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Lighter Fire Truck Can Cross Middle Thorofare Bridge

Fires | Sun, 01/27/2013 - 9:47 pm | Updated 2 years 11 weeks ago | Read 3274 | Commented 11 | Emailed 6

By Jack Fichter

ERMA — The Erma Volunteer Fire Company has come up with a logical solution to a big problem: decaying bridges to Diamond Beach built around 1940 that can no longer handle the weight of a fire truck.

Instead of waiting years or decades for the Middle Thorofare Bridge and its companion bridges to be replaced, the fire company came up with a less expensive and timelier solution: order a lighter weight fire truck.

The Middle Thorofare Bridge connects Route 109 at the terminus of the Garden State Parkway with Diamond Beach and neighboring Wildwood Crest. Why do fire trucks cross bridges from the mainland to answer fire calls in beach community of Diamond Beach? The community is a part of Lower Township and is served by the Erma Volunteer Fire Company located at the county airport.

In September 2007, Erma Volunteer Fire Company Chief Warner Muller informed Lower Township Police Chief Edward Donohue and the mayors of Lower Township, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest that the Middle Thorofare Bridge was rated for a maximum load of 15 tons but a fire truck fully loaded with water could weigh 25 tons.

At that time, Donohue stated in a letter that fire trucks should be diverted to the George Redding Bridge which meant firefighters had to drive through Rio Grande and Wildwood to reach Diamond Beach.
This created a travel time of 18 minutes under the most ideal traffic conditions.

“Going through Rio Grande is a nightmare,” said Muller.

Donohue’s letter stated in the event of confirmed report of smoke or fire, Wildwood Crest Volunteer Fire Department would respond as per a countywide mutual aid agreement. Donohue requested an emergency services substation be constructed in Diamond Beach to have a fire truck available on a 24-hour-per-day ready status. That has not happened.

Muller’s solution was to purchase a new fire truck weighing 14 tons from Emergency One in Ocala, Fla. The truck is a 2013 International cab and chassis and holds a five man crew in the cab, he told the Herald.
He called it a” basic, bare bones” pumper with 1,500 gallon per minute pump and 400 gallon water tank.

“The reason why the tank is so small is because of the light weight to go over the toll bridge,” said Muller.

Some manufacturers told Muller they could not build a 14 ton fire truck. Other Erma Volunteer Fire Company trucks weigh 23 to 25 tons.

“Originally, we were going to end up with a pickup truck style like a brush truck, a small, mini attack truck which is not sufficient for Diamond Beach and the high rise buildings,” he said.

A larger pump is needed to send water to that height, said Muller. The truck is also equipped to handle a high rise building fire, said Muller.
The truck was not an off the shelf vehicle but was 100 percent custom made.
Muller said waiting for the county to build new bridges was not an option.

The fire company had been sending a rescue unit to Diamond Beach using the Middle Thorofare Bridge while a pumper took the long route through Rio Grande and Wildwood.

“Now we can stay in our own township and not run through three different municipalities to get back to where we should be going,” said Muller.

In 2009, Jeff VanMourik, Erma Fire Company Vice Chairman of Fire District 3 asked to lease a parcel of township-owned land to build a fire station in Diamond Beach. At that time, he said the public had concerns about the lack of a firehouse in the community of expensive condominiums including 12-story Grand Resort.

Muller said estimated the cost of building a substation several years ago was over $1 million. The township applied for a federal grant but did not receive it. The new pumper cost less than $300,000.

A larger problem is how to staff a substation when the fire company’s volunteers live on the mainland. Muller said it would probably require paid staff.
The brand new truck is a pleasure to drive, said Muller. He compared it to driving a large pickup truck.

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Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:29pm - Posted by: LTLocal

John your right. It is riduculous for an off-shore fire company to respond all the way to the island, especially in the summer. But as long as Diamond Beach pays the big tax $$$ to Lower Township and the fire company I don't see any changes coming anytime soon.

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 10:17am - Posted by: John F

What LTLOcal said is the exact reason why this type of thing carries on and on:

"The fact that Wildwood has so many police and fire departments on their island has no bearing on the fact that Diamond Beach is in Lower Township and is included in the Erma Fire District."

Doesn't anyone understand that that ot does not matter that Diamond Beach is in Lower Township? All over the country, mature and responsible public safety managers routinely sign agreements that provide for just that type of situation. No doubt, it is more than silly that that land was never ceded to (or annexed by) Wildwood Crest. But now that issue of tax revenue would make that out of the question. However, there is still no reason that fire protectection (and even police protection) could be provided by Wildood Crest. Governments all of the US routinely sign contracts for similar purposes, I am not talking about something new.Grow up folks, This happens all over the country. Is there some reason why Cape May County seems to take pride in being decades behind the rest of the nation.

This is a classic example of immature territorialism that eventually costs lives.

