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