Towns budget differently for firefighting task

17 April, 1990 (~estimated)

Towns budget differently for firefighting task

In modem firefighting, smothering the situation with dollars is not the best way to tackle the job, fire officials said.

Budgeting requires a careful inventory of much mom than the company’s equipment.

To budget accurately for fire protection, officials must fully understand the types and variety of buildings in their town and thoroughly examine the previous year’s activity log, department administrators explained.

Though only separated by town lines, the budgets of the Princeton-area volunteer companies do not always measure up for easy comparison.

Princeton Township and Borough, two towns with a total of about 25,000 residents, share a fire department and pay about $125,000 to run three companies. Neighboring Montgomery Township, a municipality with under 9,000 tax-payers, shells out about $270,000 to cover the cost of two volunteer audits.

Municipalities finance fire protection through two different techniques. But the dollars ultimately come from the same source — the taxpayer.

In most cases, the department budgets are funded through the town’s budget, like other municipal services, such as police and recreation services.

Some municipalities, including Montgomery Township, raise their funds for firefighting through a special free tax separated, from the local rate. The assessments are made by fire districts, with each district voting on its own budget.

Budgets are also supplemented by contributions from large institutions, both those that are tax-exempt and tax-paying. Princeton, University has not made a contribution to the Plainsboro department because its facilities there have their own fire brigades.

In Princeton, the university gives $40,000 each year to Princeton Borough, a share of which is am given to the fire department. Two Years ago, the university donated an additional $10,000 to the department’s capital improvement fund during the fire department’s bicentennial “celebration.

Fire officials said the different needs of the community force them to spend budget dollars differently.

Tax bases and the amount of developed area do not figure into the equation of how much a department needs to spend, officials said.

Instead firefighters examine closely the types of buildings in which they may find themselves while fighting a fire.

“There’s no magic  formula that we use,” said Larry Boyer, president of the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company No. 1.

In preparing a budget, officials look back at the number and type of calls answered by the department he said.

When preparing capital budgets, officials must look at what is being developed in thier town and not just how much.

“Development has a lot to do with it but not in terms of square feet or anything like that,” Mr. Boyer said.

Four years ago, Princeton Junction firefighters said they could have problems fighting fires along the West Windsor section of Route 1.

Three-story office parks cropped up and the volunteers needed a boost. That came in the form of a 110-foot aerial tower with a $500,000 price tag.

In next year’s capital budget, firefighters are seeking a specialized pumper to fight fires in the many multi-unit apartment and townhouse developments, Mr. Bayer said.

That will carry a cost of about $350,000, he noted. Princeton Fire Chief Eric Karch sang the praises of a $250,000 mid-size pumper truck.

“It can fit through the archways on the university campus and fight a dormitory fire in the courtyard,” Mr. Karch said.

The truck’s smaller size also aids in its maneuverability in and around some of the smaller streets in Princeton Borough, he added.

“It’s also great for parking garage fires,” Mr. Karch noted.

The truck cost $250,000, he said, and was purchased with the help of the Collins Development Corp.

“Collins recognized that we would need something like that” and offered to assist the township and borough with the truck’s purchase, Mr. Karch said.

That tailoring of ,equipment to meet town needs even goes to the level of hand tools that the fire-fighters use.

“Commercial buildings, schools, all of them have safety doors made of steel,” Mr. Boyer said.

“You just can’t come -in and knock them down with an ax very quickly,” he noted.

Princeton recently purchased a $700 hydraulic device nicknamed the “rabbit” tool. The, hand-held pump has two arms that spread open a door that has been locked shut, or push open a steer’ door.

This way a guy doesn’t spend a half hour with an ax trying to get the door open,” Mr. Karch said.

“That can save a life and that’s why we spend money on something like that,” he added.

Area fire companies have a big advantage in that they do not have to budget for salaries, Mr. Karel said.

“We don’t have a payroll. The chiefs are concerned with putting money back into (equipment and training for) the members,” he said.

Even though the 125 or so members of the Princeton department are volunteers, it does cost money for them to turn out at each fire, Mr. Karch explained.

A full suit of the high-tech protective clothing costs about $700 per man, the Princeton chief said.

Add to that $1,200 in breathing gear plus spare air tanks, the cost to outfit a volunteer runs to nearly $2,000, Mr., Karch said.

“We put the money where we need it,” he said. “And that is for safety for the men and safety for the residents.”

JOB WELL DONE: The ladies Auxiliary of Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, Inc., receives a certificate of appreciation for serving coffee and doughnuts to the firefighters during the fire at 179-183 Nassau Street. The certificate was presented by Borough Council President Marvin Reed, on behalf of Mayor Barbara Sigmund and Borough Council. Accepting the award, from left, are Ann Goeke, Kay Clausen, Mary Van Horn, Cynthia Clausen, Florence Hagadorn, Mary Ellen Nini and Marie Krystaponis.

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