It’s Only a Drill: Stateroom’s Last Hurrah Tests Local Fire, EMS Companies

Nov 01, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

It was a windy, autumn Thursday night as dusk turned black when the sky near The Stateroom at the entrance to Long Beach Island lit up with red, blue and white lights. It looked a little like fireworks on the Fourth of July, but this was no celebration. Surrounded by emergency rigs from around the Island and Stafford Township, the scene was set for a multi-agency fire drill.

“First, I’d like to thank Chris Vernon,” Ship Bottom Fire Chief Doug White said, standing in the shadows of the fire engines and blinking lights, “for the use of the building. We rarely get to drill on a building of this size.”

The Stateroom, located between Eight and Ninth streets, is expected to come down in the near future to make room for the 105-room Hotel LBI. The new building is 25 feet taller than the highest part of the current structure, which prior to 2007 was the location for the Quarter Deck Inn. Variances were initially needed for height, since the 45-foot structure is 5 feet higher than the zoning ordinance allows. In addition, the hotel’s 105 rooms are 32 more than what the zoning ordinance permits. Vernon initially said the new hotel would be opened by the summer of 2018 but earlier this year pushed it back until the summer of 2020.

In January, James Raban, project attorney, said architects are redesigning the building so that part of it is extended more to the south side of the property.

“They needed to change the plans so that we would have more room for cars on the north side of the building, because that will be the entrance,” Raban said, noting that currently, people driving to the Stateroom can access the property from Ninth Street. There will be no access from Ninth Street once the hotel is built.

Hotel LBI is one of several significant changes to the landscape of the Route 72 corridor coming onto the Island. Another is the proposed 24-unit condo complex set to begin construction this fall at the site of the vacated Exxon gas station at the Causeway Circle.

Like Hotel LBI, The Arlington Beach Club will be located between Eight and Ninth streets in Ship Bottom. It will be surrounded by Long Beach Boulevard to the east and Central Avenue to the west. The Causeway Circle will be reconfigured as a square once the state Department of Transportation completes its $350 million bridge project, slated tentatively for the summer of 2020, though the end date is predicated on weather and other outside factors.

The DOT’s proposed improvements in Ship Bottom include converting a section of Long Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare on the 18-mile Island, into a two-way road at the future site of The Arlington Beach Club, according to state officials.

Councilman Joe Valyo, a member of the borough’s office of emergency management, said the drill was a big deal not just for training volunteer firefighters and EMS but because of the taller structures coming to the borough.  

“The drill lets them see what can be done. There is a lot of stuff going on,” Valyo said.

White said the multi-agency drill included the use of new technology that allows for a quick and safe retrieval of a firefighter in distress; a kitchen fire on the second floor and a venting problem on the highest point of the roof. There were a few other surprises thrown into the drill scenario because no fire is ever the same, according to White.

“Mother Nature, the time of the year,” he said of some of the biggest challenges the volunteer fire and first aid companies face. “It’s not any one of these things; it’s a combination of everything.”

In addition to the Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co. and EMS, participants included the Barnegat Light Volunteer Fire Co. and First Aid Squad, Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Co. and First Aid Squad, High Point Volunteer Fire Co. of Harvey Cedars, Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. and Stafford Township Volunteer Fire Co.

Gina G. Scala

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