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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Citations Issued Against Westfield for Violation of Fire Safety Rule; Councilman Ciarrocca Speaking From Both Sides of Mouth?

     In a written statement, found at the following link, the Westfield FMBA (Firefighters Union) states that the Office of Public Employees Occupational Safety & Health (PEOSHA) issued citations to Westfield for violation of the two in/two out rule.  The OSHA "two in/two out" regulation can be found by clicking on the following link
     The yellow text shown below, is a story written by John Celock of the Westfield Patch dated July 1, 2010.
     The Fact of The Matter would like to draw its readers attention to the statement made by Councilman Mark Ciarrocca where he claims he "does not see any impact from a downsizing" in the fire department with regards to manpower.  The statement made by Ciarrocca is highlighted in bold red text within the story.

Councilman Ciarrocca
TFoTM asks Councilman Ciarrocca if he can stand by that statement today, after the fire at the Hamilton House on Mountain Ave. almost claimed the life of a Westfield resident and jeopardized the safety of Westfield Firefighters responding to the scene of that fire?    

Ciarrocca also stated that "in the event that the FMBA did not agree to the new contract the department would have seen significant layoffs which would have harmed public safety."

     TFoTM asks Councilman Ciarrocca, how is it that not replacing retiring firefighters and the two firefighters that passed away unexpectedly, will not  harm the public's safety but layoffs would? 

     Reduction in manpower through attrition (retirements and the deaths of two firefighters) is equivalent to the reduction in manpower by way of's a reduction in manpower either way. 

     Perhaps Mr. Ciarrocca tailors his statements to the needs of the Town before thinking about the possible ramifications when, and if, the statement comes back to bite him in the .... 

The Following is the Westfield Patch story.

  Citing budget concerns, the fire department has dropped the minimum crew size from seven to six, prompting the firefighters union president to object due to public safety.
Deputy Fire Chief David Kelly said the decision was made after an analysis was conducted of the department's overtime budget and looking ahead in the budget for the remainder of the year. The impact is on the number of firefighters on the crews in place at the department.
"The overtime budget has been exceeded for the year," Kelly said. "To avoid going over budget we had to make changes in daily staffing levels."
Currently the department has three crews in place with two consisting of eight firefighters and two of nine. Nine has been the maximum crew in place with the two eight man crews in place due to two vacancies not filled due to the town's hiring freeze.
Kelly said the decision was made after a study was done of neighboring communities and the minimum staffing levels in neighboring communities, including Summit and Cranford, which are both are five man minimums.
Kelly said that fire safety will not be jeopadized based on the drop in the minimum crew number. He noted that the department had tried the drop to a minimum of a six member crew in 2007 and it did not impact public safety at that time. He said firefighters will need to adjust to accommodate the smaller crew size.
Mike Sawicki, the president of the Westfield Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, objected to the crew downsizing, saying that the 2007 move did not work out well for the department. He said that right after the move was made in 2007 the department went through a series of incidents which are still being felt to today.
He said there was a major motor vehicle accident shortly after the downsizing which required the jaws of life to extract a victim which injured a firefighter. The next night Sawicki said two firefighters were injured while fighting a fire. He said these two firefighters are still receiving physical therapy for their injuries.
Sawicki said the department was also cited by the state labor department for not having a two in, two out policy during a December 2007 fire which he attributes to the downsizing. The two in, two out policy requires two firefighters to be stationed outside a fire while two are in the fire.
He said the seven man crew was put back into effect following a meeting between town officials and state FMBA leaders.
Councilman Mark Ciarrocca, the Council's finance committee chairman, said he does not see any impact from a downsizing, noting that the contract signed between the town and the FMBA includes a one year salary freeze and increased give backs which saved firefighter jobs.
Ciarrocca said in the event that the FMBA did not agree to the new contract the department would have seen significant layoffs which would have harmed public safety.
Ciarrocca said the town's hiring freeze, enacted earlier this year following a drop in non-tax revenues, would not be lifted to fill the two firefighter posts. The hiring freeze policy was written to allow a lift in the event filling a position helped the town's public safety. There have been no exemptions made to the hiring freeze including to fill positions in the fire and police departments.
"Absolutely not, no," Ciarrocca said about lifting the freeze. "We don't have the money to do it. Frankly, the fire department would have been reduced further but for the concessions. They were able to save jobs."
Sawicki said he believes the manpower reductions are not necessary and will have only one impact on the community.
"Public safety suffers," Sawicki said of the downsizing move.

