the word out, let your Town Councils, Senators, Congressman, anyone know that you are not in support of this law (if you're not).
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    The NJ League of Municipalities in general and William Dressel in particular, are the biggest fear-mongers in NJ. They are against every single piece of legislationm that comes down the pike that may usurp one tiny piece of a municipalities percieved power. That is why NJ inefficiently reigns as the "Home Rule Capital of the World".

    This law will NEVER effect the way a local municipality fights their fires 99.999% of the time. These rules formalize what the State can already do. The Governor can declare an emergency and the locals give up control of the incident to the State. Right now, the NJSP OEM are the people who take control. I'd much rather see the NJDFS serve in this role.

    You also cannot argue with their reasoning for doing this. 9/11 was a disaster as far as MA response was concerned. Hundreds of FD's from all over self-dispatched to NYC. I was there (as a LEO-requested by PANYNJ PD) and I saw FD's from as far away as Ohio roll in like they were frst due on the third alarm. Most of these FD's could bring nothing to the table in terms of training, expertise or equipment. I understand the need to help, but this was ridiculous.

    In your current MA Plans, would you request an aerial ladder from a town that did not have it? How about a HAzMat Team? How about a Tech Rescue Team? Of course you wouldn't. You would call the FD that was most qualified to handle the assignment. That is what is going on here.

    Let's see if I'm right. How many times ahs the State come in and taken over fire fighting operations since thiese rules have taken effect? Does anyone know of one, single time?

    This type of fire service hysteria last took place when the State was trying to get a State Fire Marshal. It had a different spin when the State tried to improve EMS response by changing the rules regarding ALS rteatment and a hysterical NJFAC crowd paraded ambulances around the state House like a bunch of idiots and then lost anyway.

    It's time the fire service in NJ began to think like it was 2003.

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    True George, 99.999% of the time the state would not get involved and this is meant for the "big" problems, where the coordination is needed. My personal grief with the Act is the lack of standards required for people to be appointed as these State Marshalls. From what I have seen, it only requires 7 years of service. I would expect some higher requirements for these appointed leaders.

    Hundreds of FD's from all over self-dispatched to NYC.
    Yes, ours tried to also. It was all we(officers) could do to hold our trucks back and try to keep coordinated through our County.

    Believe me, I'm not against having the plans in place. Our MA plans are continuously updated as equipment and manpower changes around us. I know others near me that don't have any plan, they just call who they want, when they want.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Default Firefighters: New fire rules demand revision

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/05/03
    By MARGARET F. BONAFIDE
    STAFF WRITER
    TRENTON -- Rules meant to put order in fire companies' response to large-scale emergencies are vague and seriously in need of reworking, authorities agree.

    But they disagree about how much the new regulations affect the authority of local fire chiefs.

    The Fire Service Emergency Deployment Act and related regulations by the state Department of Community Affairs requires municipalities and counties to adopt a mutual aid plan, and outlines the general procedures for fire companies responding to emergencies.

    Critics contend the law and rules would hamper the response to a major fire in a place such as downtown Toms River. They say a fire requiring mutual aid may allow only larger fire companies respond with companies of similar size.

    Toms River companies would not be able to call for the aid of smaller companies from nearby municipalities. Instead, critics argue, they will have to wait for assistance from fire companies from more distant towns such as Brick and Lakewood. And, if the smaller municipalities were to respond against the orders of the state fire coordinator, they would risk a fine of $10,000.

    However, officials at the Community Affairs Department say local fire companies and state legislators opposing the regulations are misinterpreting them. If assistance is needed beyond the normal mutual aid plan, then the state rules would take affect, they said.

    But Assemblyman Frederick Scalera, D-Essex, says the law has been affixed with a set of rules which can hamper firefighting efforts. Scalera is a career firefighter and head of the Essex County Hazardous Materials response team.

    "We had big mutual-aid fire in Newark yesterday, and we were calling in class 3 and class 4 companies that would have had a problem under the rules," Scalera said.

    Class 3 and 4 fire companies are smaller companies serving relatively small populations.

    "They (firefighters) are all trained" with the same state qualifications, he said, and "I would rather have all the fire companies I can get" than to try to fight the fire with a limited group of fire companies.

    Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr., R-Ocean, has called for the repeal of the law and the rules, saying the classification of fire companies by size will hurt Ocean County because it would delay response times from fire companies in mutual aid calls.

    Both state Division of Fire Safety Director Lawrence Petrillo and Deputy Director William Kramer said the law changes things very little. All it does, they said, is set up a structure that allows the state to become a resource for local companies.

