Less fires – more paid firemen

Can Hoboken save? With less fires – hire less firemen?

Stumbled across this interesting article about fire statistics over the past 35 years in America. We have less fires than ever in this country, yet 50% MORE paid firemen!

The chart below shows that in 1980 – we (America) had 225k paid firefighters, who handled close to 2.4 million working fire calls. And today – we have 340k paid firefighters, but for over a million less fires (1.37 million)! 50% more paid firefighters for 40% less fires.

career fire fighters Hoboken NJ

(note that the number of “volunteer” (read: free) firefighters has actually gone down…)

Firefighters doing a lot less “fire” work?

There has long been a fierce debate about “public safety” workers. With the divide between those who support and are against getting deeper by the week. Many feel life would be over without these paid (and pensioned) first-responders, while on the flip-side, the pensions are bleeding the property taxpayers dry. Pick your poison.

However, apparently what fire-fighters are doing is respond to medical calls, up over 300% in the past few decades, and close to 80% of all calls? Are they fire-fighters or medics?

“Whenever you see six firefighters standing around at a fender bender accident scene remember that it costs you the taxpayer approximately $3,500 every time a fire engine leaves the station.”

fire fighters respond to mostly medical calls

How would you fix the exorbitant cost for fire safety in Hoboken?

This is a tricky fine line to walk. How would you handle, or reduce the cost to a mile-square city? The annual pay and pensions for the fire department is over $10 million per year here in Hoboken.

Would we ever be able to switch to a 100% volunteer model? And over the next few decades next to eliminate the growing (and virtually unsustainable) pension payouts?

Would volunteer firefighters be incapable of handling a row-house blaze? How do most other cities (85%) “survive” with volunteer fire departments?

There are many questions like this out there in cities across the country. And a very tough problem to solve. Because with unions, “votes” and much more (sabotage, threats), there will always be a VERY big loser somewhere if the “honey” was removed from the “pot.”

Who is strong enough to solve this conundrum?

See more stats here: usfa.fema.gov/statistics/estimates/nfpa/

Hoboken Volunteer Fire Fighters

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2 Comments on "Less fires – more paid firemen"

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Sweet Thunder
Sweet Thunder

Cool image below with the firefighters, and an interesting write up on this issue. It is a huge waste if firefighters are responding to medical call with the big engines.


As with anything I think you need to look at those charts purely for Hoboken before making any sort of decision. If the Hoboken stats tell the same story, then the debate can start on whether or not it should be changed to a volunteer fire department, have the staff cut to a more logical number, or provide a mix of both.