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Today we commence what seems to be the longest month of the year. It has always been that way as long as I recall.
By the time this month ends, the people in Middle Township’s Fire District Number 1 will have made their decision about relocation of the firehouse to a new site near the railroad tracks.
I’m surprised more discussion hasn’t been raised about the subject, which seems a necessary move.
For those who grew up in the quaint county seat, the old firehouse is full of fond memories, but sometimes we must let go of the past and look forward.
A 10-minute visit to the old firehouse, built in 1925 and expanded in 1971, will give the casual visitor a graphic understanding of what it means to be really short of space and in tight quarters.
Fire Commissioner Dave Blood showed me some of the close tolerances that mean fire trucks are backed to within inches of the rear wall.
Air packs, which provide fresh air for breathing for firefighters, are refilled in a machine that, according to Homeland Security standards, ought to be in a “secure” location. It is not; it’s located in a rear storage closet in the open.
Blood noted that the very aspect of getting fire engines out of the bays onto Mechanic Street, a heavily traveled street on weekdays, is no easy task, especially on Wednesdays when Middle Township Municipal Court is in session.
Relocation would provide easier access to Hand Avenue on the south and Magnolia Drive to the north.
Granted, this isn’t the same little town many of us knew. It has changed, and will never go back to the way it once was.
The population is growing. Laws governing fire trucks and fire equipment have changed. There are more calls for emergency service than ever. So far, we have been blessed with sufficient volunteers so that a paid department is not needed, as some neighboring communities have experienced.
Blood acknowledged that, with the advent of the local Bureau of Fire Prevention, serious fires have been on the decline; witness fewer and fewer calls for chimney fires. Conversely, with the addition of more offices and home fire alarms, there have been more calls for fire personnel when a fire alarm or carbon monoxide alarm sounds.
Those selfless volunteers, who place their lives, safety and personal comfort at risk, must drive to the firehouse and park their cars somewhere. The present facility has severely limited space for such emergency parking.
A relocated firehouse would have ample parking for over 40 cars.
A new firehouse would provide ample space for the present trucks, with each having its own parking bay.
The voters of Fire District Number 1 certainly have a long, busy month ahead as they consider the $1.2-million bond to provide for land acquisition and building a new firehouse.
I hope they take the time to examine the issue that will be set before them as they cast a ballot March 30.
It’s one way the community can show support for volunteers who place themselves between us and danger at any moment of the day.
The community has always rallied when its own needed aid or assistance. It has been very generous with its passage of school budgets, which help make this one of the best inland communities in the county.
When it comes time to vote to relocate the Court House firehouse, think of the future. Don’t let someone else make your decision. Don’t shirk, don’t ignore your duty. Vote.
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