PATERSON, NJ - “I never thought I would see the day when the Paterson Fire Department logo would be on an excavating machine,” Fire Chief Brian McDermott said at a June 2019 press conference where he, and other city officials, introduced the media to the newly acquired demolition equipment that would become part of their arsenal.

The leased machinery, which was acquired with federal dollars at a cost of just under $900,000 spread over seven years, were to be used to prevent situations like once McDermott recalled from 2016 when the day after three houses burned to the ground he witnessed children walking close to the dangerous remains as they trick-or-treated.

“That was the day I said something has to be done about this.”  

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On Tuesday, following extensive training, including by assisting demolition crews at the former Riverside Terrace, members of the Paterson Fire Department put the equipment to use in an official capacity for the first time, tearing down what remained of the home at 164 Butler Street, one of three homes damaged by a fire on Sunday.

Speaking to TAPinto Paterson about the milestone, McDermott said again that previously fire damaged buildings will be the priority to remove but that other precarious structures that meet the criteria of being dangerous will also be demolished. Every building, per state law, will be tested for asbestos, with the harmful substance, if it exists, being remediated per environmental standards, McDermott offered.

“Just because a home is abandoned doesn’t mean it is uninhabited,” McDermott said, pointing to the homeless that take shelter out of necessity and addicts seeking a place to use drugs outside of the public eye. “This causes dangerous situations not just for them, but also for my firefighters, and for the residents that live in nearby homes that are put at risk by spreading flames.”

While the price tag of using an outside contractor to demolish a home was previously between $30,000 and $50,000, McDermott reported that so far the 164 Butler Street effort has cost the city about $2,000 in fuel and personnel costs. Considering some additional costs to complete the demolition and remove the building's remains the entire price tag, McDermott estimated, won't rise above $10,000, a figure that backs up Director of Economic Development Mike Powell's previous claims that "this will be a cost saving initiative and a vital way to address both vacant and abandoned properties.”

Acknowledging that innovation is not a word commonly associated with firefighting McDermott credits his firefighters for once again being on the frontline of adopting new techniques to keep their city safe. 

“Deputy Chief AJ Ricciardi has brought extensive knowledge to this effort, and that’s being filtered down to others that will also be trained so that we can move quickly and safely to rid our neighborhoods not only of eyesores but incredible safety hazards.”

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