3-man firefighting crews concern unions in Hamilton

hamilton-nj-fire-patch

HAMILTON — The township’s Fire District 4 recently reduced their career firefighting shifts to three firefighters, down from four, concerning the towns’s two fire unions.

Union officials say the manpower reductions seem to be budget related, and they’ve already agreed to made concessions to the district, from reducing overtime pay, holiday pay and uniform allowances to help the situation.

“Now, it doesn’t seem like there’s any money there,” fire officers union President Nick Buroczi said.

District 4 operates from the Hamilton Fire Co. firehouse on East State Street in Hamilton’s Bromley neighborhood. Career firefighters can respond in an engine, or a ladder truck, depending on the call, officials said.

On an engine, a three-person crew is common on career shifts, but three firefighters on a ladder truck is not ideal, and could violate the federal “2 in 2 out” requirement, depending on the situation.

The “2 in 2 out” rule calls for two fighters to remain outside of a burning structure while two are inside.

The unions – locals of the Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association – say they’ve been asking questions of the board of commissioners for weeks via email, and have yet to get a detailed answer.

They are also awaiting an request for budget materials requested under the state’s Open Public Records Act, or OPRA.

Out of frustration, several union officers went to District 4’s board of fire commissioner meeting last Thursday.

“We honestly still didn’t get any answers,” Buroczi said.

District 4 was one of three Hamilton fire district budgets that was voted down by voters, causing the commissioners to appear for the township council for modifications, which included trimming commissioner salaries.

Attempts to reach Betty Newbon, chair of the District 4 board of fire commissioners, were unsuccessful.

Buroczi said the apparent financial problems in District 4 are yet another reason why the township needs to move forward with consolidation of the town’s nine districts.

The township council has scheduled two special public meetings to discuss consolidation. The first is this Thursday, Nov. 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hamilton Free Public Library, 1 Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Way. The second meeting is Nov. 29.

Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2016/11/3-man_firefighting_crews_have_unions_concerned_in.html