Decades of Service in Jeopardy: Veteran Firefighters’ Status Threatened

In a recent Washington Town Council meeting, issues of public concern including road infrastructure, park safety, and intersection design were brought to the forefront. However, a seemingly minor administrative issue took center stage, igniting fierce debates and threatening the legacy of two veteran firefighters who have collectively devoted nearly a century to protecting their community.

The volunteer fire department, a pillar of the Washington community, faced a challenge that seemed to burn hotter than any they have battled before. Veteran firefighters, Jim of Clinton Avenue and Mike Agnella, found their qualifications for Firefighter One and Two status undermined due to an alleged paperwork oversight. Both men had been grandfathered into these programs when they were introduced, based on their existing basic training.

The state’s Division of Fire Safety, however, has disputed their status due to the alleged lack of necessary paperwork filed within the deadline. As a result, the firefighters now face the unthinkable: being barred from responding to calls or riding fire trucks, their decades of experience effectively benched due to a bureaucratic mix-up.

Jim, a member of the fire department for 48 years, used the meeting to call on the council for intervention, suggesting a political maneuver aimed at phasing out the volunteer service in favor of a paid one – a move that would inevitably result in tax increases for local residents.

Council Vice President, empathetic to the firefighters’ plight, called for a thorough understanding of the submission process for the paperwork and the implications of the issue. He was joined by Council member Tom, also a member of the volunteer fire department, who expressed his deep disappointment and dubbed the situation a “sad state of affairs”.

In a related issue, the council also grappled with concerns over tree maintenance along Washington Avenue. Dead trees and fallen branches have emerged as potential hazards that could disrupt traffic and emergency services. Resident Fred Mahuti specifically pointed to an untouched patch of land, referred to as a “buffer zone” by Wilkins Property Management, which was littered with dead trees and branches. The council pledged to take swift action, planning to dispatch a property maintenance code official for inspection.

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City Council Members:
Washington (Bergen)

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