Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Separating Fire and Alcohol

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Separating Fire and Alcohol

Article excerpt

LODI - Plans to limit alcohol in firehouses has firefighters hot under the collar.

"It's totally uncalled for," Fire Chief Darren Yuhas said.

But Mayor Marc Schrieks says that Lodi, which owns the firehouses, needs to have control over what happens in its buildings.

Council members are also concerned about the possibility of drinking by underage firefighters, Schrieks said.

"We all thought it was in the best interests to curtail the potential access to alcohol," Schrieks said.

To address these concerns, the Borough Council introduced an ordinance on Tuesday that would restrict when alcohol can be consumed or stored in the borough's three firehouses and require prior approval for any firehouse function that includes alcohol.

"They are totally upset," said Yuhas, referring to the borough's volunteer firefighters. He attended the meeting with about 30 uniformed firefighters.

Alcohol consumption among firefighters has proved to be a thorny problem for municipalities, which often must balance years of tradition with concerns over liability and the safety of residents. Some towns and fire departments have chosen to either ban alcohol outright or limit its consumption.

The issue can sometimes elicit strong emotions. In May, a Hillsdale councilman resigned after coming under fire for remarks he made about firefighters drinking alcohol while attending training or department meetings, which he later said stemmed from concerns about the town's liability if a firefighter responded to an emergency call after drinking.

In Lodi, Yuhas said the fire department occasionally hosts functions like county fire chiefs association meetings. The firehouses are also rented out to department members for events such as birthday and engagement parties, he said.

The proposed ordinance states that at least 45 days before any firehouse event at which alcohol would be served or consumed, the fire chief and the borough manager must be given detailed information regarding the function, including a general description of the expected guests, the type of alcohol involved, how it would be served, the names and addresses of those in charge of the service and the training provided to them to ensure that underage and intoxicated people are not served. …

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