The is comprised of a combination of career and volunteer firefighters, and the number of firefighters is not where it ought to be for optimal fire protection, the department's chief said this week.
The number of firefighters is "not nearly enough to safely protect and/or rescue you and your families from fire and other emergencies," Fire Chief Louie DeRosa writes in a volunteer recruitment letter due to go out with water bills next week, the first time a letter like it is being sent.
The staffing situation is not yet at a point the department can't meet the minimum numbers of firefighters needed to initially respond to calls, about six firefighters, but it's also nowhere near the number recommended, about a dozen.
He said the department is at a "critical juncture." Several decades ago, the fire department had as many as 80 volunteers. Now it has 23.
"We have got to face it and deal with it," DeRosa said. "Trying to head it off at the pass."
It is the first time the department is sending a recruitment letter with water bills, DeRosa said. The letter lists the benefits of becoming a firefighter, including the satisfaction of helping your community and networking with professionals from a variety of backgrounds. The department also is considering starting a junior firefighters program to get students interested in firefighting. Information about and applications for becoming a volunteer firefighter are on the department website, www.madisonfd.com
He said the issue is something all communities are facing and all departments have increasingly been relying on mutual aid from fire departments in nearby communities.
"The time to volunteer just isn't there," he said. "It's a tough commitment to make, but it's a rewarding one when you do make it."
The number of career firefighters in Madison is at 13, down one from 2010. And the number of volunteer firefighters has been "treading water" at about 23, of which about 10 are trained as interior firefighters able to enter buildings with air packs.
Many of the volunteers aren't available from Monday through Friday until about 4:30 p.m.
The text of the letter, which seeks men and women between 18 and 35 in good physical and mental health, follows:
Dear Madison Residents,
At one time, your Madison Fire Department had as many as 80 well-trained volunteer flrefighters. Today, we have just 23, not nearly enough to safely protect and/or rescue you and your families from fire and other emergencies.
Truth is, We can never have too many firefighters. So I am asking all able-bodied men and women to consider joining us. Naturally, you understand what it means to us and your community, but consider all that you can gain from being a firefighter. The personal rewards are many and the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped others in their time of need is a great feeling of accomplishment. Plus:
- Employers look to hire/promote individuals who are members of volunteer organizations as this indicates good character and dedication
- Possible future employment opportunities as a career firefighter
- Networking and socializing with a variety of talented individuals from all walks of life committed to a noble cause
- Becoming a role model for others
- You are helping to protect your community
- You become part of a global family of dedicated emergency responders who will welcome you as one of their own
I won’t sugarcoat it: firefighting is dangerous. In fact, there is a risk of serious injury or death. It is a dirty and tough job requiring you to work in some of the harshest working conditions. But, rest assured, we will outfit you with the best protective clothing and give you professional-grade training, sending you to fire school to become certified as a Firefighter in NJ.
So, what’s the commitment? Members are required to attend scheduled in-house trainings and meetings, respond to emergency calls when you are available, and participate in civic events such as parades. I have been a member of the Madison Fire Department for over 35 years and I can honestly say it is a very proud and rewarding organization to be a part of.
If you are male or female, reside in Madison (or within 2 miles of our borders), are between 18 and 35, have never been convicted of a crime, and in good physical and mental health, please consider joining us.
Visit our Web site at www.madisonfd.com for more information and to download an application.
I look forward to meeting you. Should you have any questions please call me directly at 973-593-3022.
Chief Lou DeRosa