A postcard was mailed out to residents today saying that the township governing body "will soon be introducing a plan designed to significantly improve fire protection services throughout the community" by better utilizing existing resources and improving response times without additional cost to taxpayers.
The Holmdel Township Fire Dept. has been reorganized to serve the township from three locations (instead of two): one location is the established Holmdel Fire & Rescue Company #2 building at Centerville Road station near the train tracks; the second location will be at Crawfords Corner Road at the Municipal Complex Office of Emergency Management building; and the third location will now be 100 yards away from the Village firehouse on donated Vonage property at Holmdel Road.
By local ordinance, Company One handled all the Holmdel calls on the south side of the Parkway divide, and Company Two the north. Now Company #2 will handle the entire township.
"We’ve always assisted on that side of town," said John Boyle Sr., the chief of Holmdel Fire Company #2. "If there was an actual fire there, our resources are better positioned now to get there in a faster, more efficient matter."
Holmdel Fire Co. #2 has grown to include 55 active members. Boyle said the members of Fire Co. #1, a smaller force, will be welcome to join the all-volunteer crew. "The members of that company are welcome to join our company and follow the same rules, guidelines, and benefits that our members have," said Boyle.
According to the township letter, the new Crawford's Corner Road station will be fully staffed by all-volunteer duty crews from 6 a.m. - 6 p.m., and response times during overnight hours should be 60 percent faster than present.
Between all three stations, "every property with the Township will be no further than 2.5 miles from a fire station," according to the postcard. In addition, the township stated, there will be more manpower for all areas of the township, uniform standards for training and equipment, more effective recruitment of all volunteers, and continual assessment and improvement of services.
"In the final analysis, these much-needed changes, including the addition of duty crews, provide Holmdel with the most comprehensive plan for fire protection in our town's history," the township stated.
An ordinance to dissolve the fire company on Main Street will be introduced at Tuesday night's Township Committee meeting. A public hearing on the local legislation will be held on April 29, according to Township Administrator Donna Vieiro. "This is something that has been discussed for awhile," said Vieiro. "The decision was discussed in closed session." Holmdel Fire Company #1 Chief Doug Ziemba Sr. was informed of the government's decision and "was a gentleman" said Vieiro. Ziemba did not respond to a phone call for comment.
Mayor Patrick Impreveduto said he "unequivocally appreciates" all that the Fire Company has done for Holmdel Township. "I have always thought very highly of Chief Ziemba," said Impreveduto. "But that does not change the way I feel about the safety of the residents."
He said, "We've been concerned about the response time, and the number of firefighters in the department," he said. The governing body considered a study documenting response times compiled by Committeeman Greg Buontempo. The mayor said he believes there are less than 8 active members in the company.
The chief's son, Doug Ziemba, Jr., is the President of Holmdel Fire Company #1. He said the company has 32 members, some of whom are active "depending on the situation. I cannot remember a time when we did not have three members on a fire truck, responding to a fire call," he said.
Township mechanics came to drive two township-owned fire trucks out of the Main Street firehouse bays back to the municipal complex on Thursday afternoon. The building, some vehicles and some assets, which were purchased by Fire Company #1 over the years, will remain under Fire Company #1's ownership.
In fact, Fire Company #1 can even respond to fires if another municipality requests its service, said Vieiro.
Ziemba Jr. said he was "absolutely surprised" by the township's decision.
"We don’t understand why the fire company was not informed of the fire company closure," said Ziemba Jr. "We don’t think it's fair that we should be forced to join another fire company and surrender the history our fire company has."