TFoTM asks, "How much of this has to do with the mismanagement of the Town of Westfield by Town Administrator Jim Gildea?"


  1. Ciarrocca is no expert on fire safety, but has no problem claiming that our town can not afford the minimum number of firemen required to actually keep our citizens safe.
    Arrogant and obtuse. He does not even come close to earning the one dollar a year we pay him.
    If he becomes mayor our ISO rating will change as he continues to work to destroy the FD!!

  2. do you have some reason to suggest that staffing levels played into any injuries at the Hamilton House fire? I have not seen any of the articles you have cited that makes any such suggestion.

  3. There is no doubt that the staffing levels in the fire department played into the spreading of the fire and the property damage at the Hamilton House. The Rentrop apartment was a lost cause. If there had been sufficient staffing the other apartments would not have been lost. In response, I would like to ask you (Mr/Mrs Anonymous), do you have any reason to suggest that any standard of safety was used by the Town to lower the number of firefighters other than budgetary considerations?

  4. Staffing is way too low on our fire department. However the amount of money made by several gentlemen with no college degrees who work only two days a week is excessive. $90,000+ for this amount of work is excessive.{68B20182-DEC8-45B1-B213-0984E537B95C}&DE={B8E9DF2E-3A87-4105-A3BA-B6E3C3D356B0}

    Firefighters in Garwood and Scotch Plains make nothing, but are still able to put out fires and assist their residents.
    Increase the number of firefighters, decrease the crazy salaries.

  5. EVERY fireman in town makes $80,000+. We have teachers with Masters degrees who don't make close to that.
    Do are large number of fires in town justify this?
    Perhaps we should have all been firemen.

  6. Perhaps you are onto something about becoming a fireman. Don't fault someone because they chose a particular career path. Teachers with masters degrees will eventually make over $80,000 as they move up the ladder. You make it sound like firemen started out at $80,000. Do your homework, firemen start out at a much lower salary than teachers. Westfield has the highest starting salary in the state for teachers. Not so for Westfield firemen.

  7. You're right: Westfield teachers are the top paid in the state.
    If you compare teacher salaries from Cranford or Scotch Plains with firemen salaries in Westfield the firemen make considerably more than the average teacher after 6 or 7 years.
    Fire safety is important, but even in Westfield the majority of teachers make less than $80,000 a year.
    We could be just as safe with a more affordable department.
    Perhaps more safe, by adding more firemen with a pay rate more reflective of what firemen in Westfield actually do.
    Westfield firemen are paid at a rate considerably higher than firefighters in New York City and no one would argue that the firefighters of New York are less busy than Westfield firemen or that New York residents are less safe than residents of Westfield.

  8. Scich Plains has no paid FD. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    NYFD is not WFD. Once again, comparing apples to oranges. Teachers work schedukes are typically a 7 hour work day with free hours during the day. They don't work two and a half months a year (summer). Get a week off in the winter and another in the spring. Although I don't fault them, I merely state these points to show you are compairing apples to oranges. Every one of us chooses a path in life, don't be critical of those that chose to be a fireman now that we make a comfortable living. It wasn't the case back in the stone age. Ain't that right Castellano?

  9. I agree with what you said except

    1) It is actually not apples and oranges. Sotch Plains and Westfield are both fire departments manned by trained firefmen. There are fires successfully extinguished in both towns The fire does not know if the fireman attacking it is paid or unpaid

    2) Comparing the FDNY to the WFD is not comparing apples to oranges either. The the FDNY and the WFD are both paid departments. Firemen in NY are far busier and get paid less than firefighters in Westfield. Are you implying that Westfield firemen are less capable than firemen in NY AND should still be paid more than firemen in NY? That would be an apple and oranges comparison.

