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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Westfield Fire Chief Kelly Declines Manpower Coverage

Westfield Firehouse

     The Fact of The Matter has learned that Westfield Fire Chief Dan Kelly declined an offer by neighboring town's fire departments to cover Westfield so that firefighters, scheduled to work, could attend the funeral of Westfield firefighter Dan Maglione.  Maglione passed away on March 29th after putting up a brave battle with cancer.

     It is not uncommon for neighboring towns to offer coverage when circumstances arise such as a funeral of a fellow firefighter.  Neighboring towns will often park their fire trucks in the firehouses of the town they are covering to negate any delay in responding to a call for service in that town.

     Despite the fact that Maglione's passing was not "in the line of duty," he was a current member of the Westfield Fire Department and deserving of the tribute of having all his fire department co-workers attend his funeral.

     TFoTM asks Westfield Fire Chief Kelly: 
     With the shortage of manpower that currently exists in the Westfield Fire Department, would accepting the offer of a couple hours of coverage by another town's firefighters have revealed just how short the fire department staffing level really is?



  1. Westfield ResidentThursday, April 14, 2011

    I'm not a fire fighter but I am a manager. If we have a loss in our department I make every effort to make sure everyone has time to pay their respects.

    To not accept the help of your neighbors is just plain rude and not the message we want to be sending the Maglione family, residents and other towns that we need to support us from time to time.

    Thank you to the towns that have stepped up to assist. I can only hope that we will do the same when you need support.

  2. On January, 27, 2011, a fire in Springfield, New Jersey, spread to multiple levels of a three story home and caused significantly more damage than would have been caused if the local and area fire departments had higher staffing levels. The response from the local fire department was exemplary, with firefighters on the scene within four minutes of the fire report. However, the first crew only consisted of three firefighters. It wasn’t until 12 minutes after the initial call that crews from Millburn, Union, and Summit arrived, and by that time the fire was becoming increasingly harder to control.

    In an article by Richard Khavkine, “Short-staffed Springfield firefighters had to await aid from nearby towns before attacking blaze”, Union County’s fire coordinator, Lathey Wirkus, who was at the fire scene 10 minutes after the initial call was quoted as saying:

    “‘That fire in Springfield expanded because they didn’t have enough manpower. They were totally undermanned to fight that fire.’

    The article continues:

    “According to the National Fire Protection Association, which establishes and disseminates firefighting standards and recommendations for departments worldwide, a minimum of 14 or 15 firefighters should have been on the scene within nine minutes.

    Recent layoffs and retirements of hundreds of New Jersey firefighters are making those staffing levels increasingly difficult to meet, Wirkus and other fire officials said.

    ‘It’s taking and will take a longer time to get needed apparatus and manpower to the scene,’ Wirkus said. ‘Our ability to save lives and property is going to diminish.’"

    Although fire departments have wrestled with staffing declines for the last decade or so, shrinking municipal budgets and New Jersey’s 2 percent tax cap have slashed manpower to all-time lows in the last few months, fire officials said.”

    Despite the state’s budget difficulties, maintaining appropriate staff levels in local fire departments must be a priority. Firefighters keep our families safe, protect our property and communities, and provide an invaluable public service.