WILDWOOD — Firefighters attending the annual New Jersey State Firemen's Convention use the annual event to gear up.
From new trucks to water-rescue gear, the annual convention draws vendors from across the country hawking the latest in new equipment.
Sam Squire, of Mays Landing, sells heavy trucks manufactured by Pierce, based in Appleton, Wis. Fie said the convention is his biggest source of new clients in New Jersey.
Squire showed off a new canary-yellow truck made forthe Seaville Volunteer Fire Company in Upper Township.
"It's a combination pumper and rescue truck. Fire companies are having to multitask," he said. "Seaville covers part of the Garden State Parkway, so they respond to a lot of car accidents."
The $625,000 truck features a compartment with various hydraulic equipment to cut people out of damaged vehicles. And it has four winch slots to pull vehicles to safety, he said.
Ridgelield Park Assistant Chief Rodney Wagner said his volunteer department often buys new gear when they go to the convention. This year he bought some water-rescue tools for use on local creeks and rivers.
"We never needed it before because our waterways are undeveloped. But now crew teams are practicing on the river," he said. "We want to be prepared. This is the time to stock up."
Michael McCarthy, a salesman for Applied Rescue Technique based in Sandy Hook, Conn., said departments are always looking to buy new gear at the convention.
"It's busy this year. We've had a good flow of people today," he said. "People are buying water-rescue throw bags, dry suits and ice-rescue equipment."
A consulting company called Fire Ground Technologies based in Pompton Plains travels the country to provide training to fire departments. They specialize in firefighter survival and escape, owner Larry Cohen said.
He trains firefighters to wear a harness over their turnout gear that can be attached to a rescue line a firefighter can use to bail out a window if he or she becomes trapped by a blaze. The harness is belted into the turnout gear so it becomes part of the standard equipment, he said.
"You don't have time to think about it. You might only have seconds to make a decision," East Brunswick firefighter Ron Somrner said. "Their training teaches you muscle memory, so you know what to do."
Bargaintown Volunteer Fire Company member Ed Fugee said his department uses the convention to network, catch up with old friends and see if they can find items on their wish list.
"People are always willing to make deals here. There are some good deals to be had," he said.
But the convention is not all business.
Passaic firefighter Jim Bonelli said he has been coming to the convention since 1988. It's always a good time, Bonelli said.
"It used to be more of a volunteer crowd. Now you're seeing more career guys," he said.
Bonelli's Market, a local favorite in Wildwood. How does he know?
"I went in there one time and asked," he said.
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