The Year 2020
With the year 2020 coming to a close, a lot of the world is hoping that it comes to an end sooner than others or to “put 2020 in the past”; while others are still holding on to every day of their lives.
Coming into 2020 as my first year as Chief of the Delran Fire Department, I certainly expected many of things to come in the way of operational needs and necessities and also administrative duties and fulfillments. As always, the health and safety of my members along with the community residents during any incident, drill and event is always paramount! Never would I think that it would be from a pandemic such as COVID-19.
From the beginning of the Pandemic, support came in many ways; from the ranking officers of the department, both in Operations and Administrative, all the way to the members that help to make our department strong every day! We all knew that we had to work together to help fight the spread of COVID-19 anyway possible to help keep ourselves, our families, and the friends and families of the community out on the street safe during incidents and interactions.
Since the middle of March, we have all done our part every day; from taking our temperatures each and every time we come to the stations, to decontaminating the stations and the apparatus practically on an everyday basis if not multiple times a day if needed. So many departments have shared information and communications on any type of updates that may be pertinent to help us be safer, both to our members and their families, and to the residents of our town and neighboring towns that we help protect.
With gatherings being cancelled and family interactions being limited, this brought hard times on many families across the nation. Birthday parties and anniversaries had to be missed or postponed, sporting events were cancelled, and school ceremonies being restructured to celebrate accomplishment. We all felt the sense of wanting to do more for those that missed out on a lot in the past 9 months. Then birthday drive-bys became the new celebration of social distancing! The department immediately was asked to participate in these events and without hesitation we certainly joined in; completing well over 70+ to date!! The sound of sirens and air horns quickly became almost a normal thing to hear on the weekend days, but not just for emergencies, but for celebrating special events for people of all ages! It certainly showed how communities can come together to help to make someone’s day just a little bit better when times are tough!
On top of the pandemic, all of the officers of each station were still tasked with taking care of everyday operations as part of their normal duties. Whether it be training hours to obtain, meetings to attend and facilitate, incidents to respond to at all hours of the day and night and crews to be in charge of, vendors to schedule repairs and renovations with and meet with, or a multitude of other items that came throughout the year; they all met and exceeded these tasks. To say the officers have been outstanding this year and every year would be an understatement to the time and dedication that they give to the department.
Its not only the officers that have made a big impact to the department this year. The members that help to make up the volunteers of the department were patient with “the new norm” in temperature taking, sanitization of the stations and apparatus, new operational standards to meet social distancing protocols, and most importantly the mask wearing. This all being done while still meeting or exceeding criteria’s such as meetings and duty crews to attend, drills to partake in, incidents to respond to and events to help with. These volunteers take time away from their families every day to help either those possibly having the worst day of their lives, or bring a smile to a young child’s face for their birthday, or help celebrate milestones for those that thought a celebration couldn’t happen.
We look forward to the year 2021 to not “just put this year behind us”, but to learn of everything that we experienced in 2020 and capitalize on it to better ourselves and those that we interact with. We will continue to train, to be sure that we are there to serve the township residents of Delran and the surround communities, we will continue to respond to all incidents quickly and efficiently, and we will always provide, in our capacity, the highest degree of service in order to preserve and protect life and property from the devastation of fire and other life-threatening emergencies! That is our mission of the Delran Fire Department.
On behalf of all of brave and dedicated men and women of the Delran Fire Department and from my family to yours everywhere, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!! Be safe, be humble, and be well!!
Kevin F. Peak
Chief of the Department
Delran Fire Department; Fire District #1
I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday!
With fall leaves falling and leaves being gathered up and placed out to the curb for collection, it’s a reminder and a must that you do not park on top of piles of leaves, no matter how big the pile or how long you will be parked there. It takes only minutes for leaves to come into contact with hot exhaust, brakes, and other components of your vehicle to spark a fire. Even small piles can have leaves kicked up and then spark off a small ember to have light off the rest of the pile. There have been other incidents around the county and outside of the county that this has happened, so don’t let this happen to you! On top of not parking over top of piles of leaves, do not let your children or pets play in roadside leaf piles. These are great hiding spots for sure to win a game of Hide and Seek, but they also post a grave danger. Its best to talk to your children of the dangers and recommend other spots to hide and play.
