Former FDNY commissioner on volunteer firefighters in New Jersey

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A former FDNY commissioner is suggesting that it's time to beef up the professional volunteer fire departments that most of New Jersey's towns depend on, even bring on some paid firefighters.

Tom Von Essen was the fire commissioner on September 11th 2001. He told Eyewitness News Anchor Bill Ritter that while volunteers are crucial to saving lives, with the huge apartment complexes now dotting the Hudson River, many of the small towns aren't small towns anymore.

"Is it time then Tom to rethink how we're staffing these departments and bring in more paid firefighters?" Ritter said.

"As you have more and more people and the density of the population just keeps getting heavier, you have to get more resources to a fire quicker. And getting a line five stories is not easy; you need a lot of people to do that. And if it's four in the afternoon and not enough guys show up, you know when you have a career group or a paid group, you know how many guys you have," Von Essen said.

Von Essen says the country could not exist without volunteers who represent 80% of the nation's firefighters.

The question he's raising is whether some of these volunteer departments should be beefed up and use more career firefighters.

It's costly and it's unclear whether taxpayers will want to foot the bill.

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