About the Mount Laurel Fire Department
Community and Fire Department Overview
Mount Laurel is a 22.5 square mile suburban community with an average night time population approaching 50,000 and a day time commercial-business population taking that census to well over 100,000. The community is extremely diversified, with the Fire Department having the responsibilities of providing protection for structures that range from high rise to farm properties, along with several miles of some of the busiest highways in the country i.e. New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) and Interstate 295.
The overall Department consists of three stations housing 3 engines, 2 quints, 1 tower ladder, 1 heavy rescue, 1 brush truck, and various support vehicles.
Board of Fire Commissioners – Fire District #1
The Fire District was created by Ordinance of the Township Council in October 1983 in response to the filing of a petition by over 5% of the legal voters of record at that time. The Fire District is a taxing authority and uses property tax assessment as the primary source of funding for the operations of the Fire Department. Approximately 89% of all annual funding is derived from property taxes with the remaining 11% coming from inspection and permit fees, fines, interest, State grants and other miscellaneous sources with the current Budget of approximately $9,800,000.00 annually.
The Board of Fire Commissioners (Board) governs the Mount Laurel Fire District #1 and consists of five Mount Laurel Township residents elected by the legal voters for three year terms. The annual election of new Commissioners is conducted on the third Saturday of February each year, at which time the annual operating budget of the Fire District is also considered by the legal voters. Voting is held at each of the three fire stations from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
The Mount Laurel Fire Department is a combination department consisting of approximately 50 active volunteer personnel and 44 career personnel. Career personnel work various shifts and are assigned to the three firehouses. Station 361 and Station 362 are both a 24 hour firehouse and Station 363 has a 6am – 6pm shift. Volunteer staffing consists of “a combination of volunteer in-house duty crews, along with on-call home response”. The combination of volunteer and career in-house crews allows for more efficient response times, while the home response provides for additional personnel in order to provide depth for emergency operations sustainability.
The Mount Laurel Fire Department was actually created by Ordinance of Township Council in 1953. Although formally created, the Fire Department truly existed in name only and for some administrative responsibilities until the creation of the Fire District by Township Council in 1983. It was at that point that the Department took a singular shape.
Prior to that, two separate volunteer Fire Companies provided fire protection. The Masonville Fire Company #1 was founded in 1913 and has been located since that time on a parcel of land that was donated by the Haines family at 105 Masonville-Centerton Rd. in the Masonville section of the township. This provided fire protection services in the eastern half of the Township. The Fellowship Fire Company #2 was founded in 1943 with a single pumper that was provided by the Masonville Fire Company. The Chief from Masonville, Art Mason, initially held the title of Chief for both Fire Companies during the initial development of the Fellowship Company. The first Fellowship Firehouse was originally located at #1 Oregon Avenue, and in 1953, a new three bay Firehouse was built diagonally across the street at 3824 Church Rd. on land that was donated by the Township’s first Police Chief, Anthony Panarella. This provided fire protection services on the western half of the Township. In 1973, with a construction boom of residential property in the center core of the Township, the Fellowship Fire Company built a two bay drive-thru sub-station known as the Birchfield Fire Station. Which at that time housed 1 engine and a brush truck. In 1994 the Church Road station was raised and replaced with a new, three bay drive-thru, 10,000 square foot facility that has a traditional fire service appearance but is equipped with all of the modern amenities. Also, in 1994, the Headquarters Facility on
Elbo Lane was acquired. That facility houses the Administrative Offices, Operations, Bureau of Fire Prevention, A Full Commissary, Training Room comfortable for 100, Shop with a Lift, Conference Room, Cascade System, Foam Bank, and Outdoor Training Area. Also in this facility is a Gym which is shared by the Fire Department with the Police Department and the Emergency Medical Services of the Township.
For many years, funding for the two Fire Companies was provided by the Township Council and through vigorous
fundraising conducted by the volunteer members. Mail in donations, oyster suppers, chicken barbecues, car washes, hoagie sales, bingo, wedding receptions at the firestations and many other forms of fundraising were conducted. These activities provided enough revenue to afford only the basic necessities for the operation of the apparatus and the buildings. Only small amounts could be spent on new/used apparatus, training courses, firefighting equipment, safety equipment and basic firefighting gear for members. By 1983, the burden of trying to provide quality fire protection through these types of fundraising efforts became too great. The membership of both Fire Companies along with numerous concerned citizens petitioned Township Council to create a separate taxing authority which would have the specific responsibility for funding fire protection. Township Council took action and the Mount Laurel Fire District #1 was created to fulfill this need.
The Mount Laurel Fire Department’s first employee, the Fire Marshal, was appointed in 1984 and the Bureau of Fire Prevention was formally organized in 1985. That followed with the appointment of the Department’s first career firefighters in 1986. Following the growing demands of the Department, a full time Business Administrator was appointed in 1988. The Fire Department continued to grow in size and responsibilities which necessitated the need for a Career Chief. This resulted in the formal reorganization of the two Fire Companies into one Department having two divisions. Division 1 is compromised of the Masonville Firehouse, with serious consideration currently being given to adding a second station in that Division to service the Townships South Central area, known as the Larchmont section. Division 2 is compromised of the Fellowship and Birchfield Stations. The Divisions still hold their individual monthly meetings but ultimately interact as the Mount Laurel Fire Department.
Administration and Operations
The overall and daily operations of the Fire Department is supervised by the Chief of Department. The Chief of Department is a career position and reports to the Board. The department also employs a Deputy Fire Chief who reports directly to the Chief of Department. The Deputy Fire Chief works on departmental administrative and operational issues assigned to him by the Chief of Department.
