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Monday, June 13, 2011

Other Towns Go Four For 4: Westfield FD Ladder Truck Strikes Out, Again

     The Westfield Fire Department's ladder truck has been rendered useless on the initial response to recent emergency calls in Westfield.  Fires at the Hamilton House on Mountain Ave. a residence on Hazel Ave., and at Ferraro's Restaurant on Elm St., required the response of  out of town FD's ladder trucks.
     Springfield, Cranford, and Mountainside ladder trucks have been used on initial response to battle fires.  Most recently, an emergency call to extricate a worker trapped up to his chest in dirt as a result of a trench collapse on Knollwood Terr. on Saturday resulted in Clark's Ladder truck responding.

     Where is Westfield's ladder truck?  The Mayor and Town Council have addressed the current staffing levels within the WFD at Town Council Meetings and have no intentions of hiring any firefighters to bring manpower to a level that would allow the WFD to operate their ladder truck instead of relying on neighboring towns resources. 

Could this be the beginning of shared services or an attempt to eliminate the Westfield FD through attrition.

  Mayor Skibitsky has stated the Town must do "more with less."  In some cases it looks like less is being done with less.  To be continued...........

The following pictures are from
Hazel Ave Fire (Cranford FD)

Knollwood Terr. Trench Collapse (Clark FD)

Hamilton House Fire (Springfield FD)
Ferraro's Fire (Mountainside FD)


  1. This is silly. I believe Springfield has three men on a shift. Is that what we should aim for here? Mountainside has a volunteer FD, do you advocate we go volunteer? While I have no expertise as to how many men Westfield should have, comparing Westfield with towns who have lesser coverage is pointless in my opinion.

  2. The Fact of The MatterMonday, June 13, 2011

    The story is not comparing departments. It highlights the fact that Westfield does not staff enough firefighters to utilize it's own ladder truck. In no way whatsoever should Westfield "aim" for three man shifts although that is the current bare minimum number that staffs each station house in Westfield totalling a minimum of 6 on any given shift. TFoTM also does not advocate going to a volunteer department. Perhaps that question should be asked of the Town Council. Other municipalities having to respond with their ladder truck highlights the fact that Westfield's own ladder truck has been rendered useless by the Westfield Town Council's decision not to hire more firefighters. Why not ask each Town Council member if they advocate a volunteer fire department.

  3. You note that Westfield needs more paid firefighters per shift but show the ladder truck from Montainside fighting a fire in Westfield, a fire which the Westfield FD truck wasn't used due to manpower shortages.

    If a volunteer department can get a ladder truck to a fire in Westfield and we can't then what are we paying for?

    I'm not advocating going to an all volunteer department, but at the very least where were the Westfield volunteers and why could they not bring the Westfield ladder truck?

    I don't get it. Maybe we should encourage a few Mountainside volunteers to consider becoming Westfield volunteers instead.

  4. The Fact of The MatterMonday, June 13, 2011

    There is no debate whether or not a volunteer squad can get a ladder truck to the scene whether it be Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Clark, or any other volunteer fire department.

    The initial response to the fire is what sets the tone. Being able to dispatch the Westfield ladder truck to a Westfield fire such as the Hamilton House, Ferraro's, and Hazel Ave fires allows the firefighters to vent the roof and fight the fire from an angle that could potentially lessen the damage done by flames doubling and tripling by the minute.

    Mountainside volunteers volunteer in Mountainside. How many towns can one volunteer assit before they sacrifice their 9-5 jobs.

    Once again, its not whether or not a ladder truck can make it to the scene, it's how fast can one get there. The response time of volunteers is longer than that of a full-time paid staff. Time is of the essence when fighting a structure fire, limiting damage and potentially saving lives..

  5. When is the Fire Chief or any of his seven commanders going to be asked the question: How have you organized and deployed the department's manpower to respond effectively to calls? Somewhere in that discussion it will become clear that with three firemen at each station the ladder truck is rendered unavailable. Surely the Chief must have a contingency plan to use the ladder truck and he should be given the chance to explain. Also, considering the two-in two-out rule, it would seem that staffing each firehouse with three men would preclude any of them actually fighting a fire until backup arrived. Again we should be made aware of his plan to fight fires when and where they occur.

  6. I agree that the response time of volunteers is longer than that of paid firefighters. But 80% of the fire departments in America are volunteer and trucks arrive on scene and fires are put out.

    But not in Westfield.

    The point actually is that no Westfield FD truck ever arrived on scene. Westfield volunteers should have a faster response time to a Westfield fire than Mountainside firefighters. The Mountainside truck was at the two recent Westfield fires, the Westfield truck was not. The implication is that we are unable to get our truck to a fire scene in our town despite having 15 volunteers.

    This is not about whether we need more paid firefighters or not, it is about keeping us safe.

    Westfield volunteers should be as capable of manning a ladder truck and responding to fires just like the volunteers in our neighboring towns.

    It is very likely that we could benefit from and should have more paid firefighters. But the fact that our combination of paid and volunteer firefighters together are not capable of performing tasks that the majority of departments throughout the country (i.e. volunteer departments)do everyday is unacceptable.

    Understand, I believe more paid firefighters in town would be a good thing and I fully support the efforts to make this a reality, but why are we unable to adapt to a situation that most communities throughout the country face and successfully deal with everyday?

    There is plenty of mismanagement in town (way to go Jim) but a fire department with paid AND volunteer firefighters who can't approximate the capabilities of volunteer departments is mismanagement on a life-threatening level.

    This is the real issue and should be addressed.

    Of the 80 firefighters at Ferros how many were Westfield volunteers? If they were not there, why are they retained as volunteers? Are there any standards one must met to volunteer? If so, showing up at a major fire should be one of them.

    If Chief Kelly can't make his department work then it is time to let him go.