John Varallo, President of the Atlantic City Professional Firefighters Local #198 has revealed some disturbing results regarding a fleet review of Atlantic City Fire Department (ACFD) apparatus were revealed to the public for the first time.

Additional Atlantic City Fire Department sources have also confirmed that the following observations and findings were supervised and reviewed by the State of New Jersey.

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The Atlantic City Fire Department fleet inspections took place on June 28, 2021, and July 12, 2021. These inspections are required and take place on an annual basis.

We have confirmed that 5 Atlantic City Engine/Pumpers failed the annual pump test that is required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as follows:

  • Engine 2: which is a 14-year-old, 2007 American LaFrance
  • Engine 3: A 20-year-old, 2001 American LaFrance
  • Engine 4: A 19-year-old, 2002 American LaFrance
  • Engine 5: A 23-year-old, 1998 Peirce
  • Engine 7: A 20-year-old, 2001 American LaFrance

Two Reserve Engines also failed the inspection:

  • Engine 24: A 17-year-old, 2004 AmericanaFrance reserve Engine
  • Engine 26: A 31-year-old, 1990 Seagrave reserve engine

There was also a finding that Engine 26 cannot be repaired to meet the required standards.

The report confirmed that repairs were made to 5 Engines, in order to pass annual pump tests.

The failure of the tests is documented and provides direct evidence of the unreliability of the Engine/Pumpers in the Atlantic City Fire Department fleet.

Varallo confirmed that Atlantic City Fire Department apparatuses have “broken down during actual fire calls,” said Varallo.

Varallo also stated that because of the fire apparatus breaking down, the Atlantic City Fire Department can lose control in terms of response time in order to be able to perform at the safest level.

Varallo said that one whole section of Atlantic City, from California to Jackson Avenues is very vulnerable at the present time because a 33-year-old piece of equipment is being used to respond, with other smaller vehicles trailing.

“Our response times are negatively affected,” said Varallo, “We have limited capabilities when fire companies are shut down."

Here is one example of equipment that has failed. It happens to be a photograph from the Ventnor Engine (on loan to Atlantic City) that presently serves Atlantic City Fire Station #5.

It is clearly tagged “failed.” Here is the proof.

Ventnor City Engine - Harry Hurley photo.
Ventnor City Engine - Harry Hurley photo.

The State of New Jersey has confirmed that over the past four years, most Atlantic City Engine/Pumpers have failed during the annual testing process always requiring repairs to be made in order to pass the safety issues during the fleet review.

One of the most alarming findings by the state was that the unreliability of the ACFD apparatus to perform and operate properly in emergency incidents endangers firefighters and causes unnecessary property loss for residents.

The inspections also note that these specific deficiencies regarding a lack of updated ACFD safety systems exist:

  • Rollover protection
  • Full seatbelts, not just lap belts
  • Collusion restraint systems
  • Adhere to NFPA Standard 1901
  • Apparatus replacement scheduling
  • Equipment with 8-10 years of service should be retired

It is recommended that apparatus with 8 to 20 years of service, based upon use and maintenance should be retired.

The NFPA recommends not to have reserve equipment used as frontline apparatus as often as Atlantic City does which currently is 70% of the time.

The state concluded that the failure to not recommend the replacement of the 5 Engines impacts the safety of Atlantic City firefighters and residents.

As such, the state recommended that command staff move forward to evaluate, review and spec out new ladder apparatus.

Varallo confirmed that “Engine 7 is closed and Rescue 1 is closed."

This is a typical day in the life of the Atlantic City professional fire department.

SOURCES: Atlantic City Fire Department, Interviews with Tom Foley and John Varallo & various New Jersey state sources.

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