Ordinance No. 21-13

Introduced: May 24, 2021
Public Hearing: June 14, 2021
Status: Adopted

Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, to Amend and Supplement Chapter 5, Article XII, “Department of Public Safety” and to Repeal and Replace Chapter 52 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon, “Fire Department” to Establish a Division of Fire Suppression

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon (hereinafter “Township”) has determined that there is a need to update the municipal code concerning the volunteer fire companies within the Township; and

WHEREAS, the Township has further determined that it is in the best interests of the Township to establish a Division of Fire Suppression within the Department of Public Safety.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 5 of the municipal code of the Township of Vernon is hereby amended and supplemented as follows:

§5-68. Organization of Department.

Within the Department of Public Safety, there shall be the following divisions in agencies:

  1. Division of Police
  2. Office of Emergency Management
  3. Division of Fire Suppression

§5-71. Division of Fire Suppression

Within the Department of Public Safety, there shall be a Division of Fire Suppression.

SECTION 2.Chapter 52 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon is repealed and replaced by the following:

Chapter 52 DIVISION OF FIRE SUPPRESSION

§52-1. Establishment of Division of Fire Suppression.

There shall be a Division of Fire Suppression within the Department of Public Safety.

§52-2. Volunteer Fire Companies.

The division of Fire Suppression shall be composed of four departments to be known as:

  1. Company # 1 - Vernon Township Fire Department
  2. Company # 2 - McAfee Fire Department
  3. Company # 3 - Highland Lakes Fire Department
  4. Company #4 - Pochuck Valley Fire Department

§52-3 Membership; Organization.

  1. The members and officers in the fire company’s shall be respectively members and officers of the Division of Fire Suppression of the Township of Vernon. In order to remain active members in good standing, members and officers shall faithfully perform the duties as firefighters, obey the bylaws of the Division of Fire Suppression, obey the Vernon Township Personnel Policy, their respective companies, and satisfy the attendance requirements of the company to which they belong. The company shall elect the officers of each Volunteer Fire Company and their name shall be submitted to the Mayor for confirmation of appointment. These elections and appointments shall take place per company bylaws.
  2. New member qualifications. New members in the Division of Fire Suppression shall make formal application to the appropriate company. An applicant must meet the following minimum qualifications:
    1. Be at least 18 years of age and have a valid N.J. driver’s license that is certified by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
    2. Shall pass a medical examination by a medical doctor, licensed in the state of New Jersey.
    3. Complete a background check with fingerprinting through the Vernon Police Department.
    4. Must meet Firefighter I training requirements, as outlined in 52 - 3 (C) (1).
  3. Firefighter I Requirements
    1. Newly-appointed firefighters must meet the Fire Fighter I training and certification requirements as set forth in N.J.A.C. 5:73-4.2, 5:73-4.3 and 5:73-4.4. Any applicant who does not meet this requirement may only be appointed as a probationary firefighter until the completion of a Fire Fighter I course approved by the Division of Fire Safety. The probationary period must not exceed two years.
  4. Exemptions. An individual applying to the Division of Fire Suppression with prior firefighting experience in another jurisdiction may be exempt from the above requirement if:
    1. The applicant provides certificates and course objectives from previous training.
    2. The courses meet the content requirements of the New Jersey Fire Fighter I training program.
    3. The NJ Division of Fire Safety approves the training course as meeting Fire Fighter I requirements.
  5. Only active fire fighters as defined in this chapter may be appointed as an officer within the Vernon Township Division of Fire Suppression.
  6. Responsibilities.
    1. It shall be the responsibility of the Fire Company Chief to assure that all fire fighters and their respective Fire Companies comply with this chapter.
    2. It shall be the responsibility of the Fire Company Chief to assure the documentation and course certificates of a probationary firefighters are forwarded to the Fire Commissioner.
    3. Upon receiving the appropriate paperwork from the Company Chief, the Fire Commissioner will assure that the probationary firefighter, including transfers from other jurisdictions, is appointed as an active firefighter by a Vernon Township Council Resolution.
    4. Any applicant who does not attend or successfully complete Fire Fighter I may be assigned by the Chief of the prospective company, to non-firematic duties.

§52-4. Junior Firefighters’ Program.