    I don't fault anyone for the path they choose or the living they make. But it is hard to claim that the town needs more firemen when firemen in our town all make $80,000+. In this economy it is impossible to have it both ways.

    With salaries like that I would be more worried that Gildea and the guy with the funny hair will be looking to have an all volunteer department before they consider addressing "manpower issues."

    It is a lot of money I know they'd like to spend somewhere else.

    Who's Castellano?

  10. If staffing is such a problem, why not supplement with volunteers like other towns do?

  11. Your answer to mine of Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:04:00 PM seems to be that you have nothing to suggest a connection between the staffing level and spread of the fire. As I am sure you know, only instantaneous suppression (fire sprinkler system) can suppress spread. Once the fire gets moving (gets kinetic), its too late to do anything except contain. If it was a lost cause, then you are talking about an exterior attack. If an interior attack was attempted with less than enough men, that would be troubling. Because, a call for assistance should have been made rather then attacking with less than optimal man strength. what was the cause and origin of the fire? That would seem to tell us what was really responsible for the fire.

  12. My response is that there is a connection between the staffing level and the spread of the fire. Suppressing the spread of a fire so that the premise is not a total loss relies not only on instantaneous suppression from the interior by way of sprinkler systems but also by the ability to suppress the fire with manpower entering immediately upon arrival at the scene. This could not be done at the Hamilton House fire due to the "two in/two out rule." The manpower initially on scene would have violated the "two in/two out" rule had they begun to fight the fire from within. There were not enough firefighters to initially fight the fire. The roof could not be ventilated because the "hook & ladder" truck can not be used inside Westfield because there is not enough manpower. When a ladder truck finally arrived at the scene, 50 minutes had passed allowing the spread of the fire through the attic. The fire "got going" (as you suggest) because the manpower needed to initially stop it from "getting going" was an issue.

  13. I could care less what the firemen get paid, as long as someone is there for me and my family when I dial 911.. Lets be honest. What makes me mad is the sky rocketing ticket prices at Yankee stadium.. The ten dollar beers at the game, and the salaries that these players make..When was the last time A-ROD saved someone from a burning building? Does he deserve to make more money than anyone on FDNY or in Westfield?? Wake up people.. Lets do whatever we can to ensure the safety of our town and its residents... No ladder truck?? I doubt the salary it costs to man that truck is worth the price you would put on your kids if they were trapped on the third floor.. Think about it...

  14. Volunteer departments loose the structures.. yes the fires go out. but the whole structure is lost. WFD has lost 2 structures in the past 5 years because of manpower.

    An aggressive attack with correct manpower keeps fire attack fast = no burned out buildings around Westfield.

  15. Volunteer departments do not necessarily lose the structures. That is simply not a true statement. In the last 5 years Westfield may have lost 2 structures to manpower shortages, but Scotch Plains has lost only three in that time and Mountainside has lost none in the same time.

    If volunteer towns have virtually the same structure loss record as the WFD then why are we paying for a paid department??

    The town is not going to provide more manpower for the FD ever again, so it is dangerous to argue that the current department has a performance record similar to that of volunteer towns.

    Such an argument might make it clear that more fireman could improve the fire attack, but the town simply won't be doing that. So instead this becomes an argument to justify having an all volunteer department since the performance of the current WFD is unlikely to improve with what is clearly a permanent reduction in manpower.

    Gildea has better things to spend our money on, like his salary.

  16. The fact of the matter is that there exists a contingency plan already to make Westfield an all volunteer department.

    Future cuts will determine if this comes to pass or not.

  17. Summit & Milburn are looking to merge Fire Departments. A merger with the Cranford FD might not be a bad idea...

  18. Wait, don't we already have volunteer firemen in town? Why are they not helping out? Were they at the recent fire on Mountain Ave?

    I was told a ladder truck from a volunteer department actually extinguished that fire. So it is possible for a volunteer department to man a ladder truck, but not our paid department?

    Either bring back appropriate staffing levels or become all volunteer. What we're doing now is obviously not working.

  19. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, April 23, 2011

    It is amazing how many people talk about things they know nothing about. Do some research before you have diarrhea of the mouth or keyboard in this case. And for the love of god learn how to spell, this is Westfield where everyone pays top dollar for a school system.

