Sea Isle City — The city's fire chief and his two assistants have stepped down after a state-led investigation found they lacked needed certifications to be in a leadership position, according to the state Department of Community Affairs.
The DCA's Division of Fire Safety investigation, prompted by several large fires and an anonymous complaint, found the officials — Chief Frank Edwardi, Sr., and his two assistant chiefs, Mike Ryan and Mike Tighe — lacked the proper certifications for "incident command," said DCA spokesperson Tammori Petty.
The three men resigned about two weeks ago, Petty said, and their replacements have proper certifications.
In a press release Tuesday, Police Chief Thomas McQuillen said residents were never in danger.
"At no time was there any threat to public safety while this certification process was taking place," he wrote.
McQuillen said that during the review of the department's response to an Easter morning fire, it was discovered that many of their volunteers did not have properly updated certifications.
The fire broke out at 5:05 a.m., with smoke billowing from the rear of a duplex. A firefighter suffered minor injuries four residential units were destroyed.
Some of the firefighters not certified had previously held leadership positions, said McQuillen, who did not mention them by name.
The city and fire department then worked to get the proper training and documents.
Arrangements were made with two neighboring departments "to ensure the City had proper supervision at fire scenes" while the certification process was finished.
On Monday, Fire President Pete Pittaluga said Edwardi, Sr., retired a few months ago for health reasons. Pittaluga told The Press of Atlantic City Monday that was the first he'd heard about leadership being removed.
"Everything we do in the fire company is about the people and their property," Pittaluga said. "I think the company has done a good job."
The move comes as many Sea Isle residents continue to push for full-time firefighters and have voiced concerns over response times.
In November, an 89-year-old woman died in a fire that damaged three duplexes. A fire in June in the city's Fish Alley district, caused by an equipment malfunction, spread from a shed to a fuel tank and a commercial fishing boat in the water, sending two people to the hospital for minor injuries and damaging three buildings.
McQuillen said, as of June 27, 33 of the department's volunteers are certified with the Division of Fire Safety, and eight are certified in "incident control" and can hold
The DCA's Division of Fire Safety continues to monitor the transition to new leadership, Petty said.
"The Division is working with the fire department to bring all individuals into compliance and helping them with issuing additional certifications for some of their firefighters," Petty said.
The Associated Press and staff reporter David Danzis and Claire Lowe contributed to this report.