Maple Shade city council unanimously votes to permanently close community's primary fire service

Corey Davis Image
Friday, December 15, 2023
Maple Shade Township's volunteer fire company permanently closed
Maple Shade Township city council unanimously voted Thursday night to permanently close the community's primary fire service.

MAPLE SHADE TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- A South Jersey town is in a battle over the future of its fire company after the Maple Shade Township city council passed an ordinance that shut down Independent Fire Company #1.

It was fully run by volunteers and had been under state investigation.

Independent's fire chief claims Thursday night's decision is purely political, but five members of the council say they've had enough of the violations.

Now, the firefighters will, once again, be locked out as the township's fire company.

It was a packed house and many residents there were not happy with the vote to shut down the community's primary fire service.

"Seventy years of service and you're going to flush it down the toilet. You people make me sick. You truly make me sick," said Chief Andrew Simonsick Sr., with Maple Shade Independent Fire Company #1. "Your job as a board is to protect us and keep us safe, not to go and disband a volunteer fire department that has been charged with no crime but has given the death sentence."

An officer at the meeting had to force one man out who was shouting profanity.

Some residents pushed for a town hall to take up the matter but the council decided against that. They said they've had enough of the violations and voted unanimously to permanently close the volunteer fire company.

Township officials said the fire company has been involved in five state investigations since 2019 regarding administrative and operational compliance issues.

The council suspended the company for 90 days in 2021, locking firefighters out of the building. Then a couple of months later, the council voted to save the department and opted to meet with all parties involved to resolve issues.

However, those efforts failed, prompting the council's final decision to permanently close the doors and seek fire services from neighboring municipalities.

The former fire chief said he acknowledged the issues but argued that they were resolved.

"No fire department is perfect, not one of them," he said. "The incidents of departments, things that happened were happening by kids. There was a cancer in our fire department that is no longer here and since our cancer is gone, how many problems have you encountered with our fire department? I'll give you a hint -- none."

The council issued a statement promising the 20,000 residents of the township that fire protection will not be compromised and that they're working with partners to ensure safety.