  1. Within the Division of Fire Suppression, there shall be a Junior Firefighters Program. The purpose of the program shall be to provide training for eventual membership in the Township’s Volunteer Fire companies. Training will be in accordance with an approved lesson plan, in order that all fire companies are providing the same or very similar training to junior members. Each Fire Company may have a maximum of 10 junior members to be appointed by the Mayor upon recommendation of the Fire Commissioner. Any applicants denied membership shall have the right to appeal pursuant to 52 - 7. Each Junior member shall:
    1. Be between the ages of 16 and 18 years.
    2. Present permission of the applicant’s parents or guardian. Such permission shall be in writing and acknowledge or approved in the manner required by law.
    3. Pass a medical examination by a qualified medical doctor, licensed in the state of New Jersey, establishing the physical capability to perform the duties of a junior firefighter in preparation for the Fire Fighter I Training.
  2. General rules. A junior member shall be required to observe the rules and regulations, by-laws of the Fire Suppression Division, SOPs/SOGs of the Fire Suppression Division, bylaws of the Township volunteer companies to which he or she is assigned and obey the Vernon Township Personnel Policy. These must be reviewed with each Junior Member by a Training Officer and signed by the Training Officer that this training was completed. They shall be expected to demonstrate an active interest in the fire company and its functions. Such members shall be required to observe the discipline and direction of the officers and members of the fire company. Junior members that are still in high school must maintain a “C” average or their appointment will be rescinded. They can be reinstated if they maintain a “C” average for two consecutive grading periods after they have failed to maintain their grade average.
  3. Training rules. A Junior Member shall be required to learn the basics of fire operations, including, but not limited to, the following, which must be presented in an approved lesson plan. This must be part of a Field Training Manual for each Junior Member that will be taught, reviewed and tested by a Training Officer.
    1. Fire pump operations.
    2. Ladder operations.
    3. Rescue procedures
    4. Use of breathing apparatus.
    5. Fire Suppression
    6. Fire ground tactics.
    7. Use of fire-fighting equipment.
  4. When the Training Officer is satisfied that the Junior Member has satisfactorily completed any part of the lesson plan, they must sign and date the completed segment of the training.
  5. Safety rules. Junior member shall not be allowed to perform duties, which would expose junior members to the same degree of hazard as a regular member of a Volunteer Fire Company.

§52-5. Auxiliary Members

  1. Within the Division of Fire Suppression, there shall be auxiliary members, who shall be subject to the following provisions:
    1. The purpose of establishing the position of auxiliary members within the Division of Fire Suppression shall be to supplement and administratively assist the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Companies in the performance of their duties.
    2. Each fire company within the Township may have auxiliary members to be appointed by resolution of the Township Council upon recommendation of the Fire Commissioner.
    3. Auxiliary members shall have no voting powers.
    4. Auxiliary members shall not be allowed to hold any offices within the Division of Fire Suppression.
    5. The status, administrative assignment and supervision of auxiliary members shall be under the control of the Incident Commander.

§52-6. Discipline of Members.

  1. Each Volunteer Fire Company shall have the right to bring disciplinary charges against a member and discipline its member pursuant to the rules and regulations or in accordance with the individual company’s by-laws that have been adopted by that company.
  2. If another department wishes to bring charges against another member, it needs to be done both verbally and in writing through the respective department Chiefs with a written copy sent to the Fire Commissioner. If still not resolved then it is to be brought to the Fire Chief’s Association.
  3. Each Volunteer Fire Company shall have the right to bring disciplinary charges against a member within the Division of Fire Suppression for committing any violation of SOPS/SOGs or Township Personnel Policies. Disciplinary charges shall be submitted to the Fire Commissioner and heard by three members of the Fire Chiefs Association, none of which can be members of the same company as the charged firefighter.

§52-7. Appeal by Aggrieved Members

Any member aggrieved by any disciplinary action or denial of membership by a volunteer fire company shall be entitled to an appeal from that decision, which must be filed within 30 days of the action taken by the fire company to the Fire Chief’s Association. On appeal, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to a full due process hearing, with said hearing being stenographically transcribed. Within 45 days of said hearing, the Fire Chief’s Association shall issue a written decision with regard to said appeal and so advise to the Fire Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. At that time, the Fire Commissioner and Deputy Fire Commissioner will review the transcript of the hearing and submit the decision of the Fire Chief’s Association to the Mayor. The Mayor shall, based upon the record of the hearing and the decision of the Fire Chief’s Association, act on the decision of the appeal.

§52-8. Fire Chiefs Association

The Fire Chiefs Association shall be recognized in the Township as the Firefighter’s Board of Directors to coordinate the day-to-day operations, finances, and equipment maintenance for the volunteer fire companies in the Township. The Fire Chief’s Association shall be made up of all current and ex chiefs and deputy/ assistant chiefs. All members of the chief’s association may attend meetings but only current chiefs and deputies/assistants, or their designee shall vote on Association business. The bylaws of the Fire Chiefs Association must be passed by Township Council resolution and then be on file in the Township Clerk’s Office.

  1. Each department will be in charge of their yearly operating budget which will be 1/4 of the total reimbursement from the town.
  2. A yearly capital budget will be prepared by the Fire Chiefs Association and presented by the Fire Commissioner to the Mayor and Vernon Township Council.

