With the appointment of its first fire chief, Frelinghuysen Township has taken a major step toward creating its own fire department.
John Shoemaker, a veteran firefighter, was appointed during a special meeting of the township committee on July 28. A resident of Fredon, he is currently fire safety director of the Blairstown Hose Co. No. 1. He began his career in the South Orange Fire Department Auxiliary in 1969, becoming a full-time firefighter shortly after. He rose through the ranks becoming chief in 2015. According to the Blairstown fire department, he is also a member of the Warren County Hazardous Materials Response Team
Frelinghuysen Mayor Keith Ramos described Shoemaker as “very qualified,” and qualified his own assessment by emphasizing that the appointment was made in consultation with local, county and state officials who have the required expertise.
At the same meeting, the committee authorized $67,500 for fire department expenses. In addition, salaries were established for the positions in the department. The chief’s position was allocated at $500 to $1,000, annually; deputy chief $400 to $600; and secretary and treasurer at $200 to $400 each. The funds were already allocated in the current budget, Ramos said.
Ramos was asked by a resident why a special meeting had to be called for the appointment. Ramos said there are a number of benchmarks that must be met during the creation of the department, and that the township has reached a point it can’t proceed without a chief in place.
“Without a chief, we can’t move anywhere,” Ramos said. Once a chief is in place, he can start filling other positions in the new department.
Ramos added that as the township has signed a letter of intent to purchase a fire truck from Fairmount Fire Department in Long Valley for $18,000, a sale that can only be completed once a chief is in place.
The prospective truck has been checked out by mechanics and the personnel from the township Office of Emergency Management, and so far has been found to be in good order, Ramos said. If purchased, several residents have offered garages, storage buildings and other structure to house the truck until it is put into service.
Plans call for the existing Department of Public Works garage to become a firehouse when the new DPW facility is completed.
Before the fire truck or a new firehouse can become operational, all fire department facilities and equipment must be inspected and approved by county and state officials, Ramos said.
The ordinance authorizing the new chief will be up for a final vote at the Aug. 17 township committee meeting.