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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lizza

Perspective/Hammonton Fire Dept.

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The Hammonton Fire Department has been proudly and professionally serving the needs of the residents, business owners, and visitors of the Town of Hammonton since 1896 by providing fire protection, suppression and prevention services. The fire department is composed of two fire companies, each non-profit organization having its own administrative leadership and membership. Hammonton Volunteer Fire Co. (Station 1) and Independent Volunteer Fire Co. (Station 2) are contracted through a municipal ordinance to service the municipality.

The Hammonton Fire Department is a municipal department, similar to the Police Department and Public Works, which purchases and maintains all firefighting equipment including the apparatus. The department leadership includes a chief, and two assistant chiefs which are elected by the membership and report directly to the mayor and council. In addition, each fire company elects annually a slate of administrative and firematic officers to lead their respective organizations. When a call for service is dispatched, all members from both companies report collectively as the Hammonton Fire Department.

Although each fire company and the department have their own governance structures, they remain accountable to the communities they serve. Transparency and accountability are crucial aspects of their operations, especially when it comes to financial management and resource allocation. The organizations are subject to audits and inspections by federal, state and local government authorities to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and responsible use of public funds. In New Jersey the Department of Community Affairs / Division of Fire Safety and Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) are two organizations which provide regulatory oversight.

The volunteers who make up the Hammonton Fire Department are highly trained and committed individuals who take pride in protecting the lives and properties of Hammonton. The department has approximately 80 members divided among the two fire companies. These members have a variety of experience, education, and professional backgrounds, which provides the residents a rich mix of skills which allows for superior service at any incident. When a truck pulls up to a scene, you don’t just get a firefighter, you get mechanics, electricians, plumbers, teachers, accountants, engineers, carpenters and police officers.

Once admitted to one of the two fire companies, each member goes through an extensive initial training program at the Atlantic County Fire Academy in Egg Harbor Twp. to prepare them for service as a firefighter (180 hours). In the state of New Jersey all recruits, both career and volunteer, receive the same initial training to become a firefighter. Once members graduate with their initial certification, they have the opportunity to further their education throughout their tenure as a firefighter.

“In terms of training, our guys are held to the same standards set by the state of New Jersey even as volunteers. So whether it’s a fire in Hammonton, Haddonfield or Hackensack everybody on the fire ground is held to the same standard. That’s why we make the commitment to spend hours each week training and preparing to meet the challenges of today’s fire ground,” Joe Perna, Captain of Fire Co. 1 said.

All department members receive continuing education in areas such as advanced firefighting, fire officer leadership, hazardous materials, vehicle extrication, rope rescue, fire inspection, fire instructor and defensive driving. More than 90 percent of the department’s members hold an advanced Firefighter II certification (110 hours) which trains firefighters in advanced skills of fire suppression and rescue operations. Many members also have Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training. Each member completes an average of 50 hours of training per year and an additional 25-50 hours per year for officers. Members who hold an EMT certification or instructor certification require additional hours every three years to maintain their certifications.

As with all fire departments, the Hammonton Fire Department has entered into mutual aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions. These agreements formalize cooperative relationships and enable both volunteer and career fire departments to request assistance from nearby agencies in case of large-scale emergencies or when additional resources are needed. These partnerships further highlight the collaborative nature of emergency response efforts.

The Hammonton Fire Department and its individual fire companies thrive on community support and volunteerism. In the United States many fire departments are staffed entirely by volunteers. They answer emergency calls and, at times, are asked to risk their lives to help keep their communities safe. But since the 1980s, the number of calls nationwide has tripled, while the number of volunteers has fallen. In Hammonton, the department averages 520 calls for assistance per year. In 2011 the fire department added vehicle extrication/rescue services to their responsibilities, a service which was previously provided by the Hammonton Rescue Squad.

While the Hammonton Fire Department has a strong membership, recruitment of new volunteers is always a struggle. The community does not always understand the commitment of time, effort and training that goes into becoming a volunteer. “It’s not just like you come down to the firehouse, fill out an application, and we put you in boots and put you behind the wheel of a truck” Tim Kelly, Captain Fire Co. 2 said.

“One of the big misunderstandings is that people don’t recognize the fact that we leave our meals and our families and get up in the middle of the night to help people. We miss holidays, special occasions, and lots and lots of dinners. If there is a call at 2 a.m. in the pouring rain, our members get up and head to the firehouse,” Sean Macri, Fire Department Chief, said.

While the primary purpose of the fire department is to provide fire and rescue services, the department strives to be active within the community by organizing its own programs and supporting other community based organizations. By actively participating in fundraising events, community members contribute to the sustainability and growth of the individual fire companies and the department. Typically, the community will see more fundraising coordinated by the individual fire companies, and not necessarily by the department.

“The envelopes you receive in the mail are from the individual fire companies and help off-set operational expenses, building and grounds enhancements and overall support for firefighter wellbeing” Joe Caruso, President Fire Co. 2, said.

In addition to the annual fundraiser drive, each fire company hosts a variety of annual fundraisers including a cigar and wine night, fish fry dinner and numerous raffles throughout the year. Participation by the department and fire companies at community events grows each year. Some of the events last year included scout visits; community Easter event; Little League opening day; Healthy Kids Running awards; Memorial Day Parade/Ceremony; Walk for Our Neighbors; Warren E. Sooy Elementary School Color Run; Red, White and Blueberry Festival; 4th of July Parade; Ben to Shore Bike Tour; National Night Out; Downtown Hammonton Touch A Truck; Blue Mass; Blueberry Crossing Fall Festival; Fire Prevention Week; Kiwanis Halloween Parade; Trunk or Treat; Rotary Winterfest; Downtown Tree Lighting; and the Noon Year’s Eve Celebration. And let’s not forget the Fire Department’s 26th annual Christmas Parade which saw more participants then it has in more than 10 years.

“Our contribution to the community is a service that costs millions in other towns but in Hammonton it’s free. Fortunately we have the support of the residents, business community and elected leadership that understand the value we bring to keeping Hammonton both safe and affordable. That’s why when we’re asked to participate at events by groups like the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society, Sons of Italy, our schools or local religious groups we show up in a big way to support them. The same way folks show up for us when we need them.” Ron Mascola, President Fire Co. 1, said.

If you are ever looking for your local firefighters, you can find them every Wednesday evening when both companies are at their respective stations holding meetings, drills, training, work details or coming together collectively to conduct a department level training or drill.

Volunteer fire departments as a whole play a vital role in safeguarding communities across the United States. Their contributions to public safety, emergency response, and community engagement cannot be overstated. The Hammonton Fire Department has a strong foundation supported by highly competent firefighters that will continue to serve Hammonton well into the future. As a community we are fortunate to have them alongside our very capable Police Department, EMS (provided by Atlanticare) and Public Works/Highway Department.

Joe Lizza

First Lieutenant and

Public Information Officer

Hammonton Fire Department


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