By JOHN T. WARD
Amid flashing red lights and sounding horns, Red Bank’s volunteer firefighters marked the election of Stu Jensen as 2018 borough fire chief with a celebration Tuesday night.
The event, at Jensen’s home Navesink Hook & Ladder house on Mechanic Street, followed the annual election among firefighters, held at borough hall.
Jensen told redbankgreen his priority is giving the volunteers the training, equipment and other forms of support they need.
“I think everybody in the department is looking for opportunities to do more, and to do it sharper and better and safer,” he said. “I’m going to have a hard time keeping up with these people.”
Jensen succeeds Pete DeFazio, the retired police captain now wrapping up his third tour as chief: the Relief Engine Company member previously held the post in 1987 and 1993. This one will be his last, DeFazio said.
“I bought a pickup truck in May,” he said. “It’s sitting in the driveway with 600 miles on it. It’s time to use it.”
DeFazio said the number of working fires continued to drop this year, down to five, a trend he credited to the expanded use of smoke detection systems and to rigorous inspections by Fire Marshal Stanley Sickels, who is retiring December 31, and his assistant, Tommy Welsh, who last week was designated acting fire marshal.
“The guys doing their job at fire prevention, if you didn’t have them, we’d be in trouble,” he said. “The number of alarms is still there, but the fires aren’t, which is great.”
By tradition, the chief’s helmet is rotated among the borough’s six fire companies, and the vote is usually a formality, though dissent over a fire department consolidation made DeFazio’s election last year more contentious.
Jensen takes command on January 1, with a swearing-in at the annual borough government reorganization ceremony. Wayne Hartman of the Independent Engine Company, who served as chief in 1995, will become second in command, and Scott Calabrese of Westside Hose Company will be third.