§52-9. Fire Commissioner; Deputy Fire Commissioner

  1. The Fire Commissioner shall be elected by the Fire Chiefs Association. Based upon the results of this election they shall be submitted to the Mayor for confirmation of this appointment, and shall serve for a term of two years, effective January 1st of even-numbered years and who shall report to the Chief’s Association.
  2. The Deputy Fire Commissioner shall be elected by the Fire Chiefs Association. Based upon the results of this election they shall be submitted to the Mayor for confirmation of this appointment, and shall serve for a term of two years. They shall be appointed for a term of two years, effective January 1st of odd-numbered years and shall report to the Chiefs Association.
  3. Qualifications. The Fire Commissioner or Deputy Fire Commissioner shall:
    1. Be a former or current Chief of one of the four Volunteer Fire Companies. They cannot hold a position of political office within the Township. They cannot be currently employed by the Township, with the exception of the position of Fire Fighter.
    2. Be active in the affairs of the Fire Chief’s Association and an attendee of at least 50% of their meetings during the year preceding appointment.
    3. Be an active member of their respective companies in good standing. They shall meet a minimum of 30% of their company calls and 50% of their company drills.
    4. Have been elected by the Fire Chief’s Association with the support of at least three of the four member companies. In the event of a tie, the outgoing Fire Commissioner or Deputy Fire Commissioner shall cast the deciding vote.
    5. Vacancies in an office shall be filled for the remainder of the current term by a special election held within the Fire Chief’s Association in accordance with the bylaws of the Fire Chief’s Association. In the event of a tie vote, the deciding vote shall be cast by an Ex-Chief of the host company where the special election is held by the Fire Chief’s Association.
    6. The Fire Commissioner and Deputy Fire Commissioner cannot be from the same Volunteer Fire Company.
  4. Duties of Fire Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner:
    1. Be the liaison officer between the Fire Chief’s Association and the Mayor.
    2. Give advice to and coordinate activities with each of the Township Fire companies. They shall exercise control at a company fire or other emergency only if requested to do so by the company officer in charge of the emergency. They may act on behalf of a company in the event of a fire or other emergency when no other qualified officer or a member of the company, capable of exercising control, is present.
    3. Serve as Fire Coordinator under Emergency Management.
    4. Report to the Mayor on the conditions and locations of all Township owned property, which is assigned to the fire companies.
    5. Maintain a record of all fire company owned property for which the Township has assumed the responsibility of maintenance.
    6. Neither the Fire Commissioner, nor the Deputy Fire Commissioner shall have the authority to spend any budgetary monies without prior approval of the Fire Chief’s Association.
    7. The Deputy Fire Commissioner shall assist a Fire Commissioner in the discharge of all his duties. In the absence of the Fire Commissioner, the Deputy Fire Commissioner shall act in his place with all the powers and duties of the Fire Commissioner.
  5. Removal of the Fire Commissioner and /or the Deputy Fire Commissioner.
    1. The Fire Chief’s Association may rescind its approval of the Fire Commissioner, or Deputy Fire Commissioner, by a vote of three of the four member companies, for just cause. The Mayor shall, confirm this decision within 15 days, however, if the Mayor disagrees with the removal, he will have the right to address the Fire Chiefs Association and request a new vote. If the result is the same after the second vote, the Mayor shall act on the decision and confirm the removal.
    2. The Mayor shall act on a recommendation from the Fire Chief’s Association, pursuant to subsection (E)(1) of this section.

§52-10. Clothing Allowance.

  1. The Township shall pay an annual clothing allowance to members of the Vernon Volunteer Fire Department, the Pochuck Valley Fire Department, the Highland Lakes Fire Department and the McAfee Fire Department, as set forth in this section.
  2. The allowances shall be based upon a 12-month period from January 1st to December 31st each year.
  3. The amount of the yearly clothing allowance shall be $300 per year.
  4. In order to be eligible for a clothing allowance the member must:
    1. Be a full, active member, 18 years old or older in good standing (junior members and auxiliary members are not eligible);
    2. Have 2 years of active service with the Department in which they serve;
    3. Be up to date on state-mandated training;
    4. Have attended 30% of emergency calls and 50% of all Department drill / training; and
    5. Have a valid New Jersey Driver’s License.
  5. The Chief or presiding officer of each department is responsible for the submission of the list of qualified members.
  6. The Chiefs and Department Treasurers are exempt from the above requirements and will automatically receive the stipend.
  7. No member is allowed to receive a stipend from more than one Department.
  8. All “run sheets” will be filed with the CFO and will be subject to audit.

SECTION 3. This ordinance shall take effect immediately upon final passage, approval, and publication by law.