Let the fire chiefs run their departments

May 14, 1994 (~estimated)

Let the fire chiefs run their departments

To the editor:

I would like to publicly thank The Princeton Packet for referring to the Princeton volunteer firefighters as a “notorious breed” in its editorial of May 6 (“Firestorm”). (I wonder if it would refer to the members of the Present Day Club or the Princeton Rotary Club in the same manner?)

The Princeton Engine Company No. 1 is celebrating its 200th year of successfully providing an efficient and cost-effective service to the Princeton community. Incidentally, there are two other volunteer fire companies in Princeton who also provide the same service, and have been doing so for 206 years. to be exact. That’s 145 firefighters, most of them Princeton tax-payers, on duty seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Of course, 145 firefighters don’t attend every fire call. Some men just can’t due to family and business obligations, but when we need them, they are available. It’s interesting to note that the Packet editorial quotes Borough Councilman Mark Freda as saying only one in three volunteers actually responds to fire calls. What is he implying? That all 145 firefighters respond to every call? The last few years our department has been responding to 500 or more calls per year. We don’t need 145 active volunteers responding to fire alarm malfunctions, smoking oil burners, dumpsters, car fires, etc.

Another amusing issue is these yearly physicals the borough is so hot for. The borough administrator quotes a figure of 510,000 per year; 530,000 would be more realistic, and for what? Besides the burden upon the taxpayer. the state of New Jersey does not mandate them.

Speaking of money, this year’s fire budget is S96,000, of which Princeton University donated S50.000. If however, the township and the borough would prefer a paid department. the price of fire protection would go up a little. Six trucks, four men per truck. two, 12-hour shifts; that’s only 48 firefighters at approximately S50.000 per year. including pensions, health benefits, training and overtime. The price then would be $2.8 million to start and that’s not including equipment replacement and, of course, a public safety director and an assistant, a deputy, etc.

The answer I propose to this is common sense. Let the three fire chiefs, three captains and six lieutenants, (the board of engineers) run the fire department as provided in the borough ordinance #93-11, Section 14-32 Control of Department. Political meddling is counter-productive here and has a demoralizing effect on our volunteers. There is an old saying that fits well here: “If it ain’t broke (in 206 years). why fix it?”

Kevin T. Delaney


Princeton Engine Co. No. 1

Editor’s note: The editorial cited in the letter referred to the volunteers as a “notoriously independent breed.”

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