2006-10-04 / Front Page

Chief develops five-year plan for fire department

Cites equipment purchase and opportunities for teenagers as priorities

Staff Writer

FREEHOLD - When Bill Maushardt was sworn in as chief of the Freehold Fire Department, he made a promise to serve and protect residents and property and to make certain Freehold's volunteer firefighters would have the proper equipment and education to be able to do that job.

Since then, Maushardt, 60, a former member of the Borough Council, has been working on a five-year plan for the fire department. He attended a recent meeting of the Borough Council to discuss his goals. The chief said rescue equipment is high on the list.

Maushardt said the fire department was recently evaluated by representatives of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and all of its equipment and gear was approved. The chief said that during the evaluation he realized how much equipment and gear were on hand and set about conducting an inventory of the items.

While doing so, Maushardt said he determined that 34 pieces of self-contained breathing apparatus will expire and reach maximum life expectancy by 2009.

"After 15 years, the government said they cannot take a chance that the units will not work to full capacity," the chief told council members.

Although the apparatus that accompanies the air bottles will not have to be replaced, the air bottles alone will run $875 each.

Rather than waiting until 2009 for the inevitable, Maushardt said he would like to begin buying extra air bottles each year instead of handing the council a bill for $40,000 in 2009.

In terms of vehicle needs, Maushardt said he became aware that the Freehold Township Independent Fire Company may have a rescue truck available for purchase. He said Councilwoman Sharon Shutzer and Councilman Michael DiBenedetto, who serve as the fire commissioners, advised him to come before the council.

Maushardt was eventually given permission to put his request for information about the truck in writing to the Freehold Township fire company.

The chief also said he would like to purchase extrication equipment for the fire department. Although the Freehold First Aid and Emergency Squad has a tool that is commonly referred to as the "Jaws of Life," Maushardt said he believes the fire department should also have that tool available. He said he wants to purchase the tool and train firefighters in using it.

He expressed concern about the declining membership of the volunteer fire department and volunteer first aid squad. Maushardt said he believes extricating people from vehicles will become the job of the fire department during the day, in addition to the first aid squad, because there is always someone on duty in the fire department and that is not the case with the first aid squad.

The chief said he sees "volunteerism going in a different direction."

In conjunction with his concern for the declining number of volunteers, Maushardt has decided to revisit the junior firefighters program that was in existence 12 years ago. The program allowed 16-year-olds who are interested in the fire department to train and become members. He has already created a committee of young firefighters and veteran firefighters to research this project.

He said he will visit Freehold High School and distribute fliers in an effort to let teenagers know about the program.

Maushardt said the fire department does more than respond to fires. Equipment and firefighters responded to 425 calls this year. Calls include motor vehicle accidents, downed wires during storms, fire and carbon-monoxide-detector alarms. The fire companies also give mutual aid to surrounding municipalities.

Maushardt has a background in banking. He worked for Wachovia for 35 years and retired as a vice president. He is the 61st chief of the Freehold Fire Department. He has been with the department's Good Will Hook and Ladder Company for 36 years and works as a dispatcher. Maushardt's term as chief will carry him through to 2008.

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