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Westwood Fire Department Holding Drills in Flood-Prone Homes

The borough used grant money to purchase three flood-prone homes on Harding Avenue.

The Westwood Fire Department will be holding drills in three homes the borough recently purchased as part of a flood buyout program.

Firefighters will practice putting up ladders, stretching hoses and crawling through the dark in their gear — with their masks blacked out to simulate smoke conditions — at the three houses before they are demolished, according to Fire Chief Jaymee Hodges.

Hodges told Patch that they hope to begin using one of the houses next week.

Before they begin the drills, Hodges said they would speak to nearby homeowners about the plan.

"We try to be sensitive to the neighborhood," Hodges said. "We don't want to be a nuisance."

The drills would last a couple hours on evenings, and possibly also on a Saturday.

It is routine for the firefighters to hold drills in homes scheduled for demolition, according to Westwood Mayor John Birkner.

The borough closed on the three homes earlier this month, paying slightly more than $1 million total for the properties.

"We're extremely relieved," Birkner said. "It put a lot of pressure on our administrative staff, as well as a lot of stress on the homeowners. I'm really happy for the families that were able to sell their homes and move on."

The three homes are all scheduled to be demolished over the next few months.

The money for the buyouts was provided by grants from FEMA and the Department of Environmental Protection. Westwood received a total of more than $2 million for buyouts. Borough Administrator Robert Hoffmann previously told Patch that there was still money leftover that may go to future buyouts.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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