BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. -- Township Clerk Ana Minkoff confirmed that a check is in the mail to buy a new Rescue Pumper for the Fire Department.

That's good news to Fire Department Chief Anthony Padovano, Jr. and Deputy Chief Jim Hopkins, who said the department began planning for the purchase of a new engine several years ago. The final choice, which will take about a year to build, is a Pierce Rescue Pumper which will replace Engine 2, a 1995 Pierce Pumper.

It will cost $637,406.59 and take about a year for it to be assembled -- they are built to order, Padovano said. The purchase was made through the Houston-Galveston Area Council, which offers a cooperative purchasing program that is approved by the state of New Jersey.

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The difference between the 1995 pumper and the new engine include: large compartments to store equipment and air-conditioning in the crew cab, said Hopkins.  Having the air conditioning will "reduce the amount of time the guys are exposed to heat stress," he said.

"Traditionally, pumpers just had hoses on them," said the chief, as well as some water.  They had few compartments for equipment. That has changed, because different duties have been added to the department's list of responsibilities, he said.

Today, firefighters deal with car accidents of all sorts, from stuck elevators and other emergency situations, to HazMat calls, not just fires, said Hopkins. That means firefighters need more and different equipment when they arrive on the scene than they used to.

There should be room for all of it to be accommodated in large compartments created by a redesign of the pump, which now fits "down between the frame rails," he said.  The compartments will hold a Jaws of Life, medical and HazMat equipment, including special, Level B suits," he said. The engine also will carry radiation detectors and meters that can detect hazardous gases.

The new truck will also have a larger water tank, 750 gallons of water as opposed to 500 gallons on Engine 2, and a 40-gallon foam cell, which Engine 2 doesn't have, the chief said. The mix of foam to water can be closely regulated, depending upon the situation.

"It will have three radio units" -- one which communicates with Berkeley Heights responders, including police, fire and EMS. "Another will communicate with Union County Mutual Aid units and a third that communicates with the state and federal operability system, in case there is a large event," he said.

Along with Engine 2, the department's fleet consists of:

Squad 1, built in 1998, which will be used as a pumper when the new engine arrives;
Engine 4, built in 2010;
Engine 3, built in 1982 by Hahn, which is used as a brush truck;
Rescue 1, which can pull the department's boat, carries airbags large enough to lift cars or other heavy objects;
Tower 1, which was bought with Engine 2 in 1995 as a pair.

The chief said the plan is to keep the new engine as long as possible, which he hopes is 25 years. The town pays one-hundred percent of the cost of a new engine, he said.  "We've been very fortunate," he said, some nearby towns have purchased new engines and "had to replace them very quickly.

"You can buy the best equipment out there, but without these guys, what good is it? We have a very dedicated group here."  The Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department is the busiest volunteer department in Union County.

For more information about the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department, visit their website at and "Like" their Facebook Page