Firefighting is a dangerous job that can involve rescuing people from crushed cars, clearing trees, helping evacuate residents during floods and extinguishing fires, Pine Brook fire commissioner and firefighter Tony Speciale said.
"It's not an easy thing to do," he said. "It comes down to training, procedures. It's not like you just walk into this."
Speciale on Wednesday said voters should support their annual fire district elections because the fire budgets support the town's volunteer firefighters.
He said a flier that was distributed in town saying fire districts are an inefficient use of tax dollars, and compared Montville Township's fire expenses to Wayne's, did not take into account all of Wayne's spending on fire services, Speciale said.
Montville Township has three 100-year-old volunteer fire departments—Montville, Towaco and Pine Brook. It also has seven buildings that serve as firehouses, and millions of dollars in equipment to maintain, Speciale said.
Each district has a five-member board of fire commissioners that creates budgets and collects taxes each year. Every February, residents can vote on the commissioner candidates and proposed budgets for their districts, though turnout historically is low.
Combined, the districts collect about $1.75 million a year in taxes, which are part of homeowners' property tax bills.
The elections drew increased attention last year because voters rejected the proposed Towaco fire district budget for the first time in history.
Speciale said issues which led to the defeat last year of the budget in the Towaco fire district, which had a full-time administrator for 20 years while the other districts did not, have been addressed.
While the firefighters work for free to save lives and property, Speciale said, the districts' training, equipment, trucks, insurance, workers' compensation, maintenance costs and fire prevention bureaus all cost money.
Speciale said commissioners from the three Montville Township districts meet quarterly and look for ways to share services to save costs.
"We want to keep it going like this for another 100 years," he said.