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Six Flags Great Adventure eliminates its fire department
Posted On: Oct 06, 2010

Six Flags Great Adventure eliminates its fire department




JACKSON — Since the Great Adventure theme park was built in 1973, it has had its own fully staffed fire department to patrol the grounds.

That association changed two weeks ago, when Six Flags park management disbanded its fire department as part of a restructuring plan. The seven firefighters — two of whom were full time — were fired, and replaced.

Now the park's revised safety division will conduct the duties formerly performed by the fire department.

Meanwhile, local firefighters are crying foul about the development, claiming the restructuring is nothing more than a move to rid the last vestiges of the firemen's union.

"All they're doing is busting the union," said Matthew Jordan, one of the full-time firefighters fired by the park on Sept. 21.

Jordan, a Jackson resident, is also president of the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents the three full-time firefighters who worked at the park.

The full-time firefighters earned between $30,000 and $55,000 each year. Part-timers, who are professional firefighters with other departments, earned $10 an hour.

In the summer, one full-time fireman was fired by the park, thus dwindling the full-time ranks down to two, and disbanding the union, according to Jordan.

"You need three or more people to have a union," he said.

In 1973, when the park opened, there were 18 full-time firemen on staff, Jordan said.

The union has filed a grievance against Six Flags with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the local union. IAFF represents more than 60 local unions in the state, and includes more than 3,500 firefighters.

The park's remodeled safety division now will have 35 employees, none of whom are union members, said Angel Aristone, spokeswoman for Great Adventure. Members of the safety division are certified emergency responders and firefighters, Aristone said.

"Since we operate only eight months out of the year, a seasonal operation will be more efficient," Aristone said. "We'll continue to have the same level of fire protection coverage during our operating season as we've had in the past."

That will be unlikely, said Tom Scannell, who was a fireman at the park for 15 years before being fired in September.

"We had a very unique balance we had to maintain for 37 years," said Scannell, who has 41 years experience as a firefighter. "When you work at Great Adventure, it's like a normal fire department, plus. Because not only do you have to meet local and state codes, you have to meet the park regulations as well."

The in-house department conducted all of the park inspections, including all 62 hydrants in the park, the sprinklers and all of the buildings, Scannell said.

"We still have certified firefighters on property that are qualified to continue to respond," Aristone said. "They are just now called safety supervisors and safety technicians."

Yet, the Cassville Fire Company in Jackson will be responsible to provide primary fire coverage for the park, Jordan said.

"This will tax all of the other departments in town," Jordan said. "If there is a call, three departments normally respond. Jackson is 101 square miles."

The elimination of the fire department is the latest of restructuring moves for the theme park.

Earlier this year, Six Flags, the parent company of Great Adventure, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In August, John Fitzgerald was named the new president of Great Adventure. Also, James Reid-Anderson, was hired as president, chairman and chief executive officer of Six Flags Inc., the park's parent company

Fitzgerald declined to comment for this story.

Keith Ruscitti: 732-557-5748 or kruscitti@app.com

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Sep 14, 2011 (10:12:00)


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