15 June 1983
Firemen see needs in growth
by Aggie Mercantanti
Princeton may have outgrown its firefighting services.
Chief William Rodweller of the Princeton Fire Department asked the Princeton Township Committee on Monday to consider relocating the Chambers Street firehouse and consider the need in town for a certified fire prevention subcode official.
He also cited a steady decline in the number of volunteer firemen and finds an annual rotation of chiefs resulting in a lack of continuity in the department which serves both the borough and township.
The Chambers Street firehouse in Princeton Borough is one of three used by the township. Two parking garages set for construction nearby threaten to bring even more cars to the already heavily traveled area, Mr. Rodweller said.
“This is a big burden to firemen answering an alarm.” he said. “Once they get there (to the firehouse), they have no place to park their cars. Then they have a problem getting the trucks out to respond to a fire.”
Mr. Rodweller requested the township seek potential relocation sites. A study, he said, should take into consideration anticipated growth of the town, and outline routes to target areas at specific times of the day and night
The fire chief also admitted feeling unqualified to conduct fire prevention checks because of his lack of schooling in the latest changes to the fire prevention code. Historically, budget constraints have restricted the ongoing training of Princeton’s firefighting force.
This year’s budgetary increase from $500 to $1,000 will allow more firemen to attend workshops throughout the state, Mr Rodweller said.
Mayor Winthrop Pike called Princeton’s all-volunteer fire department the best bargain in town.
As older firemen retire, though, their young successors are being driven out of town by the high cost of living in Princeton, Mr. Rodweller. said Among Chambers Street’s 50 registered firemen. 15 were said to live out of town but within the 12-mile limit.
“It is my opinion that if you are going to be a volunteer firemen in this town, you should be within a reasonable distance to respond to an alarm,” the fire chief continued. “You can’t expect a man living in Kendall Park to get to the firehouse.
“Fire doesn’t wait — response time is critical.”
The fire chief said Princeton’s fire department has a response time of one and a half minutes from the time an alarm is sounded to the time the fire trucks hit
See FIREMEN, page 16A
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“We must consciously give more thought to this kind of planning ahead — Lord knows we spend a lot of time putting out fires (crisis management),” quipped Mayor Pike.
In other business, a proposed ordinance regulating the use of home alarms will be introduced at the next Township Committee meeting on Monday. It is designed to deter abuses that have amounted to more than 5,000 false alarms in 1980, or 13 false alarms a day.
Proposed regulations would establish a one-time registration fee of $5 for system users, and equip alarm systems with a time delay of at least 15 seconds to prevent accidental activation.
Every alarm system would be required to have an automatic shut off after 15 minutes of activation, only one alarm system would be connected to any given circuit, and no alarm system would be either directly or indirectly connected to the police department.
Anyone in the alarm business would have to apply for a license with the police department before installing a system in the township. Such an application would include a brief description of the alarm system and a non-refundable fee of $100 to cover costs of processing and investigating the application.
No one would be able to install, operate or maintain an alarm system unless it has registered first with the police department, providing it with the name of the installer, location and type of the system, and a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of persons to be contacted if an alarm is sounded.
Penalties to abusers include a $50 fine for those who fail to register, and a $100 fine for each false alarm beyond three in any given year. Those who intentionally set off a false alarm would be subject to a $200 to $500 for each offense.