    Keeping with the name of the blog "The FACT of the matter" let's just stick with some Facts.

    The Westfield Fire Department is already supplemented by volunteers. About 15 on the roster to be exact. When there is a serious fire you may see between 2 and 5 volunteers actually show up. Westfield hires paid firefighters from it's volunteer roster so in reality it is a waiting list to get a paid job. Institute a hiring freeze like Westfield has done and many of those volunteers lose interest. Anyone can apply to be a volunteer but they must be willing to be sent to the Fire Academy for several months on nights and weekends to get their basic training which as a volunteer they do not get compensated for. Than after you are certified you can respond to a fire for free at 3am and and go to your regular job all day unless of course the fire takes too long than you will have to be late for work. If you think it is so easy to get volunteers I wonder why several of the Westfield volunteers live out of town. Probably because there is no one that lives in Westfield that wants to be a volunteer firefighter.

    You cannot combine Westfield with a volunteer fire department like Garwood or Scotch Plains because the volunteers from those towns don't want to supplement a paid fire department in another town and you can't force them to because they are volunteer. By the way, some research will show you that Scotch Plains is actually already having trouble getting enough volunteers to respond to calls. Every year the Scotch Plains Fire Chief puts in a request to his township council and mayor for paid firefighters to no avail.

    You could merge with Cranford Fire Department but good luck getting the mayors and councils to make any kind of agreement. If any of you actually feel that strongly about the situation you should go to council meetings on a regular basis and speak about the topic. The fire department has no control over the situation they are just playing the hand they are dealt. The town administrator, mayor and council make all the decisions and sit in judgement of all who serve them.

    Scotch Plains only responds to about 500 calls a year and Garwood responds to about 150 a year. In contrast Westfield respond to over 1,900 a year. Obviously not all fires but Westfield residents demand services that other towns do not provide. For example: gaining entry to their home after they locked themselves out, pumping out their flooded basements, removing animals that get into their homes, getting car keys and cell phones out of catch basins, etc... The towns with volunteer firefighters do not provide these services but Westfield residents expect it. It is just the type of town it is.

    Westfield firefighters are paid what firefighters from similar towns are paid. They can't get anything that the town does not agree to and when it is given to them by a state arbitrator it is based on what other towns are giving their firefighters.

    More to follow...

  20. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, April 23, 2011

    Everyone loves to compare Westfield firefighters to Cranford and Summit where the staffing is less than Westfield but how about some facts. 2010 census: Westfield population 30,316; Cranford population 22,625; Summit population 21,457. While those towns have smaller fire departments they also protect a smaller population and respond to less calls annually than Westfield firefighters. How about Rahway population 27,346 or Millburn population 20,149. They both have larger fire departments than Westfield yet they still protect a smaller population and Westfield firefighters respond to more calls than those towns also.

    According to the 2010 census Westfield has 10,950 housing units. Based on that number versus what a Westfield firefighter earns including benefits it costs each household roughly 86 cents per month for 1 paid firefighter. Westfield is now down to 32 uniformed personnel a new low. I'm pretty sure no one saw their tax bill go down with the loss of 8 personnel.

    More to follow...

  21. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, April 23, 2011

    In regards to firefighters only working 2 days a week I didn't realize so many people didn't know how to tell time. A regular work day for many jobs is 8 hours before overtime starts. Firefighters work 24 hours which is (3) 8 hour days at a different job. In actuality they work 3 regular days crammed together straight and than have 72 hours off part of which is required by law because you can only work a certain amount of hours straight without time off. It should be noted that most paid firefighters in NJ work this schedule from small towns to big cities.

    Why do people insist on comparing firefighters to teachers. Teachers work an 8 hour day in a safe climate controlled enviornment with nights, weekends, holidays and summers off. Firefighters work a 24 hour day outside in all weather conditions including nights, weekends, holidays and summers. Teachers chose their profession and firefighters chose theirs.

