All of Lakewood’s paid firefighters — including the part-timers — will have to step down from volunteer firefighting companies due to a federal regulation, TheLakewoodScoop.com reported Thursday.
Fire Commissioner Larry Loigman said that under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, a town cannot have paid personnel also serving as volunteers, unless they pay them at overtime rates for their volunteer work.
As a result, Loigman said, “all six of our full-time paid firefighters, as well as two part-timers, will have to leave the volunteer companies, except for social events.”
“We are going to be losing some of our most dedicated volunteers,” said Loigman, the township’s first Orthodox fire commissioner when he took office a year ago. “They have service to the public in their bones, and want to be part of the fire department, day in and day out. We’re going to be doing some intensive work to make up for them.”
The law has been in effect for decades, but until now it exempted small employers of less than five employees. However, when Lakewood reached the present staffing of six fulltime, some years ago, the attorney seems to have glossed over it. Until now, that is.
The rule effects Todd Stark, the township’s fire chief, as well. Since the volunteers pick the chief, and he is required to be an active volunteer, Stark will be replaced with Steve McNamara, currently the assistant chief.
The fire commissioners voted last month to hire an additional six paid firefighters, to bring the number to 12.