Many NJ firehouses are old and need to be replaced, report says
The condition of aging roads, bridges and tunnels in New Jersey has become increasingly concerning, but a new report finds many Garden State fire stations are also old and need upgrading.
A report by the National Fire Protection Association finds 43% of fire stations across the nation are more than 40 years old and need to be replaced. In Jersey, a whopping 69% of fire stations were built more than 40 years ago.
The report also finds 20% of New Jersey fire stations are not equipped with exhaust emission control systems, to prevent a buildup of dangerous emissions from the fire trucks diesel engines, and 20 percent of fire stations are not equipped with backup power, which could hinder the ability to respond to an emergency if there’s a blackout.
According to Rob Ordway, the president of the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association, this is an important issue that must be addressed by each municipality separately.
“You want something that’s going to protect the equipment so you don’t have to go out and replace it every 10 years, every 20 years," Ordway said.
He said it’s also critical to equip fire houses with safety exhaust systems, “so that firefighters, as they’re starting the apparatus, gearing up and so forth, don’t have to breath the particulates, that exhaust out of the fire apparatus.”
He said as towns across New Jersey have grown, they may have taller buildings than 40 or 50 years ago, so fire companies have bought newer fire trucks that can pump water at a greater height — and those vehicles may not even fit in older fire houses.
“It might be a different size engine or truck, but that’s something each individual town has to look at when they design their apparatus," he said.
The National Fire Protection Association report estimates it will cost between $70 and $100 billion dollars to replace all older firehouses across the country, however it does not project an estimate for New Jersey or other individual states because there are too many variables — including how large a town has become and how fast it’s growing.
“Every town is different," Ordway said. Town A may only need one firehouse with one or two engines and an aerial truck. Town B may need four fire houses spread out.”
Ordway said what this comes down to is “each individual town has to look at and access what their needs are and what they think their needs are going to be over the next 10, 20, 30 years with development.”
He stressed having modern, functional fire houses needs to be a priority for individual municipalities, similar to other issues they will face.
“If you have police cars that can’t run, how do police respond to emergencies?" he said. "If you have garbage trucks or other vehicles for the town sweepers, how do the streets get swept? How does the garbage get picked up? If you don’t have the structure and infrastructure to protect your equipment, what happens when you need to use it, daily, weekly, monthly?"
The report notes funding shortages, tighter budgets, and a lack of grants are likely reasons for the large number of older stations.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com