If you are going to have a live tree in your house this year for the holidays, be sure to keep it watered daily! A few other tips for your tree are:
- Watering it daily will lessen the chance of it being dried out and be more prone to ignite in the event of a fire or electrical issue.
- Be sure that you use UL Listed Christmas lights and pay attention to indoor/outdoor usage. If your tree is artificial, be sure that it also is UL Listed and Flame Resistant.
- Check your Christmas lights for wear and tear. Purchase new stands or lights if these show signs of fatigue.
- Don’t over load your electrical sockets. Try to keep your stand of lights to three strands or less in a row.
- Position your Christmas tree at least three feet away from heat sources that could cause a fire.
With winter months come usually inclement weather. Keep an eye on weather channels and also our Facebook pages to keep up with changing conditions during storms. If your able to, keep your walk ways and paths clear for the instance there is an emergency where Police, Fire and/or EMS need to get to your house. If you know someone who isn’t able to get outside to do this, help out a neighbor or a friend and clear a path for both them and first responders. Another thing to keep clear are fire hydrants! Clearing at least 3 feet all the way around the hydrant will give us visibility of the hydrant and also ample working room around the hydrant in the event of an emergency. Taking steps these steps and other holiday safety tips can help to assure you a little more for a happy holiday and a Happy New Year.
As always if you have any questions you can contact our Fire Prevention office at 865-461-5474 and someone will be able to assist you with any questions or message up on our Delran Fire Department Facebook page for personal one on one talk with an fire department line officer.
Below are a few links you can check out for holiday safety:
opens in a new windowhttps://youtu.be/15hecMK6RQg – Christmas Tree Safety
From Our Families to yours; hope you have a great, safe and healthy holiday season!
Kevin F. Peak, Chief of the Department
The End Of Volunteering
As I started thinking about collaborating words to paper one last time as Battalion Chief of Station 231, I considered what topic to which I should articulate into the image of the reader’s mind. After considering several topics I decided to pay homage to the many members that had paved the road before me, the people that inspired and guided me in my early days of firefighting, and to look at the end of a volunteer’s career.
Unlike most professions, the fire service is one that has professional volunteers. In this I mean, people that take great pride in honing their skills and developing their talents to be the best they can be for little or no pay. They not only respond to a call for help at any given time of day or night, but train for endless hours to make sure that when the time comes, they are ready to answer that call. They stay on top of everything from the latest tool that comes out, to the old school ways of putting the “wet stuff on the red stuff”. There are thousands upon thousands of people that volunteer every day in the USA and give their whole lives to the profession that has no end. Most careers today you work for period of time and then look forward to a retirement with a pension or a sizable 401k to live off of. But in the realm of volunteer firefighting, you serve your time (some people for fifty years or more) and then just slowly fade away.
Whatever the reason, people find themselves at a turning point in their lives. The loss of heath and old age is probably the hardest one of all to accept by the truly dedicated ones. It’s hard to find in yourself the want to serve, this slowly becomes overwhelmed by the inability to serve. The heart and mind still stir every time the pager goes off only to have the body shout out loud and clear that you are not the young high school kid you use to be. That you aren’t capable to run the 5 blocks to the fire house to hop on a truck and still be able to function. But instead, today you are the old man that huffs and puffs just to get in the car and drive to the station. Waking up in the middle of the night to respond to the call for help, now takes minutes not seconds for you to get dress and out the door. The stair steps you use to run up and down are now a daily challenge to negotiate just to live your life. Firefighting is a young man’s game. The physical effects that are imposed on the body while battling a fire or working a rescue take their toll.
With fifty years in the service, I have seen a lot of good people come and go in our department. Many of which gave their whole lives to the service. Responding to calls, day and night, leaving family and friends behind to help others. Many leaving jobs and sacrificing pay to come to the aid of others. But yet when they reach that time, there is no fanfare. They just slowly start to fade away.
One of my strongest memory of this is of a past chief of Delran Fire Company No.1, Horace Mc Curdy. Horace was one of those people that you could almost always count on to respond to a call. Day or night and after serving his term as chief he became that person that always showed up to drive leaving his business sometimes for hours on end to make sure the trucks got out. But as he got older, he faded away like many others who had gone before him. None of them ever officially retiring. I know that at least some of us miss them coming around. The world changes, yes! But the wealth of history lost by the fading away of these members is a shame. Today, firefighting has changed so much, even since I first started back in 1971 but the memories, I have of the older members will never be gone. The shame of it all is, that many fade into black over the years only to be recognized when they die. People like Horace Anderson who was Station Chief when I started my career and Joe Leusner, Sr, who always had only the best things to say about the Fire Department and its members. Both of them passing way this past year. They taught me so much as I began my world of firefighting.