Someone else already said the "R" word. REGIONALIZATION.

It is more than obvious that is is silly that there are FIVE Separate Fire Departments on an island that size. At least a little common sense would tell you that it is a bigger joke that the first due on any part of the isalnd is an off-shore engine compnay.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:17pm - Posted by: nonameskipper

There is the new concept out there called Regionalization and the sooner people start using it to their advantage the better off all our towns will be.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 8:38pm - Posted by: JustMyTwoCents

I remember when there was Nothing in DB. As the condos were being built, the island & Twp KNEW what was needed for fire response. As high rises went up, firefighting was again talked about & again, government KNEW what was needed. My question is HOW did government allow construction thru all these years without having fire apparatus readily available (not having to take the scenic route)??? I don't recall any horrible fires in years but luck can & does run out. Seems Twp had ALWAYS been counting on WC for their resources.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:39pm - Posted by: marmoracat

LTLocal- The reason I asked about why Erma responds to Diamond Beach, is because Townbank Fire Company is almost a 1/2 mile closer to respond there. In fact, Erma has to drive through Townbank's district to get to Diamond Beach. I don't know who setup the fire districts there, but they should think about re-mapping them(but I guess this is kind of a moot point now that Erma invested 300K into a truck.)

My point still stands regarding the CMC Bridge Commission, and it's structurally deficient bridges are a hazard to public safety. Every bridge, with the exception of the OC-Longport bridge and the Rush Chattin Bridge(the only two bridges it has replaced in the past 66 years) are considered structurally deficient.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 2:46pm - Posted by: LTLocal

The fact that Wildwood has so many police and fire departments on their island has no bearing on the fact that Diamond Beach is in Lower Township and is included in the Erma Fire District. A substation in Diamond Beach has been talked about for a long time, but if there's no residents there that are members of the fire dept it would just be a waste of money.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 2:35pm - Posted by: bmcusnr

People about this truck that Erma had built to go to Diamond beach. This truck will respond to all fires in and out of the district when called. If the Township would of had the agreement signed for the sub-station there instead of a good old boy hand shake. there would not be this conversation in the 1st place but those people are not in office anymore. The township has a piece of land there they should built a Police fire and ambulance sub station on it.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:24pm - Posted by: John F

A few other folks share my opinion. Investiing money in a special piece of apparatus to fight fires in a remote area is ridiculous. This is a single Engine, and aid from Wildwood Crest is inevitable if there is a working fire in Diamond Beach. One Engine company is very limited in what it can handle. And with that extended travel time to Diamond Beach, almost any small fire will become a large one.

Where has common sense gone? This is not the 1800s with volunteers fistfighting with members of rival fire companies to get to a fire first. There are lives and property at stake, and it is immature, irresponsible and uneconomical to buy a fire truck for Diamond Beach. A simple agreemnent with the Borough of Wildwood Crest would save money and potentially save lives. It is really time that these folks grow up.

I hope some taxpayers from Lower Township read this and voice an opinion. And I especially hope that anyone who lives or works on Diamond Beach take note.

LTLocal needs to understand that it is silly enough that there are FIVE separate municipalities on the Five Mile Beach as it is. And, even sillier that there are different Fire Departments and Police Departments. That mentality should have gone out with open cab fire trucks. But, it is beyond silly to not have the closest fire service (on the same island) as the first due in a situtaion like that. Again, I can only wonder, where has common sense gone? Grow up, please before someone dies.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:49am - Posted by: LTLocal

Erma covers Diamond Beach because it's part of their district and they're responsible for it. It's nice that Wildwood Crest also responds to fires in Diamond Beach, but if they happen to be fighting their own fire at the time of a fire in DB are they going to pull their hoses and respond to DB? No. Erma is doing the best they can to cover DB, and I think what they did was a logical approach to give the residents of DB more effiicient coverage. Maybe they're using the new piece as first out on all calls as it must be qucker than the older pieces, I don't know. Instead of criticizing Erma how about taking a minute to appreciate them and all the VOLUNTEER depts for what they do.

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 12:02pm - Posted by: marmoracat

Someone explain to me why Erma covers Diamond Beach again...

What happens when the County is forced to reduce the weight limit to 10 tons(because it's known that almost all of the County Bridge Commissions bridges' are already structurally deficient, and are becoming worse with each day) and suddenly even their light fire truck cannot cross the bridge? Now they have a $300,000 fire truck with no real purpose.

Maybe a better idea would be to put some serious pressure on the County Bridge Commission to start replacing their known dangerous bridges(pretty much all of them), before the 14 ton fire truck, god forbid, falls into the bay.

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 12:54am - Posted by: nonameskipper

What a waste of money, there are more then enough fire resources in Wildwood to handle anything that may come about in Diamond Beach, this truck was purchased because somebody cant get out of the 80's and has to be King of the Kingdom and use the mentality of no one is gonna put out my fire!

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