1 Paid, 4 Volunteer Departments Join in Mutual Aid System
Although mutual aid is not unusual, members of CREW, a mutual aid association formed in 1965, feel their organization has a uniqueness that can benefit other fire departments.
The five-town New Jersey organization, which includes Carlstadt, Rutherford, East Rutherford, Wallington and Passaic, is unique in that while the first four towns have volunteer fire departments, Passaic has a paid department.
On a CREW call, the Passaic Fire Department gains easily accessible back-up units and does not have to strip the rest of the city of fire protection. The setup also serves to cut recall of off-duty men. The volunteer departments gain professional experience as well as full crews, a most important asset since they lack manpower in the daytime.
Under the CREW arrangement, no town is ever left completely without coverage. All pieces of fire equipment within each town are designated as CREW apparatus and all chiefs have a list of what each town has available.
CREW fire chiefs meet monthly to discuss pre-fire plans, drills and common problems. Also, monthly drills in which all members participate are held. These drills feature guest speakers during winter months. During the spring and summer, firemen hold wet drills in areas with high fire risks. One of the most important phases of the drills is the opportunity for different towns to work together under fireground conditions. The chiefs are able to evaluate the performance of each unit and the mutual aid system as a whole.
Also resolved during drills are communication problems, something which plagues many mutual aid calls.
The drills are held on a rotation basis in all five towns and help to develop comradeship among fire fighters and a sense of security for the many townspeople who quite often turn out to see CREW in action.