As reported by nj.com, a Democratic state senator said that Governor Chris Christie is looking into eliminating the Division of Fire Safety, which is responsible for enforcing the state fire code, education programs, and firefighter training. In a news release criticizing the plan, Senator Jim Whelan said the administration wants to divide the duties of the office across state government, though the discussions have not been made public.
The governor’s office declined to comment, and referred questions to the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the Division of Fire Safety. Hollie Gilroy, a spokeswoman for the department, did not dispute that such a move was under consideration, but said no decisions have been made.
“Reorganizations are always discussed, but those considerations are preliminary and no decisions have been made,” Gilroy said in an email. “As we consider increasing efficiencies and decreasing redundancies in government, the number one priority will always be the people the Department is charged with protecting and serving.”
Whelan called on the Christie administration to disclose more details about eliminating the office and to conduct the planning in public. “The Christie Administration needs to answer some questions about their proposal and any further discussions on it should be done in public,” Whelan said in a statement.
Dominick Marino, president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of New Jersey, said he is concerned that discussions are taking place about disbanding an agency that is crucial to the public’s safety. In addition to investigating large fires or firefighter injuries, he said the division provides a centralized location for municipalities to contact the state.
“The Division of Fire Safety is a very valuable division for the fire services, for both paid and volunteer,” Marino said. “We all know what happens when you divide things in state government, they get lost in the shuffle and the fire service will be hurt by that.”
Whelan, a former mayor of Atlantic City, said it does not appear to him that eliminating the office will be getting rid of redundancies. “As a former mayor of an urban area, I can attest to the importance of coordinated firefighting and investigative efforts,” Whelan said. “The division often plays a crucial component in those areas. I will await to hear the administration’s response, but I fail to see the logic of this proposal.”