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 Department operates three stations housing 3 engines, 2 aerial ladders, 1 heavy rescue, 1 brush truck, and various support vehicles.
The MLFD is an “all hazards” organization, meaning we respond to all types of hazards within the community. In addition to serving as fire fighters, most of our personnel are certified Emergency Medical Technicians capable of delivering life saving first aid. Therefore, our members train and prepare rigorously daily. Some of the incidents to which we respond include:
- motor vehicle accidents
- hazardous materials
- technical rope rescue
- ice/water rescue
- confined space
- high/low angle
- extreme weather
- high rise
- chemical, biological, explosive, radiological (CBRNE)
- active shooter hostile events
- acts of terrorism
- gas leaks
- carbon monoxide leaks
- animal rescues
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.
The Board of Fire Commissioners (Board) governs the Mount Laurel Fire District #1 and consists of five Mount Laurel Township residents elected each November by the legal voters for three year terms.
The Mount Laurel Fire Department was 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 Road 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. A man by the name of Art Mason initially held the title of Chief for both fire companies during the initial development of the Fellowship Company. The first Fellowship fire station was originally located at #1 Oregon Avenue. In 1953, a new fire station was built diagonally across the street at 3824 Church Road 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 located at 71 Elbo Lane and housed an engine and a brush truck. In 1994 the Church Road station was razed and replaced with a new, three bay drive-thru, 10,000 square foot facility. Also, in 1994, Fire Department acquired a warehouse located at 69 Elbo Lane immediately adjacent to the Birchfield fire station. The warehouse was converted to suit the needs of the District. Presently, the facility houses administrative offices and the Bureau of Fire Prevention along with a gym which is shared by the Fire, EMS and Police agencies 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 and hall rentals are only some of the sources of income. 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 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 concerned citizens petitioned Township Council to create a separate taxing authority having 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 full time career Chief. This resulted in the formal reorganization of the two Fire Companies into one Department having two divisions. Division 1 is comprised of the Eastern side of the Township and is serviced by the Masonville fire station. Division 2 is comprised of the Western side of the Township and is serviced by the Fellowship and Birchfield fire stations.
Administration and Operations
The 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. Reporting to the Chief of Department are two Deputy Fire Chiefs. The Deputy Fire Chief of Operations oversees all aspects of preparing for and responding to emergency incidents. The financial and business matters of the Fire District are handled by the Deputy Chief of Administration.
The training of all personnel is coordinated by the Training Division which is staffed with a Fire Captain. The Training Officer reports to the Deputy Fire Chief of Operations.
A duty Battalion Fire Chief is assigned to Headquarters and is responsible for providing command and control activities on emergency scenes. Additionally, the duty Battalion Fire Chief is responsible for the daily activities and assignments of career personnel.
Line personnel consist of approximately 25 active volunteer fire fighter and 45 career fire fighters. Career personnel working in the fire stations do so in 24-hour shifts. Additionally, volunteer staffing consisting of a combination of in-house duty crews and on-call home response is used to supplement the career personnel. 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.
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
A company is manned at a minimum by a supervisor referred to as a Company Officer and three fire fighters. Staffing numbers vary based on volunteer availability and career scheduling.
Bureau of Fire Prevention and Life Safety
The Bureau of Fire Prevention is supervised by the Fire Marshal. The Bureau of Fire Prevention employs an Assistant Fire Marshal and two part-time civilian fire inspectors. Most of the career personnel are certified fire inspectors who conduct fire inspections on behalf of the Bureau. The Fire Marshal reports to the Deputy Chief of Operations.
The Bureau of Fire Prevention is the Local Enforcing Agency for the Township and has the statutory responsibility to enforce the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code. Fire Inspectors conduct annual inspections of all business and buildings within Mount Laurel Township which amounts to approximately 5,500 tasks per year. 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 inspections in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code which requires a certificate of smoke alarm compliance (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”]