    There is nothing in the bill that would cause a volunteer company to become a paid company, as some critics maintain, they said.

    Local volunteers argue that the bill calls for planning for anything that would require mutual aid. They said this will force volunteer companies to have to hire someone to assess and record information about every single home in Dover Township, for example, because when a dwelling is on fire there, an automatic mutual aid plan is enacted.

    This would be a step toward having paid fire companies because the volunteers could not handle that level of paperwork, firefighters said.

    These claims are false, Kramer said, adding the "pre-incident" planning called for in the law is already in place under the state Office of Emergency Management, and local companies should already have the plans for fighting large scale fires.

    "We are in the comment phase and certainly, if there is confusion, we will clear it up," Petrillo said. "Participate in the comment period . . . and if you have those concerns, don't let it fester, give me a call."

    Scalera said Connors' call to repeal the bill is overkill, but he agrees the rules attached to the law have serious flaws.

    The classification of fire companies came as a surprise to many lawmakers who voted for the bill, some officials said.

    Yesterday, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders announced its support for a repeal. The Ocean County Fire Chiefs Association also strongly opposes the bill.

    If the state removed from the classifications from the rules, 80 percent of the concerns would go away, Scalera said.

    The law and its rules had an emergency adoption in October, pushed through when the Hurricane Isabel was heading toward New Jersey.

    "I didn't know, and I am in the fire service," Scalera said of the emergency adoption, adding he has seen a memo from the state League of Municipalities opposing the bill and has also heard the concerns of the firefighters from Ocean County and elsewhere in the state.

    When lawmakers who voted for the bill read the attached rules, "That was when everybody woke up and said, 'Whoa. What is this?' " Scalera said.

    "It's more than just the Ocean County guys," he added. "I have letters from Bergen County, and Wallington. It's not just Ocean County that has a concern."

    "The state Fire Commission never got to review the proposed rules," Scalera said. "They never even saw them."

    Comments on the regulations are being accepted by the Community Affairs Department through Dec. 19. Scalera said the comment period for the bill should be extended.

    Margaret F. Bonafide (609) 978-4583 or bonafide@app.com
    A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

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    The state of New Jersey needs to discover a dirty little word... Regionalization.... or even consolidation.

    Especially up North by me. There is way too much duplication of effort, and not enough forethought and/or planning.
    Marc

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    Originally posted by FFMcDonald
    The state of New Jersey needs to discover a dirty little word... Regionalization.... or even consolidation.

    Especially up North by me. There is way too much duplication of effort, and not enough forethought and/or planning.
    Here here!

    True George, 99.999% of the time the state would not get involved and this is meant for the "big" problems, where the coordination is needed. My personal grief with the Act is the lack of standards required for people to be appointed as these State Marshalls. From what I have seen, it only requires 7 years of service. I would expect some higher requirements for these appointed leaders.
    And the other .001% of the time the incident would be too big for you to handle anyway.

    Why does 7 years bother you? There are a number of FD's around NJ that have kids with almost no experience as Chief. Is that any different?

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    Why does 7 years bother you? There are a number of FD's around NJ that have kids with almost no experience as Chief. Is that any different?
    I hope this question was in jest. On the off chance it wasn't, no, it's not any different. 7 years with nothing more than FF1 is not enough. I would like maybe some higher level IMS, Fire Officer, etc.

    This would be a step toward having paid fire companies because the volunteers could not handle that level of paperwork, firefighters said.
    This is by far one of the weakest arguments I have ever heard.
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    I hope this question was in jest. On the off chance it wasn't, no, it's not any different. 7 years with nothing more than FF1 is not enough. I would like maybe some higher level IMS, Fire Officer, etc.
    No jest at all! This is a question borne out of the current situation in NJ. I can be 18 YOA. I can take FF1 and ICS 300 and I can theoretically be Chief of the FD. Nobody screamed when these rules were promulgated.

    I know of several VFD's who have placed people with less than 5 years experience as Chief. It is a sad situation.

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    It is a sad situation.
    Yes it is, and again, most of the reason I am against the Act.

    Lack of standards required other than 7 years experience.

    Lots of FF's fought against the state requiring FF1. We were not part of that group. FF1 (or it's equivalent) has been a requirement for my FD since the early 80's at least. Officer requirements have been standard for us for almost as long. A Chief can't have less than 9 years experience plus certifications along with having served as each position below Chief.

    My department has made standards for it's officers and leaders, I would expect my State to do the same. Unfortunately, the groups that are getting quoted in articles are way too far to the extreme to be taken seriously.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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