Growth, dearth of volunteers lead to paid firefighters
Wall's Glendola company hires fireman, a first
Published in the Asbury Park Press 09/1/05
BY DAN KAPLAN
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
When Chris Rosenfeld left his job as a sales executive with Cablevision to become a paid firefighter at the Glendola Fire Company in Wall, it marked a new start for him but the end of an era for the 74-year-old department.
In December 2002, Rosenfeld, 32, pinned on badge No. 1 and became the first hire in the history of Glendola, formerly an all-volunteer company that serves the township's northern end. Fire officials said he was hired because of a dwindling number of available volunteers combined with an increase in calls.
Now, the career firefighter may get some company. The District 2 Board of Fire Commissioners, which represents Glendola, is considering hiring an additional three firefighters so the department will be manned by at least one person around the clock. Fire officials said the cost to taxpayers will be minimal.
"We're not a sleepy town anymore," said Clint Hoffman, a fire commissioner. "Our calls are rising 8 to 16 percent a year. And, in the meantime, we haven't had a new member since 2003."
Glendola is not alone. Many once-sparsely populated towns have turned into busy bedroom communities, with a majority of potential volunteers shying away from donning a fire helmet because they're too busy, a state fire official said.
Other Shore area towns with paid firefighters include Asbury Park, Jackson, Howell, Long Branch and Millstone.
"The ability to recruit and retain volunteers is becoming more and more of a hardship on communities," said Lawrence Petrillo, a state fire marshal and the director of the state Division of Fire Safety. "Therefore, they (fire departments) have opted to somehow fill a void, and many times, they'll hire part-time or full-time firefighters, depending on what their needs are."
More homes, more calls
In Glendola — the busiest of three fire companies in Wall — the needs are obvious, commissioners said. More homes and offices around the Route 34 corridor means more calls, mostly for false alarms.
Volunteers responded to 205 calls in 1994; by 2003, the number spiked to 436, Rosenfeld said, citing a 10-year study he conducted. Meanwhile, the average number of responders to any given call fell from 14 in 1994 to 10 two years ago.
Recruiting initiatives, such as the recent implementation of a Length of Service Awards Program, which deposits tax-deferred money into pension accounts, haven't seemed to be doing the trick, commissioners said.
Today's rigorous requirements to become a firefighter — about 120 hours of training at the Monmouth County Fire Academy in Howell — means volunteers are better equipped to respond to emergencies.
But there's a Catch-22, said John Tennissen, a fire commissioner and volunteer firefighter who joined Glendola in 1987. The many hours required at the academy are deterring some men and women from signing up.
"When I joined, you had to take a weekend's worth of courses," Tennissen said.
Glendola commissioners said they likely will hire at least one new person by the end of the year. If they receive a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security, they may hire all three.
The grant, Hoffman said, pays a percentage of each firefighter's salary for five years. In the first year, it supports 90 percent of each salary. The starting pay for full-time firefighters in the district is $35,000 plus benefits, which includes health coverage and a pension.
Besides the grant, officials said taxes earned from the increasing number of ratables in Glendola's fire district will help offset the salaries.
Howell's Southard Fire Department — governed by the District 3 Board of Fire Commissioners there — has five paid members. The department, which handles about 540 calls a year, faces a challenge similar to Glendola's. There is a lack of daytime volunteers and a flurry of construction.
"The turning point for this district was in the mid-1980s with the (Route 9) expansion," Fire Chief Louis Memmolo Sr. said. "It showed the fire company wasn't gonna get enough people out in the day."
Salaries for the five men total around $200,000 a year, said Doug Hesselbarth, a fire commissioner. The burden on taxpayers is very small. Without the staff of five, residents would pay about $20 less in yearly taxes, Hesselbarth estimated.
"What you would save in taxes (without the full-timers), it's so minute," he said. "And this guarantees you get a truck on the road immediately."
Asbury Park's fire department is Monmouth County's only fully paid one. With 42 members, the department carries an annual budget of about $3.7 million and responds to about 6,100 annual calls, Assistant City Manager James Famularo said.
While the tax burden in Asbury Park is greater than that in towns with volunteer squads, the city needs a full-time presence, Battalion Chief Kevin Keddy said. The Fire Department also includes the city's emergency medical technicians.
"We're a full-service department," he said. "We do everything that's not specifically law enforcement."
"You know someone's there to show up," Mayor Kevin Sanders said. "What's the price for a citizen's life?"
Decades ago, being a volunteer firefighter was "almost a requirement to being part of (any) community," said Petrillo, the Fire Safety Division director. Nowadays, with many people working outside of the town in which they live, grabbing a hose is no longer a rite of passage.
"It can be very time-consuming," Petrillo said. "When you're working an extended work week and only have weekends, you have a good possibility that people don't have that time commitment (for volunteering)."
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09-01-2005, 10:37 AM #1
Growth, dearth of volunteers lead to paid firefightersDKK
IAFF Local 384:
"Above all, an assignment to a truck company should be considered a promotion."
Chief John W. Mittendorf-1998
09-01-2005, 12:48 PM #2
yeah read that in the paper this morning while having my morning cup o Joe.
The pic is hillarious need to call Chris and rag on him a bit!
Shame they didnt mention the freewood acres situation and what happened over there!******=================
------GOD BLESS AMERICA ! ------
09-01-2005, 01:49 PM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 2004
- Northern Florida
Its funny actually... I live in FL now, but I grew up in Keyport. I remember that when I was a little kid, virtually every one in town between the ages of 16 and 70 was in some way affiliated with the fire companies. Of the firends I had there, three of them had fathers who were ex-chiefs. When you got old enough, you joined. I guess times have changed.. sounds like the same problems everyone is having.IAFF - Fire/EMS
09-01-2005, 03:42 PM #4
I've never understood tho, why they always start out with one hire? why not three? One to man the truck 2 to go in. My dept did the same thing, they've just finally gotten the 3rd guy this year. We've managed to actually make a come back with the recruitment tho. Bringing in an average of 8 guys each year, between 3 and 5 actually stay, so the numbers are finally starting to go up again.
09-01-2005, 11:05 PM #5
1 guy paid to sit there and wait for a crew to show up. He also does lots of the vehicle/equipment maintenance and paperwork. They call them paid FF's, but they are really paid maintenance men. The farce is that people in the area actually believe they now have a better fire department because it's paid. (they don't realize it's only 1 guy during the daytime only)"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?
09-01-2005, 11:38 PM #6
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
When I was a kid growing up in Belmar mid to late 60s, the Glendola section of Wall was nothing but farms. Now they have a paid fire dept. Wow.
09-02-2005, 09:13 AM #7Originally Posted by Bones42
Actualy your wrong he does roll on his own and the crew will show up on scene in another rig and maitenance and paperwork um i think thats actualy normal routine for a piad fire fighter.
South wall has 1 paid man now also.******=================
------GOD BLESS AMERICA ! ------
09-02-2005, 09:39 AM #8
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Nothing New Here..............
You need a "Day" person to get the first piece on the road? hire someone. And that's what's been done here. I wish them luck, and I have a Question. What is being done to recruit new Volunteers? Doug says he's getting new people, Every monthly meeting, we have new applicants here, so I'm wondering why other places aren't doing the same. Gee, do you think that there is no recruitment program? We have one, we get people. Doug has one, he gets people. Hmmmm..............Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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