The Hoboken Fire Department readies for waterfront concerns

Marine division to join new task force
The Hoboken Fire Department trains aboard Marine 1 monthly.
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The Hoboken Fire Department trains aboard Marine 1 monthly.

The Hoboken Fire Department will join a new regional task force, the North Jersey Regional Fireboat Task Force, this summer. The purpose of the task force, a joint effort of 12 municipalities extending south from the George Washington Bridge to Perth Amboy, is to mutually assist each other in times of emergency. For the past two years, the department’s marine division has trained and shared resources with neighboring municipalities and the U.S. Coast Guard in preparation for the new arrangement.
According to Battalion Chief Brian Crimmins, supervisor of the department’s marine division, the Coast Guard training has been instrumental in preparation for the task force.
“We’re regionalizing our marine assets in Northern New Jersey covering approximately 50 miles of waterfront,” said Crimmins. “As part of the task force we get access to their boats and inventory in case of an emergency or a situation in which we need help or they do. We have one boat and Jersey City has three times the hardware we do, so it gives us access to their resources if needed.”
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“Cooperation has skyrocketed, so the fact that the fire departments have regionalized speaks volumes.” – Brian Crimmins
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Crimmins said he doesn’t believe this camaraderie and cooperation would have been possible in the past.
“Since September 11 happened, business is very different in our industry,” said Crimmins. “There aren’t issues with agencies fighting over territories. Cooperation has skyrocketed, so the fact that the fire departments have regionalized speaks volumes. This wouldn’t have happened before 2001.”
Firefighters of Ladder Company 1, the fire station at 1313 Washington St. in uptown Hoboken, are cross-trained to handle maritime situations, which Crimmins said covers a wide variety of issues.
“The marine division deals with everything, from someone who has jumped in the water, to towing, to a ferry crashing into the dock, search and rescues, to removing large pieces of junk from the river which makes it hard to navigate,” said Crimmins.
“We are not ‘Baywatch’…it is a service that goes unnoticed,” said Provisional Fire Chief Anton Peskens.
According to Crimmins the task force came in handy twice in recent months, during the Sept. 29, 2016 train crash when fireboats from Hoboken and Jersey City protected the terminal from the marine side, and when two bodies were spotted in the Weehawken cove this past April.
“We got a call of two persons in the water,” said Crimmins. “It turned out they had perished, but the Hoboken Fire Department as well as the North Hudson Fire Department were part of the rescue effort.”

Training

Since the task force’s unofficial formation, Crimmins said his division often goes through training exercises with its neighbors.
“The task force and training with the Coast Guard has been a tremendous benefit to the fire fighting crew,” said Crimmins. “Our fire fighting is enhanced, we see different points of view on how to handle certain situations and get useful contacts. You don’t want your first conversation with the Coast Guard to be during an emergency situation.”
The Hoboken Fire Department also trains with agencies in New York City and uses boat simulators.
“The NYPD has a boat simulator and what the task force has done is create lesson plans with the assistance of [the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA] which uses that simulator,” said Crimmins.
“The Coast Guard put the network together and operations are streamlined and consolidated. We send members to get Coast Guard licenses, which are not required, but the training is 100 percent useful.”

Future concerns

“FEMA recognizes Hoboken has critical infrastructure on its shorelines,” said Peskens. “We have a lot of infrastructure on our waterfront. As a waterfront community the Marine division is an absolute need.”
Before now, Hoboken had a marine division which used a “hand me down pleasure craft retrofitted with equipment,” according to Peskens.
Crimmins said that under Peskens and with help from a FEMA grant the marine division was able to purchase a new boat two years ago.
Crimmins said that the water will continue to get busier with recreational activities such as jet skiing, paddle boarding, and kayaking.
“Now that the Bayonne Bridge is lifted we will be seeing a lot more and larger container vessels in the next couple of months,” said Crimmins. “With that you get increased traffic, potential for more debris in the river, possible oil spills, or blockage of the Hudson River. We don’t expect any of this to ever happen, but through this training and work with the task force we are prepared to handle any number of these situations. We are interested in keeping the water as safe as possible. ”
To notify the fire department of a non-emergency marine issue, contact (201) 420-2004.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.