When Terry Davison first joined the all-volunteer Princeton, N.J., Fire Department 35 years ago, it had a glut of volunteers, reports the Trenton Times. Back then, the department’s full roster consisted of 150 active volunteers, about four times the current number, Davison recalled recently. Unlike today, he said, the overwhelming majority lived either in the borough or in neighboring Princeton Township.
Most of the Princetons’ volunteer firefighters, then as now, came from blue-collar households, said Davison, 57, a retired plumber. Increasingly, however, soaring housing costs in the Princetons have put the squeeze on the blue-collar population that has been the fire department’s lifeline. In some cases, blue-collar residents moved to less expensive communities. And with a few exceptions, the higher-income white-collar professionals and academics who moved into the Princetons don’t seem interested in firefighting.