    I didn't realize that a college degree automatically entitled people to a higher salary. Am I to understand that people actually think a firefighter with a college degree can save a life better or fight a fire better than a firefighter with only a high school diploma. When you need help do you ask the people helping you if they went to college. The town doesn't agree with you because they don't pay any of the firefighters that went to college any more money than the ones that only went to high school. How about the ones that got a college degree in a field that doesn't even pertain to their job as a firefighter. They have a college degree, does that make you feel better.

    More to follow...

  22. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, April 23, 2011

    On the issue of comparing Westfield to the FDNY let's do that. It is fact that FDNY members are underpaid and make less than a Westfield firefighter. FDNY salaries have risen recently and are better than they used to be. So New York City under pays their firefighters and can't properly manage their city. Westfield should follow suit and make the same mistakes as New York. How about being a leader by doing the right things instead of following other places that are doing the wrong thing. Westfield responds to a house fire with 6 firefighters and New York responds to the EXACT same house fire with 39 firefighters. I don't see where thats the same standard. Tell a NYC firefighter that your fire department goes to a fire with 6 firefighters and they will tell you thats INSANE. Than tell them that a Westfield firefighter has to be able to make a rescue, extinguish a fire, ventilate, and do salvage and overhaul all at the same fire. INSANE again because in New York you have 1 of those jobs to do at a fire and that's what you do. Not all of them.

    When you have 39 firefighters at a fire 1 less doesn't make a big difference but when you only have 6 firefighters at a fire 1 extra firefighter makes a huge difference. Just put the minimum staffing back to 7 for an extra 86 cents a month.

  23. Scotch Plains responds to fewer calls than Westfield. Okay, but how many of Westfield's calls are fires or similar type emergencies? How many are actually emergency medical calls? Scotch Plains has a rescue squad that responds to medical calls-- a volunteer rescue squad. In fact we have a volunteer rescue squad as well. Are they not capable of responding to medical calls as well as other towns with volunteer squads and volunteer fire departments?

    I'm glad that someone earning $80,000 is available to get me into a locked house or pump out my basement.

    As you explain it the training required to be a volunteer firefighter is impressive and demanding. Yet other towns-- most other towns-- do have entirely volunteer departments. I am not suggesting that we become a completely volunteer department, but it is curious that other communities can get volunteers but we can't. I've heard the mayor on more than one occasion go on about the "great spirit of volunteering" in town to a degree mayors from other towns do not. Is he misleading us about this?

    Teacher do work a 40 hour week. And firemen are "on duty" for 48. But most of the time at least 16 hours of that the firemen are asleep. Do firemen get up at all hours of the night, sometimes multiple times for hours? Yes. But still the majority of the time they get 8 hours of sleep per shift while earning a salary. I don't fault them for this, but I'm sure teachers and other professions would like to have 6 days to work elsewhere or spend time with their family. But as you point out people choose their profession.

    Firefighting is more physically demanding than teaching and almost always much more dangerous. That danger is part of the job. Firemen take the job knowing this. Pay shouldn't be a factor in something they willingly choose. In the last 10 years more teachers have been shot doing their job than firemen. This level of danger is not suppose to be part of their job and they are not specially compensated for what is a very real added danger. I don't believe any Westfield firefighter or teacher has ever perished while doing their job.

    Education levels do not always correlate with what someone earns. There are millionaires that never graduated high school. The point isn't that firemen earn more than teachers, the point is in this economy it is hard to justify the current salaries AND requests for manpower for a vocation that remains largely volunteer throughout the state.

    Please understand, I think we should have a paid fire department. If my home is burning I want firemen there quickly. My concern is that if the WFD continues to be understaffed it is going to become clear that the department's ability to fight fires will be compromised to the point that the Council will be able to justify doing away with the department as it is currently structured. 86 cents a month sounds like a great deal, but you can break down every municipal service like this. It doesn't change the fact that our firemen make a salary that could be perceived as ultimately preventing us to have enough firemen. This is the reality of our current economy. Town officials are interested in getting reelected. They are interested in the budget more than public safety. And right now, most citizens are too. Fire can strike anyone, but in reality it will not be striking most Westfielders. How do you think our current elected officials got in office? They were elected by a majority of the people who say they want to be safe, but are not interested in paying for it at the current rate. Right or wrong, this is how it is. If our FD does not make changes it is possible it could be facing a pretty serious battle to exist as a paid entity. I can promise you that I don't want that.
    What do you think the actual answer is to this?