People like my uncle Mike Ely who helped lay the building blocks of the old firehouse. It was he that helped orchestrate me getting my nick name “The Boy” as he would always be asking my father “Where’s the boy?” or “How’s the boy?” It wasn’t long before “The Boy” meant me. They had so many stories to tell that are now lost forever.
Lastly to my greatest lost memory, my father, who too was a past chief of the Delran Fire Company No. 1 and a Commissioner. Your words have come to light to me in this past year. You told me when I asked how do you know it’s time to hanging up my helmet, that “When the time comes you will know it.” Dad, you were right. And with everything happening in this world today with the virus and firefighters having to think about wearing body armor, I know! So, I have decided it’s time for me to start fading away as well. This year I am giving up my position as Battalion Chief to allow a younger, more able group to take over the helm. I am not planning of disappearing just yet, but let’s just say I’m not looking to be one of the top responders anymore. My love of the fire service will never die and my respect for the great people I have met over my years in the service will always be of great pride and respect. I would like to thank the DFD and its members for the respect you have shown me and for fun time we have shared together. Even though, sometimes those fun times were being in the most dangerous of places. But it was still fun.
I say Thank You and may God bless the DFD.
Forman M. Shemeley, III
Through the smoke and flames they raise to the challenge
From the beginning in 1916 until sometime around 1982 whenever there was a need for an aerial ladder truck to fight a fire or to make a rescue from a high place in Delran. The Delran Fire Department would have to rely on towns such as Riverside or Palmyra to supply one through a mutual aid agreement. Of course, there was some delay back then because it was usually a “call once we got there and found we needed it situation”. Back then each town had their own dispatchers and, in some cases, their own radio frequencies. Not to mention they all had their own type of hose.
Today it’s not like that thank goodness. Today we automatically get multiple companies dispatched from a central dispatching system throughout the whole county. Thanks to national standardization we also pretty much use the same types of hose.
That being said, around 1978, the members of Delran Fire Company No. 1 started to petition The Delran Board of Fire Commissioners to allow for the purchase of a ladder truck. This wasn’t easy task to convince them. The Commissioners made us prove that there was a need for a ladder truck in our town. We had to show them that the town was growing and that even though the tallest structure in town was only scheduled to be 4 stories, we needed 100ft to reach. So, using basic geometry we showed how 100ft of ladder would be used up quickly on a call trying to reach a structure. In the end they felt we proved our point and felt that they could justify the purchase to the town.
In April of 1979 the dream came true and we took ownership of a used 1967 American La France 100ft Aerial Ladder from the Abington Fire Department in Abington Pa. The cost of this truck was $69,.000, which even for that time was a lot less than the $200,000 a new one would have cost. Of course, there was some added cost incurred as the concrete apron in front of the station had to be adjusted to allow the truck to make it into the station but that would have become an issue in later years anyway as the size of fire trucks continued to grow. This ladder responding to large scale calls not only for us and but our surrounding towns as well. Many times, our ladder was the story picture in the newspaper. By 1993 this 1960’s ladder had proved its worth but had started to show signs of wear and tear. So again, the Commissioners were approached to secure the funds to replace this useful piece of equipment.
In 1994 a new Supthen 100ft mid-ship ladder tower was purchase and placed in service. This new ladder had many new safety features and was easier and quicker to set up. Plus, it had the advantage of having a bucket to work from. The cost of this new truck was a whopping $750,000. This newer truck has served us well over the years. Responding to calls as far away as Trenton NJ and as big as the Dietz and Watson fire in Delanco in September 2013. It has been used for all kinds of things besides fighting fires as well. It has been called upon to be a high point for rescues, the occasional cat in the tree and the honor of flying our country’s flag at all kinds of events. These events are usually to honor a fallen hero. But on some cases, it has been used to welcome home a hero as well.
By Battalion Chief
Forman M. Shemeley III
Slow Down. Move Over. Be Safe
With the months of October and November comes a lot to be aware about! On top of the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving and daylight savings within those months, there are two major items that come up in these months that should always be a priority: Fire Safety Week and National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week.