The financial and business operations of the Fire Department is performed by the Administrator. The Administrator is a career position and reports to the Chief of Department. The Administrator also performs confidential operations for the Board as the need arises.
The training of all personnel is coordinated by the Captain/Training Officer. The Captain/Training Officer is a career position and reports to the Deputy Fire Chief.
The daily activities and assignments of career personnel are coordinated by the Company Officer with a Duty Battalion Chief assigned to Headquarters, who coordinates scheduling and special projects assigned by the Chief of Department.
The Mount Laurel Fire Department, being a combination department, is comprised of Volunteer and Career firefighters. Our standard of coverage consists of the following staffing:
- Station 361 (Masonville) – staffed 24/7
- Station 362 (Fellowship) – staffed 24/7
- Station 363 (Birchfield) – staffed 24/7
Volunteer staffing consists of “a combination of volunteer in-house duty crews, along with on-call home response”. The combination of volunteer and career in-house crews allows for more efficient response times, while the home response provides for additional personnel in order to provide depth for emergency operations sustainability.
A company is manned at a minimum by a supervisor referred to as a Company Officer and two firefighters. Staffing numbers vary based on volunteer availability and career scheduling.
Bureau of Fire Prevention and Life Safety
The daily operation of the Bureau of Fire Prevention is supervised by the Fire Marshal. The Bureau of Fire Prevention employs 2 Inspectors. The Fire Marshal reports to the Chief of Department.
The Bureau enforces the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code as a Local Enforcing Agency. Fire Inspectors conduct annual inspections of all business and buildings within Mount Laurel Township. This amounts to approximately 5500 Fire Inspection tasks per year. Fire Inspectors also physically witness the annual testing of fire alarm and fire protection systems located throughout the community. Fire Inspectors also inspect for permit issuance and compliance, and investigate all complaints registered with the Bureau regarding possible violations of the Fire Code. The FIre Marshal and/or designated Fire Inspectors are responsible for conducting and recording all fire investigations.
The Bureau also conducts Smoke Detector Certifications in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code which requires a certification inspection of all smoke detectors (to assure that they operate properly) in a dwelling unit prior to any change in the ownership or occupancy of the dwelling unit and conduct all fire investigations.
Mount Laurel Professional Firefighters Association / IAFF Local 4408
The Mount Laurel Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 4408, is a professional organization that represents all of the full-time paid firefighters, fire officers, and support staff of the Mount Laurel Fire Department. Our local union was chartered in December of 2004 after nearly 19 years of affiliation with the Burlington County Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 3091. As a result of the rapid growth of our fire department, a decision was made to separate from the county local to form our own local under the IAFF. As a result of this successful transition, we are now able to better serve our membership and the community we serve. Our mission is simple… to serve as the sole bargaining agent representing the career Firefighters, Fire Officers, and Support Staff of the Mount Laurel Township Fire Department. Our goal is to promote a harmonious and progressive work environment between management and the employees in order to better serve the citizens of Mount Laurel Township whom we’ve been sworn to protect.
What is the IAFF?
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has more than 3,100 affiliates whose members protect communities in every state in the United States and Canada. The 281,000 members of the IAFF are the nation’s full-time professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, who protect the lives and property of 85 percent of the nation’s population.
Who does the IAFF Represent?
In addition to city and county fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, the IAFF represents state employees (such as the California Forestry fire fighters), federal workers (such as fire fighters on military installations), and fire and emergency medical workers employed at certain industrial facilities.
A Legacy to Honor
The IAFF was established on Feb. 28, 1918, for the sole benefit of rank-and-file fire fighters in the United States and Canada. It was on this date that 36 fire fighter delegates attended the first IAFF Convention and adopted the IAFF Constitution and By-Laws. The objectives incorporated into that Constitution remain in its preamble to this day. At that meeting the delegates decided to dedicate their union to the following objectives modified only slightly over time):
- To organize all fire fighters and emergency medical or rescue workers;
- To secure just compensation for their services and equitable settlement of their grievances;
- To promote as safe and healthy a working environment for fire fighters as is possible through modern technology;
- To promote the establishment of just and reasonable working conditions;
- To place the members of the Association on a higher plane of skill and efficiency;
- To promote harmonious relations between fire fighters and their employers;
- To encourage the formation of local unions, state and provincial associations and joint councils;
- To encourage the formation of sick and death benefit funds;
- To promote the research and treatment of burns and other related health problems common to fire fighters;
- To encourage the establishment of schools of instruction for imparting knowledge of modern and improved methods of fire fighting and prevention; and
- To cultivate friendship and fellowship among its members.
[From the Preamble of the Constitution and By-Laws of the International Association of Fire Fighters AFL-CIO, CLC]
Throughout the last 83 years, the members and staff of the IAFF have worked tirelessly to fulfill each of these charges. As a result of their work, the IAFF was the driving force behind nearly every advance in the fire and emergency services in the twentieth century, from the introduction of shift schedules early in the century to the enactment of the 2-in/2-out safety regulation near its close. With extremely active political and legislative programs, and with recognized experts in the fields of occupational health and safety, fire-based emergency medical services and hazardous materials training, the IAFF has long occupied a special place in the North American fire service.
Today, the IAFF is the primary advocate for providing fire fighters and emergency medical personnel with the tools they need to perform their jobs. The union also provides a strong voice in the development and implementation of new training and equipment, and has worked hard to advance the proper staffing of fire and EMS departments through its strong bipartisan political action. The IAFF is one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington; its Political Action Committee, FIREPAC, is among the top 25 federal PACs among the more than 4,000 in the country.
[Information and statistics for this article were obtained from the International Association of Firefighters website “IAFFOnline”]