Rockaway EMS Will Close, Hospital-Based EMS Takes Over As Nation Faces First-Responder Shortage


Rockaway Township Fire Chief announces the closure of Rockaway EMS and migration to 24/7 hospital-based EMS services as the nation faces a first-responder shortage.

With mixed emotions, Rockaway Fire Chief Jim Russo announced effective December 31, 2022, that the Rockaway Township Volunteer EMS Division would close due to the shortage of first responders.

With the closure of Rockaway’s EMS division, there will be a migration to 24/7 hospital-based EMS coverage for all of Rockaway Township effective January 1, 2023. The shortage of members and continually increasing call volumes have made the volunteer division unsustainable.

We felt it was in the best interest of the residents to allow the town to provide an alternative solution which could provide the necessary and needed service to the residents. This sadly is something that is not only occurring in our town but is a current crisis across the entire country both with paid and volunteer services.” - Jim Russo, Fire Department Chief

Hibernia Fire Company # 1, Rockaway, NJ

The Rockaway Township Fire Department is currently working with the Mayor and his Administrative team to bid on EMS service contracts for the Township. In the meantime, St. Clares EMS will continue to provide emergency medical services for Rockaway Township 24/7.

Since the early 1950s, the Rockaway Township Fire Department responded to all EMS calls in the town of Rockaway with all volunteer members, beginning with two ambulances (one in Hibernia Fire Company #1 and one in Mount Hope Fire Company #2).

Mt Hope Fire Company # 2

As the town grew, additional fire stations were added throughout the town bringing us Marcella Company #3, Birchwood Company #4, and White Meadow Lake Company #5. Each station was equipped with fire apparatus and an ambulance, and the volunteers responded to all fire and EMS calls in their respective territories.

In 2006, Rockaway Township brought in St Clares EMS to cover day-time EMS calls due to increased demands and a lack of daytime volunteer availability.

In 2011, as EMS call volumes increased exponentially and membership decreased, the Rockaway Township Fire Department created an EMS Division. The EMS Division was split into two areas covering the North (Marcella and Hibernia) and the South (White Meadow, Mount Hope, and Birchwood) for night-time and weekend EMS response.

Marcella Fire Company # 3

On July 1, 2011, at 6 pm, the EMS Division of the Rockaway Township Fire Department officially began with its first shift, which ensured fully staffed volunteer ambulances for all EMS calls with EMTs for all of the shifts covered, something which was not required by law but felt was needed by the EMS Division members.

Since then, increasing demands and decreasing membership shifted more responsibility to the hospital-based EMS to ensure adequate EMS coverage in the town of Rockaway.

Birchwood Fire Company # 4

On December 30, 2022, at 6 pm, the last shift of the EMS Division of the RTFD started, and the EMS Division of the Rockaway Township Fire Department officially ended at 5 am December 31st, 2022.

Over the past 10 ½ years, Rockaway EMS has seen members join, and members leave, all due to life and changes therein. They’ve also had members that started as EMTs and then moved on in life to become Nurses, Nursing Professors, ER Doctors, Physician Assistants, EMS Supervisors, Physical Therapists, and EMTs at various hospital-based services, and the list goes on, continuing their desire to be of service in the health care field.

White Meadow Fire Company # 5

We are extremely proud of all our present and past members for all the time, dedication, and effort they gave to the residents and to the department and look forward to those EMS Only members who will remain on the Department to assist on calls with the Fire Division,” said Jim Russo, Fire Department Chief. We would like to thank the Fire Only members of the Department who assisted our Division through the years, and would also like to thank all the other agencies that have assisted us over the years, including Saint Clare's Health, Atlantic Mobile Health, Town of Dover Fire Department, Denville Volunteer Fire Department, Par-Troy EMS, Green Pond First Aid Squad, Morris County Office of Emergency Management, and others that we may be missing.”

Green Pond EMS will continue to operate with their volunteers within Green Pond, supported by hospital-based EMS as needed.

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