Fire Safety Week is always held during the week of the 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire which began on October 8th, 1871 and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed over 17,000 Structures. Fire safety week, even though it has since passed and is only one week a year, should always be practiced. Have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, charged and ready fire extinguishers, always keep your cooking attended and making a “kid-safe” area while cooking with hot food or drink preparation, and have and practice a home fire escape plan! These are just a few conversation points that you can have with your family.
National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week is coming up November 9th to November 15, 2020. As with years in the past and incidents still constantly happening nationwide, the stress on 6 key words are imposed more this week; those are Slow Down. Move Over. Be Safe. Each driver and passenger on the roads have their role to play in this matter. If you see emergency personnel in the roadway or on the shoulders of a road, slow down and move over. This goes for more than just police, fire and EMS personnel. This extends to construction workers, tow truck operators, DOT Personnel, etc. Do you part in helping to lessen these types of incidents and tragedies. Slow down. Move over. Be Safe!
Chief Kevin Peak
We’ve come a long way baby
Back around the year 1916 a group of people gathered in a garage with one thing in mind. That was the common interest of protecting our town from the effects of uncontrolled fire. These were to become the first members of Delran Fire Company #1. It was hard during the first years begging a penny here a dime there to raise money to purchase equipment. The members today will never know or even truly understand how hard those first members had to work to make it happen. Today the Delran Board of Fire Commissioners provide us with the very best of equipment to do our jobs efficiently, effectively, and safely.
Back in the early days the male only members, would along with their wives and families held dinners to raise money to buy trucks, coats and boots. Pictured are some of the tickets sold for the dinners.
Talk about hygiene, back then, there was no gear for each member. There was maybe five sets of boots and coats hanging on the fire truck that was a “first come first get” situation. You were lucky if your size 8 foot wasn’t in a size 12 boot or worst going the other way.
Back then, it was considered unladylike for women to partake in the business of firefighting. So, for the ladies there was the Ladies Auxiliary. They worked harder than the men baking and cooking goods to sell to the public to help raise money. Today, however, women are a very big part of the fire service. Many proving better than the men. In fact, Delran Fire Department can boast that we had one of the first female Fire Chief in the State of New Jersey.
Donations like the dinners, where a big part of how the Bridgeboro Fire Company got started. But as the town grew and the demands of what the fire service was requested to do, also grew, it became harder and harder to provide the equipment needed on donations alone. Many of the then growing population of Delran were people coming from the cities, they had never heard of “VOLUNTEER” Fire Departments and would look at the members crossed eyed when they came door to door begging for money. So, in the late 1960’s early 1970’s the two fire companies in town got together and proceeded to form The Delran Fire Commission to oversee the collection of tax money to provide the residents with the services that were needed and in doing so became one fire department with two stations.
Today, Delran Fire Department is called upon to respond to all kinds of incidents. Of course, we still are equipped and trained to fight fire but we also have to equip and train to respond to accidents, Hazardous Materials incidents, rescues of all sorts, and yes, even the occasional old “cat in the tree”.
Firefighters today spend countless hours training preparing to respond to any call for help. We take pride in being able to figure out the toughest of problems. In the first years of the fire companies, they maybe ran 50 calls a year. In the last few years that number has grown to 600 to 700 calls a year. Meanwhile the number of people volunteering has declined, putting that added load on the ones that do. Meaning that the members of both stations leave whatever they are doing, any time, day or night to answer the call of duty. Sometimes two or three times a day. Leaving their own families in the middle of special events or in the middle of storms to respond to the calls for help from the town folk. In bad storms these members have been known to live at the firehouse for days and only go home to change clothes and take a shower.
So yes, we have come a long way baby! The founding fathers of our century old station would never imagine the duties and responsibilities that are place on the fire service today. They would have never thought of us responding to the countless fire alarms and CO alarms we respond to every year. But I know, as far as we have come today, tomorrow is what we as the Delran Fire Department will prepare for.
Thank you and may you find yourself better tomorrow than you are today.
Battalion Chief Forman M. Shemeley III
On Monday October 26th, the Delran Fire Department gathered for a rescue tool demo, put on by ESI. We are always interested in learning about the tools we work with everyday along with what we may purchase in the near future.
Josh Stellwag, Battalion Chief/EMT
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