The groundbreaking for a $2 million addition to the Washington Hook & Ladder Firehouse on County Avenue thrusts Secaucus into the modern age of firefighting, a department official said.
“It’s a new, modern era,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Schoch of the Secaucus Fire Department. “We’re updating our firehouses. We’re updating our equipment. We’re modernizing it.”
The groundbreaking for the facility, located at 272 County Ave., took place on Oct. 6, and was attended by Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Town Council members, fire chiefs, the fire department Project Committee, firefighters, architectural firm representatives, and residents.
In his remarks, Mayor Gonnelli noted how happy he was that upgrades were being made to the Washington Hook & Ladder house, which serves the town’s south end.
Gonnelli said that the developers of the XChange at Secaucus Junction donated a large portion of the funds to make the addition possible.
“(It’s) a significant portion, over $1 million,” Schoch said. “The large majority came from the development of the Xchange complex impact fee.”
“It’s a new, modern era.” – Deputy Chief Bryan Schoch
The upgrades include the construction of two fire apparatus bays, though only one will actually be added, because an existing fire bay on Lincoln Avenue will be changed into a day room for firefighters, according to Schoch.
“It will include a small kitchenette and couches, where firefighters can sit, wind down, and relax and talk about the call” they were just on, Schoch said.
The new bays will be longer and taller, with ceilings rising from 11 feet to 14, an absolute necessity in the era of bigger and better firefighting equipment.
“The new apparatus is built taller and longer than when that house was first built, in 1905,” Schoch said. “You used to be able to fit two side by side; now you can barely fit one.
“We had to modernize the firehouse to accept the newer fire apparatus being built now.”
Other upgrades to the firehouse are a second floor training room, and a multi-purpose room, which can be used for voting booths and mayoral meetings with residents, since it’s the only municipally-owned building in that section of Secaucus. In addition, the second floor will include a gym, captain’s office, and new bathroom facilities.
For the first time a firehouse in town will include an elevator, for when it’s open to the public for meetings or other visits. This feature keeps it in Americans with Disability Act compliance, according to Schoch.
“It’s tremendous,” Schoch said of all the changes. “A lot of firehouses hadn’t had any major renovations since they’d been built. Most of the buildings hadn’t been touched. It brings us up to date with the firefighting methods of today.”
Though the 272 County Ave. structure will be closed until completion, firefighting in the area will not be affected, according to Schoch, as personnel and equipment will be relocated to the motor vehicle inspection station on the same thoroughfare.
“We made a deal with the State of New Jersey until the firehouse is fully renovated,” he said.
Schoch said that a firehouse in the town’s north end is also undergoing renovations, with a day room being added. Engine 3 on Center Avenue will likely get a new roof next year to fix water leak problems. Additionally, a firehouse on Plaza Center Road in town center is projected to get a sizable storage shed, 12 feet by 28 feet, to house equipment.
Praise for fire management and staff
At the groundbreaking, the mayor thanked the fire chiefs and the committee for their participation in the planning and design phase, as well as for “all they and the firefighters do every day for the town.”
Secaucus is the only municipality in Hudson County to have a fully volunteer fire department.
The Project Committee members are Chief William Sallick, Schoch, Battalion Chief Frank Prezioso, Capt. David Hardy, Lt. Bill Heaney, Lt. Larry Marciano, and former chiefs Charlie Opalach and Raymond Cieciuch.
Minervini Vandermark Architecture of Hoboken drew the plans for the project, and MAST Construction of Little Falls is the project manager.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.