Jersey City has submitted paperwork to Trenton asking how they can proceed forward with a “more substantial mutual aid” plan with the Hoboken Fire Department, an official said this afternoon.
“Yes, Mayor Bhalla and Mayor Fulop have discussed working together on fire safety because if we can enhance safety for residents with better fire protection while saving taxpayer money – why would we not explore it?,” said city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.
“Discussions are ongoing as there are still many steps that would need to happen, but the first is more substantial mutual aid and, in Jersey City, we have submitted paperwork to Trenton to understand this process.”
Her comments come after Hoboken officials stated they had no immediate plans to merge with the Jersey City Fire Department, though acknowledged there would likely be more conversations about a more comprehensive mutual aid plan, as HCV first reported.
At the Hoboken Public Safety Department’s budget hearing on Monday, March 20th, Director Kenneth Ferrante explained what this could mean for the city.
“We had talks last year from March through May, the last meeting was May 24th. There was a discussion of two possible things: one is called an auto aid, a mutual aid system where the Jersey City Fire Department would be able to respond directly to fires in the south end of Hoboken,”he explained.
“Hoboken would be able to respond to the Newport area and Jersey City Heights without the need to follow mutual aid, the current guideline.”
He continued that right now, the Jersey City Fire Department and/or North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue can only respond as mutual aid in the Mile Square City if they have a full fire crew – typically to 20 to 23 firefighters – on the scene.
Ferrante, a retired police chief, also noted that the auto aid plan would have to be in effect for a couple of years before a merger could even be considered.
The city councils in Hoboken and Jersey City would also have to approve a mutual aid agreement via resolution in order for such a plan to move forward, Ferrante also pointed out.
Additionally, Ferrante and Business Administrator Jason Freeman held a roughly two-hour meeting with about 100 Hoboken firefighters this morning.
Union leadership for the firefighter unions from Jersey City and Hoboken did not immediately return inquiries seeking comment, though both Jersey City union presidents initially came out against the plan in an email to their membership last week.