Philadelphia firefighters plan to help the depleted fire department in Camden, New Jersey deal with catastrophes.
Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said it all started when he sat down with Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers to talk shop, a few days after Camden laid off 60 firefighters last month.”We started talking about the difference in radio frequencies and things like that–how we could communicate with each other, so we wanted to do a test,” said Harper.Harper sent out a memo letting his members know about the need for the testing, in case Philadelphia provided aid in extraordinary circumstances in the future. “We’re not talking about every day a unit from Philadelphia coming over here to provide resources to Camden,” said Harper. “We’ve worked on response together on the two bridges, we worked together on waterfront events. Our Fire Boat was out at the Red Bull Flugtag event that was on the Waterfront over the summer, we responded with the Duck Boat incident.”Bill Gault, the President of the Philadelphia Firefighters/Paramedics union, worried about the plan.”I think it’s asinine,” said Gault. “We’re already short-staffed here. We haven’t hired a new class in over three years–losing five guys a month just to attrition–we run out of medic units everyday in our own city. If it was something like a plane crashed into a building, I got no problem helping anybody, but for normal daily day-to-day operations, cities choose what they want for their fire protection. They chose that, that’s on them. What happens if one of my guys gets injured over there?”As for the radio test, Harper said it was successful – the Camden Fire Department can still communicate with its Philadelphia counterpart. Harper said his sit-down with Commissioner Ayers was a standard meeting between officials that’s been blown out of proportion.