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Pennington Fire Company gets its new 911mobile

Saturday, July 10, 2010 By JOAN GALLER Staff Writer EWING — The new baby arrived without a hitch at exactly 1 p.m. on July 8, 2010, and weighed an impressive 9,500 pounds — much to the delight of its proud parents. Pennington Fire Co.’s First Aid Unit volunteers even threw a hoagie party Thursday evening to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of this sorely needed $69,000 ambulance. Actually, the red and white bundle of joy has a twin ambulance, identical in all respects except for its shiny blue and white exterior, and delivered to Ewing’s Emergency Medical Services, the township’s paid unit located off Scotch Road. Both rigs were bought as an “equipment package” with township money from a 2009 capital bond ordinance approved in better economic times, said “godfather” Mayor Jack Ball, as he dug into a platter of sandwiches at the Pennington Road firehouse. “Buying two ambulances proved economical because the total cost was discounted,” Ball said. “This is the first time in about 15 years that the township has bought an ambulance for us, and it was definitely needed,” said Bryan Fischberg, president of Pennington Road Fire Co. and First Aid Unit. The all-volunteer unit provides ambulance service at night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., plus weekends and holidays, while Ewing’s paid EMTs work days Monday to Friday. Fischberg’s volunteers have two ambulances, but the older rig is no longer safe to operate and sits parked behind the fire house. “We may donate it to a training program or a vo-tech school,” he said. The other ambulance, which is 20 years old and larger than the new rig, was refurbished with a new diesel chassis for $65,000 — half of its replacement cost — about four years ago to give it another 8 to 10 years on the road, he added. While operating with just one ambulance and waiting for the new ambulance to be built in Illinois and shipped to New Jersey, Pennington sometimes had to “borrow or rent an ambulance,” Fischberg said. “Now we can rotate (the rigs) and share the burden of the calls for help.” Unlike Ewing’s three volunteer fire companies and paid EMTs, Pennington Road’s all-volunteer ambulance squad gets no financial support from the township and must conduct annual fundraising campaigns, Fischberg said. The next one starts this fall and will be conducted via mail. The township’s budget provides funds for all three volunteer fire companies — West Trenton, Prospect Heights and Pennington Road, each getting $190,000 this year. But there’s no line item for the Pennington

First Aid Unit. “We have to raise all our operating money,” Fischberg said. Ewing has three fire companies, but only Pennington Road has an ambulance corps of certified emergency medical technicians, he added. Vito Vacirca III, chief of Pennington’s First Aid Unit, accepted delivery of the new ambulance at the township EMS facility off Scotch Road, where both ambulances were delivered by a Manasquan dealership. Paul Rulkiewicz, chief of Ewing Township Emergency Medical Services, accepted his new ambulance. Vacirca drove Pennington’s new rig the final two miles to its new home on Route 31. Vacirca, who’s 27, started working with the unit at age 16. “We handled 1,800 calls last year between Ewing and providing mutual aid assistance to Trenton, Lawrence, Hopewell Valley and Hamilton,” Vacirca said. Kaitlin McCann, 24, the assistant chief, will succeed Vacirca as president when the unit reorganizes this month. A 2008 graduate of The College of New Jersey, McCann became a certified EMT while a student, and though she now teaches 5th and 6th grade math at a Camden charter school, she still finds time for 8-hour shifts in Ewing. “We’re always looking for new volunteers, we need people who are willing to be trained, work as a team and can give at least 8 hours weekly,” said Fischberg, who’s 45 and has been with the Pennington first aid unit for 26 years. “It’s not as gory as TV makes our work out to be.” Fischberg works full time training EMTs at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. “We’re not looking just for ambulance drivers and EMTs,” he stressed. “There are other ways that people can help us. We need mechanics who can donate their time to fix the ambulances, attorneys for legal work, plumbers, others in construction trades. “We could use someone to help us book events at the Penning Road firehouse’s social hall,” he added, a big revenue source. For those who want to become certified EMTs and join the 15 to 20 active men and women who work 8 hour shifts answering calls for help, Fischberg said a minimum 8-hour per week commitment is necessary. For information about donations or volunteering, visit

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