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The Lakewood Fire Department appears to have double trouble. 1) They have difficulty recruiting and retaining volunteers, and 2) their current leadership is very "career department focused."

Curious minds wonder if these two problems are actually just one problem all wrapped up, i.e. because their current leadership is very "career department focused," they don't care to show proper appreciation to their volunteers, thus their volunteer base has dwindled and the remaining volunteers don't feel enough motivation to actively recruit other volunteers to join them.

Accordingly, as previously reported here on FAA News, back in July 2023, the Board of Fire Commissioners approved the expansion of the career department (which currently has 33 members) with an additional 20 members.

The Fire Commissioners stated that they remain steadfast in their dedication to providing exceptional emergency response services, and that this expansion of the career department "reinforces their commitment to enhancing public safety within the community."

They added that the decision to expand the career division of the Fire Department is "a result of careful consideration and the recommendations put forth by the district’s administrative and professional staff." (I.e. the very "career driven" staff).

To be able to accommodate the new career members, who will sleep at the firehouse at 119 First Street, the fire commissioners are now soliciting bids for interior renovations to this firehouse.

The architectural plans have been prepared by Parette Somjen Architects L.L.C.  

The scope of this project includes reconfiguring existing floor plans in their entirety to accommodate a new bunk room, kitchen, day room, weight room, locker room, and restroom with new finishes throughout. An existing staircase is to be relocated, an existing engine room storage is to be converted to new restroom. The existing MEP distribution shall be modified, and a new HVAC equipment shall be provided to accommodate the new layout and program requirements.

Bids will be opened on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. The Contract will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder as defined in N.J.S.A. 40A:11-2. The Board of Fire Commissioners reserves the right to reject any non-responsive bids or all bids pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq. and to waive minor informalities or non-material exceptions, that may be in the best interest of the Board.

Fire officials intend for construction to commence on Monday, March 25, 2024, and to be substantially complete on Friday, August 28, 2024.

It's important to note that while the volunteer numbers are dwindling department-wide, this particular firehouse does currently have a sufficient number of volunteers. Fire District officials have not yet formally announced what the plan is for the volunteers at this firehouse once it becomes a career house. One possibility under consideration is allowing the volunteers to report to whichever firehouse is closest when a call comes in, instead of having to go to their "own" firehouse.

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Anonymous said...

This article has a number factual inaccuracies though I doubt you will allow this comment just like you suppress my others. I understand it's bad for this site and business.

1. Volunteer membership across the US has a whole has been suffering, this is not unique to Lakewood.
2. The fire dept. would do anything to have more volunteers and are actively recruiting. Being a firefighter takes a lot of time and dedication that many don't have. Schooling is six months and when there is a fire they can be out for hours on end. Ask any volunteer in the department.
3. Lakewood is still growing. The more homes that are put him the more calls there. It's simple math. BMG is planning to add hundreds of new apartment buildings. We can bury our head in the sand or be prepared. The FD's number job is safety and the well being of Lakewood's residents. If there aren't enough volunteers something has to be done.
4. The volunteers have for a while now been reporting to the closest firehouse as opposed to going to their own station. This has resulted in apparatus getting out a lot more often.

Former LFD member said...

@Anon 8:47

The article did not state that this is a unique situation to Lakewood. Hence there was no "factual inaccuracy" as you claim.

Regarding #2, as a former member I can assure you that we raised issues numerous times to the line officers. Our voices were ignored time and time again. If they truly want to retain the current membership and motivate them to recruit others as well, perhaps they should start listening to the concerns and feedback voiced by the members! As a former member, I know exactly what I am talking about (and they do too!)

Regarding #3, yes, Lakewood is growing. As is Hatzolah, Chaveirim, and all the other wonderful organizations we offer. Why is the fire department the only volunteer department which is going up in smoke? Yes, the training is extensive and lengthy, however, that is by far not the only reason. See my point above for a hint as to a very good reason that the volunteer fire department is going up in smoke.

4. I am glad to hear that "the volunteers have for a while now been reporting to the closest firehouse as opposed to going to their own station." This was not the case a few years ago. In fact, they were super strict against coming to a call when you were not dispatched.

I even recall times when volunteers were at the station and available and a call came in literally around the block.

However, the volunteers were told that they were not allowed to respond as that would be "taking away a call from the career guys." I sure hope that by now, with all the newly hired and promoted support staff you have, that you can work out these "major issues."

In summation, you wrote that the article "has a number factual inaccuracies." Perhaps there are some points upon which we disagree, however, there are no "factual inaccuracies" in this article.

Common sense said...

So sick. This is after they give themselves a fat raise???
Everyone's property taxes will be going up.
Elections have consequences!
These Commissioners are very high on power, they think that the Vaad will protect their jobs. Surprise, the Vaad won't have another Schnall ticket to leech off again. You can't lie to people and tell them they're going to get vouchers every election, that game is over. No one in charge of BMG now to force all the R H to sign the self appointed vaad swamp selected candidates.

Anonymous said...

Mr Anonymous fire department Rep,
That was a just a real pathetic response by comparing Lakewood to the rest of New Jersey. There's nothing that any town in New Jersey has in common with Lakewood, in fact you even pointed that important fact out in your pathetic comment above.

For starters Lakewood has more volunteers than any other town in the state of New Jersey so just because you guys are pathetic and can't figure out how to treat your volleys don't blame it on anyone besides your lazy selves. Ever heard of incentivizing and treating your volunteers like humans, so they continue to work for you? Most people wouldn't stay in a paid job when treated like trash, surly not in a volunteer position. Start respecting your volunteers and show some real appreciation for their time they give for us, the taxpayers of Lakewood who pay your salary!!!

How many hatzalah members are there in Lakewood? Any idea how much time it takes to do training to get certified by the state?

In fact they actually need to go back and take refresher courses afterwards to keep their licenses.

Can you actually start working as a public servant and stop your self serving. Just stop blaming the world for your failures & sticking us with the bill.

NYSFFEMT said...

@Anonymous As someone who's a firefighter in another state where there are many Hatzolah members, I can tell you this problem is not limited to Lakewood. Jewish people would rather become EMT's because its much easier, and I know this from experience as I'm an EMT as well. Most Jewish people just want to be on an organization so they can be "in the hock" or have lights on their car. They are not ready to commit to 6 months of training plus monthly meetings and drills. Also a common viewpoint from the Jewish community is that firefighters aren't Jewish. I cannot tell you how many times Ive shown up on calls and people were like Oh I didn't realize there's Jewish firefighters.

Anonymous said...

I am the OP and I in no way represent the FD just talking as a member.

Re#2 - Can you advise what was brought up in the line officers meeting? I am not an officer so I am not privy to what was discussed. I know they are very interested in retaining the volunteers.

R3#3 - Hatzolah is a lot easier to recruit for as it is seen as a clean job that usually lasts under two hours. Being a firefighter is not seen as a cool vol job and you get down and dirty. Most would rather volunteer and not get their Guci shoes dirty.

Re #4 Times have changed. People used to join and live near their local house, they don't anymore. The FD is adopting and they are trying to get the volunteers out.

I never once heard don't respond as you are taking work away from the career guys. There is some frustration sometimes that we don't get out because there aren't drivers around but that has changed now that everyone responds to the closest house.