  24. Fire Marshal BillSaturday, April 23, 2011

    In this day and age where most families have to work two jobs just to survive in NJ where do you expect to find a volunteer base to respond to emergency calls. Dont forget our first aid squad is all volunteer and they have a major problem with manpower in the day time careful what you wish for you might just get it.....

  25. It is very difficult to get volunteers. Almost everyone in town is working each day just to make ends meet, often on weekends too. If only there was a group of men who had say six free days a week who could serve as volunteers...oh, wait...

  26. Maybe Councilman Ciarrocca should become a volunteer firefighter. He would be more valuable to the town fighting fires than he is kissing up to the mayor.

  27. This town (Westfield) like our country, needs prayer. It's powerful. Use it.

  28. the last boy scoutMonday, April 25, 2011

    When ever someone mentions the word Fire Department, all the hoops come out.

  29. First ,great job by the WFD and the other departments that responded. To the comments that Cranford works with a minimum of 5 men is absurd. Cranford has almost as many fires as Westfield and they are as grossly undermaned as WFD.It is ridicules that with the FH right across the street that they did not have enough manpower to use their own ladder truck. To compare WFD with FDNY is BS. FDNY responds on a first alarm with more manpower then WFD and Cfd combined with the ability to get more. NFPA which is the recognizes standard in the country for firefighting as well as other standards. While in NJ NFPA is not totaley adopted you can,t pick and choose which ones you want to follow.If someone gets seriously injured or dies the Town is open to mega lawsuits. The firefighters have every right to expect to go home at the end of a shift and with the taxes that Cranford and Westfield pay the resident deserve and should receive adequate police and fire the Ferraros fire the were lucky they didn.t lose the whole block. As far as the Mountain ave fire it was very fortunate that no one died. You can,t equate WFS or CFD to Scotch plains or Fanwood because evey time they have any type of structure they have to call the Paid towns for help, and that is a fact.Yes Westfield and Cranford do have volunteers but you can,t depend on if and when they are going to show up.Volunteers in these cases are ment to supplement the paid department not replace.
    To address the hours issue yes they work 2 days but they are 24 hour days. If you take the number of scheduled shifts, 91 and multiply the hours, they far exceed the 40 hours a week that most people work. The FD is like an insurance policy, they are there when you need them. Yes you may not have a fire but you do,t know that. If that,s the case why do you have insurance, any insurance for that matter, because you dont know

  30. You say "You can't equate WFS or CFD to Scotch plains or Fanwood because evey time they have any type of structure they have to call the Paid towns for help"

    But didn't 16 towns show up to "help" the Westfield Fire department the other night? Weren't most of these towns volunteer towns? Didn't Scotch Plains & Fanwood "help" us out that night?

    Your argument doesn't make sense.

  31. Yes there were volunteer towns there but it was the majority paid towns. The paid towns were called first With Cranford being the first ladder truck on scene, Where the Cranford truck is positioned they had the bulk of the main body of fire as can be seen in the photos and videos.Granted volunteer towns do the job, but at times speed in getting to a scene is of the utmost importance. Fire doubles in size every minute. In this case if Cranfords truck had not got there as fast as it did, the potential for losing the entire block was there.Urgent calls always go to a paid town first, you can't wait for volunteers to get to their station and then go to the fire, and you can,t predict how many will show up and when.

  32. Just to add and clarify some facts that were stated on the radio program tonight. There is a standard for FD manpower, it is called NFPA 1710. 1710 calls for at least 12 men to respond on the initial call and 25 men in under 10 minutes. While it is not the law of the land in NJ it is in many other states. In a case of a law suit NFPA WILL BE quoted NO matter what state you are in. People Have gone to prison for not following NFPA.Certain parts of NFPA are followed in NJ but not the manning part. You can,t pick and choose what parts you want to follow.Just to clarify a point about the mutual aid ladder truck, Cranford was the first there and NO way took 15 minutes to get on scene