Some NJ Towns Consider Cutting Their Fire Companies To Save Money [AUDIO]
Officials in Ocean City and several other Jersey towns are considering a new approach to save money for local taxpayers - cut the number of full-time firefighters, and hire more EMTs.
The rational is there are many more medical emergency calls than fire calls, but not everybody is convinced this is a great idea.
Bill Dressel, the Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, says in this tough economy, "it's very clear that everything is on the table as far as trying to reduce costs and increase efficiencies…but there is no cookie-cutter approach to reducing costs and particularly when you're looking at public safety…it's not easy - there is no boiler plate way of dealing with this - you can't just go to the shelf and pull out a cook-book on how you're going to be able to do this."
He says to make a good decision "you've got to do it in concert with your professional emergency services, you've got to do it in a way that is ear-marked to your particular citizens."
Dressel points out "every mayor and governing body official in this state is evaluating all of their service levels, efficiencies and the bottom line dollars…there are life and death circumstances involved in every level of emergency services that you're looking at, so you have to be able to very carefully decide where you're going to be making a cut, where you're going to be increasing your personnel…these are difficult times, and you've got to be able to make informed decisions as it relates to the provision of essential services - it's not for me to say or anyone else to say what's the right decision- local officials have to make these decisions."
State fire officials point out firemen do a lot more these days than simply put out fires.
George Heflich, the President of the New Jersey State Firemen's Association says cutting firemen in favor of more EMTs doesn't make sense because "the fire service responds to as many accidents as they do - entrapments, fuel spills…if you have entrapment, we have to respond to get them out- EMS does not have any jaws of life or anything like that…what's being discussed is penny-wise, pound foolish."