Article and write-up by Ron Jeffers
Thanks to money provided through federal Port Security grants, municipalities on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and those that cover other local waterways have been able to acquire fireboats to respond to fires and other emergencies. In September, the New Jersey Regional Fireboat Task Force (NJRFTF) was activated with the assistance of a central dispatch center located in Union City.
Last Tuesday morning, local and federal officials assembled at the Chart House Restaurant in Weehawken, New Jersey for a maritime tradition: the Blessing of the Fleet. This was a pet project of the U.S. Coast Guard and some local fire officials.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner introduced the many dignitaries that were assembled. U.S. Coast Guard Commander Mike Day described the task force as a “great concept.” This is the first marine task force of its kind in the country.
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“I couldn’t be more proud of the people responsible for this,” he added.
Along with the US Coast Guard, the municipal fire departments involved include: Bayonne, Carteret, Edgewater, Elizabeth, Hoboken, Jersey City, Kearny, Linden, Newark, North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, Perth Amboy, and Secaucus. In addition, units from the New Jersey State Police, New York City Police Department, and Fire Department of New York (FDNY) answer emergency calls. The boats are dispatched to the calls by the North Hudson Regional Communications Center, know as Fire Control.
Collectively, these departments provide fire protection and other emergency services over a 50-mile stretch of waterfront within the Port of New York and New Jersey. Commander Day said the task force handles an average of eight emergency calls a month.
It was also brought to the assembly’s attention that the Chart House Restaurant was the scene of a serious multiple-alarm fire in the 1990s. This blaze occurred before the five municipalities of Weehawken, Union City, North Bergen, West New York, and Guttenberg merged to form the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue. The were no New Jersey fireboats to respond to this fire at the time. The FDNY came in with their big guns to help quell the flames.
When officials completed their speeches, all were invited outside, to the end of the restaurant, as each fireboat in the task force passed by and was bless by local members of the clergy. FDNY’s Marine 1, the “Three-Forty-Three,” provided a water display in the center of the Hudson as the New Jersey boast passed by.
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