Expect new firefighters on duty by Independence Day


Seven newly hired Belleville firefighters began training at the Essex County Fire Academy in Cedar Grove two weeks ago.

Those who successfully complete the eight-week program will then undertake up to six weeks of training as emergency medical technicians, to qualify as first responders, said Belleville Fire Chief Robert Caruso.

“We should have them ready for duty after July 4th,” Caruso said. “They’ll be dispersed across all four shifts.”

The additions will bring the department’s total strength to 68, according to the chief. The BFD peaked at 74 back in 2009-2010, he said.

Most recent prior hirings came in September 2013 when three new firefighters came aboard and, before that, nine were put on in September 2011.

Belleville positioned itself to appoint the new firefighters by applying for – and getting — $1.18 million in a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate and Fire Emergency Response) grant that pays salaries and benefits for two years.

After the two years, the township is obliged to take over full payment obligations.

It marked the first score for Belleville in several previous application efforts, Caruso said.

While they’re at the academy, the firefighters- in-training will earn $30,000. When they begin as full-fledged firefighters, they’ll advance to first-year pay of $39,000.

The benefit package’s value can range from $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the option chosen by the firefighter, Caruso said.

The new recruits, hired from a state Civil Service appointment list, certified Dec. 9, 2013, are: Andres E. Idrovo, Manuel Antonio, Nicholas Giangrande, Christopher Gammaro, Michael R. Corino, Anthony N. Malanga and Dennis J. Herrmann.

Meanwhile, on the equipment front, Caruso said the department was expecting delivery of a new ladder truck from the Florida manufacturer E-One within a month, replacing a 1991 truck which the chief described as “kind of worn out.”

“A new ambulance should also be coming at around the same time,” Caruso said. That will replace a 2007 vehicle. “We answer close to 4,000 calls a year,” he said. The new vehicle will be equipped with a heavier chassis which should make it more durable, he added.

The township previously authorized a capital bond ordinance to provide financing to acquire the ladder truck, for about $900,000, and the ambulance, for about $225,000.

– Ron Leir

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