On Tuesday, March 14th, 2023, at a regular Rotary Club of Westfield meeting, Westfield Fire Chief Michael Duelks and Battalion Chief Brian Piccola spoke to the members about fire safety and the various roles the fire department plays in town.

Chief Duelks is proud of three new programs he started since becoming Chief. First, the Westfield Fire Department offers free residential safety inspections, with no repercussions. They are called “Senior Safety Inspections”, In other words, they do not want to fine you- just to keep you safe. Seniors can register to have a home fire safety inspection conducted by the department, where they will identify any potential fire safety hazard improvements that can be made.
Second, all sworn members of the department are NJ State Certified EMTs, and assist the Westfield Rescue Squad with emergency calls in town. When there are no volunteer EMT’s available, the Fire Department will be on the scene quickly. Each fire truck has all of the supplies which an ambulance carries.
Third, they created a “File of Life” form. This form, completed on a voluntary basis, details a resident’s current medications, health conditions, allergies, insurance, and emergency contacts, and is hung on the refrigerator for Police, Fire, and EMS to easily access in the event of a home-based emergency. For additional information, or to participate in these programs, please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 908-789-4145 or fireprevention@westfieldnj.gov.
October is Fire Prevention month, so the Department tries to go to schools and public venues in Westfield to teach fire safety. They inspect commercial and multifamily residences on an annual basis. They also host visits by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school groups, and also set up block parties. They offer a Youth Academy for middle school students interested in firefighting as a career.
Fire Chief Michael Duelks was born and raised in Westfield, and is a graduate of Westfield High School. His father was the Westfield Fire Deputy Chief and his grandfather was a Detective/ Lieutenant in the Westfield Police Department. His brother David is the principal at Tamaques Elementary School.
Chief Duelks was sworn in on April 26, 2022 as the twelfth Fire Chief of the Town of Westfield. He joined the Westfield Fire Department as a volunteer in 2002 and was appointed to career status in 2004. In 2016, Michael was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant and then later that same year to Battalion Chief, and he also served the department as the Fire Inspector. In 2020, Michael was recommended for promotion to the rank of Deputy Fire Chief and has served in that role since, where he has been a part of the leadership of the department and has proven to be a person of exceptional character who is deeply committed to the success of Westfield Fire Department. Michel attended Rutgers to earn his degree in Certified Public Manager in 2022.
The Westfield Fire Department is composed of the career Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, 5 Battalion Chiefs, 9 Captains, 20 career fire fighters, and currently there are no volunteer fire fighters.  All are extensively trained and certified at the firefighter 2 level in accordance with the state fire code. All the officers are certified NJ State fire inspectors.
Westfield is fortunate to have a career (paid) fire department at its service 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Did you know that only 25% of New Jersey communities employ a career fire department and, according to FEMA, only 3.5% of the communities in the entire nation have a mostly career (career plus volunteer) fire department?
The Department has 36 full time paid firefighters. They work in four Duty Tours that work 24-hour shifts, with 72 hours off between shifts. All staff personnel work a standard Monday to Friday 40-hour work week. Each tour has one Battalion Chief / Tour Commander, two Captains, and 5 Firefighters
The Town of Westfield has two Fire Houses: 405 North Ave W., which is also Fire Headquarters); and Fire Station 2 at 1029 Central Ave. These two stations are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and house the following apparatus: Fire Headquarters has 2 fire engines, 1 Ladder truck, and 2 support vehicles, Fire Station 2 has 2 fire engines, and 1 support vehicle
When asked about all of the new construction in Westfield, increasing the density of residential units, the Fire Chief expressed confidence that the Fire Code would be followed during construction, creating no additional issues for the Fire Department. However, the increase in population would certainly cause an increase in requests for EMT services.
When asked if female fire fighters would ever be hired, the Chief replied that there may be some openings soon with retirements, and several women recently took the test and scored well, so he hopes they would hire women in the future. They do not have any women currently, but had one woman volunteer in the past.
The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website www.westfieldrotary.com or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at drmhart@yahoo.com
Photo: Left to right: Retired Linden Fire Department Deputy Chief Wayne Hanns; Rotary Club President Tony LaPorta; Westfield Fire Chief Michael Duelks, Westfield Fire Captain Brian Piccola