Six Flags lays off firefighters, NJ union points to disaster that killed 8 teens
JACKSON — Six Flags Great Adventure has laid off full-time firefighters from the on-site fire department, prompting the local union to slam the move as putting the public at risk.
The union has even unearthed the memory of the 1984 Haunted Castle fire that killed eight teenagers — a tragedy that resulted in the state of New Jersey adopting new fire code regulations for amusement park attractions.
On Friday, the theme park laid off both of its full-time firefighters, according to Six Flags Firefighters IAFF Local 3874, adding the reason given was “changes in the company.”
When asked for comment by New Jersey 101.5, a theme park spokesperson said employee matters are considered confidential.
“Six Flags Great Adventure remains committed to protecting the property with certified, union firefighters to maintain our high level of safety and guest service," the representative said.
The Six Flags Fire Department, first formed in 1973, remains in operation with part-time staffing, involving firefighters who are also employed elsewhere.
Union officials have raised questions about the location of the nearest mutual aid firehouse, saying the Cassville Fire Co. is about 15 minutes away.
Neither Jackson Mayor Mike Reina nor Township Administrator Terrence Wall had responded to requests for comment as of Wednesday.
Haunted Castle tragedy
The union pointed to the deadly 1984 tragedy, in which eight teenagers died in a fire at a seasonal Haunted Castle attraction. The bodies of the victims were left unrecognizable.
The attraction was made from several converted trailers and used highly flammable materials. The attraction had no fire extinguishers or heat or smoke detectors despite warnings from safety experts.
Prosecutors charged the park's operators with aggravated manslaughter but a jury acquitted them on the basis that the township should have required more stringent fire safety protocols.
After the disaster, the park beefed up its fire brigade and the state fire code was updated to require temporary structures that are meant to confuse occupants, such as haunted house attractions, to install sprinklers and smoke detectors.
A new generation recently learned about the tragedy when a survivor spoke about her near-death experience on TikTok.
This is at least the second time that the department has been faced with layoffs.
“In 2011, corporate chose to completely disband the SFFD as a cost-saving measure. This was quickly reversed when it was realized how dangerous a lack of fire suppression for the property was,” the union said in its same written release on Friday.