BELMAR, NJ — For a collective total of 220 years, the Belmar Fire Department and Belmar First Aid Squad have been serving the community. And every summer for as long as anyone can remember, these volunteer emergency responders conduct fundraising drives to help in their missions to serve and protect.
This year their efforts take on even more significance, now that both Belmar firefighters and first aid squad members are officially providing emergency services to residents of neighboring Lake Como.
Earlier this summer, Belmar and Lake Como residents and businesses received donation letters asking for their support. Here is a look at each organization.
With 129 years of service to the community, the Belmar Fire Department currently consists of more than 60 trained firefighters who respond to calls 24/7 from three firehouses — Union Fire Co. on Ninth Avenue, Goodwill Hose Co. on Seventh Avenue and Volunteer Hook and Ladder Co. on 11th Avenue.
Answering more than 5,000 calls to homes and businesses each year, they have battled five major house fires over the past two years — one on Route 35 in July 2016; one on 14th Avenue that claimed the lives of two adults and their dog in August 2016; another that destroyed two century-old homes on 10th Avenue in April 2017; and the latest in January 2018 at the former Hollycroft Inn on Ripley Lane in Lake Como.
Belmar firefighters are also active in the community as the department sponsors youth baseball and basketball teams. But it’s always their trucks that steal the show — whether it’s during the annual Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade or Belmar’s annual holiday tree lighting in Pyanoe Plaza, where children climb aboard the trucks for rides around the neighborhood.
Established in 1927, Belmar First Aid Squad (BFAS) is “the Grand Daddy of First Aid,” holding the distinction of being the oldest volunteer organization of its kind in New Jersey. Operating three ambulances and a crash extrication/water rescue truck, the squad provides ’round-the-clock coverage through a small volunteer corps of certified emergency medical technicians who now are supported by some 22 paid part-time EMTs.
The squad recently bought aboard the paid employees in order to handle its “incredible call volume,” particularly now that Lake Como is part of its service area, said EMT director Fran Hines.
For example, BFAS handled 90 calls in June, compared to 37 calls in June 2017, as total calls for 2018 totaled 1,600 by mid-July.
“With about six (active) volunteers, we just couldn’t keep up,” he said. "This was the way we had to go."
With the staffing change, BFAS has hired an outside company to implement third-party billing, with a person’s insurance company responsible for emergency transport costs. For Belmar and Lake Como residents, Hines explained that the squad will accept the amount paid by insurance as payment in full.
"(Residents) will be paying nothing out of pocket," he said. "They will never pay a penny to the Belmar First Aid Squad."
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