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Board Eliminates Staffing at Satellite Fire Houses

Move passes 7-1; mayor Don Brudie was the lone no vote.

Trustees voted 7-1 in favor of eliminating staffing at satellite firehouses.
Trustees voted 7-1 in favor of eliminating staffing at satellite firehouses.
After hearing no comments from the audience but rather a discussion amongst trustees only, the village board voted 7-1 Thursday in favor of eliminating night staffing at both satellite fire stations.

Mayor Don Brudie was the lone no vote.

The move was a recommendation (#6) included in the $36,000, 85-page International City/County Management Association (ICMA) report, which analyzed the fire department's overall performance.

Specifically, the recommendation suggests:
  • deploying four firefighters and a lieutenant at Headquarters and not staffing Stations No. 2 and 3 on Edgemere and Clinton roads respectively; and
  • revising the night tour to 12 hours - instead of 14,  and the day tour to 12 hours - instead of 10
"The board takes these actions with the assurances of the ICMA and the chiefs that the fire service response will continue to be exceptional and meet all the expectations of the community," mayor Brudie read from a prepared statement village counsel Gary Fishberg helped draft.

"Effective as soon as operationally possible" the following will go into effect:

1.    The Headquarters Company schedules shall be two 12-hour tours, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

2.    The daytime staffing shall be 5 firefighters and 1 lieutenant

3.    The nighttime staffing shall be 4 firefighters and 1 lieutenant - all deployed at Headquarters and

4.    Consistent with fire department standard operation procedures and orders as promulgated from time to time, during evening hours (8 p.m. to 8 a.m.) the two engines at Headquarters shall be available to Headquarters Company and the engines at the satellite houses will be available to volunteer firefighters as necessary

After these revised standard operating procedures and orders and revised staffing configurations have been in place for 30 days, the chiefs will report back to the board of trustees so that the board of trustees may consider the required departmental manpower level, according to the statement.

The rationale for recommendation #6, according to the report, is based on the "very low nighttime call volume and the ability to transverse the village quicker at night."

Headquarters Company Lt. Peter Clancy, president of Local 1588, which represents Garden City’s professional firefighters, has consistently said unmanning firehouses and reducing staff is extremely dangerous.

"Staffing reductions and station closings will jeopardize public safety," he said. "Our highest priority, first and foremost, is to serve and protect the residents and property of the village, ensuring their safety to the best of our ability. Second is the safety of your firefighters, not just the career members but all firefighters, volunteers included."

Professional firefighter and village resident T.J. Michon was disappointed with the vote, noting that half of the fires in the village in 2012 occurred between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

"I'm a little bit amazed but not surprised that we spent an hour at this meeting discussing the acceptance of a report on St. Paul's with the author invited to discuss it yet the ICMA report was not discussed in public and the author was never invited when back in August in a meeting it was asked if it was going to be discussed in public and it was promised that it was going to be," he said. "Yet here we are five days before Christmas four months later and the earliest notice was on the agenda on Tuesday."

Michon argued that no matter how you look at it, it's going to take two to three minutes longer with no traffic to get from Headquarters to where he lives on Fairmont Boulevard.

"I don't understand how anybody could look at this report and accept these numbers and not do an investigation on how it's been reported over the years that it's a two to three minute response and it all of a sudden becomes an eight to nine minute response," he said. "There is information in the fire department, there is access to information that shows differently and that needs to be discussed and implemented."

Trustee Nick Episcopia defended the board's actions, stating nothing was done "cavalierly."

"Our obligation, first and foremost, is safety," he said.

Deputy Mayor John Watras added, "We would never compromise safety."

Do you agree with Recommendation #6 and its implementation? Let us know in the comments section below.
Rob December 23, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Steve f The video "old vs new room fire" does not show anything about construction. It is all about contents in a home. The contents of a home are all made of petroleum based materials. They burn hotter and faster then products used in the past. This means a room can be fully engulfed in fire within minutes. The quicker we get water on these fires, the less destruction, extension, and most important lives saved. My point being that now having a engine company 3 miles away as opposed to 3/4 of mile away, will make a big difference in response time. Thus more time for a small fire to grow dramatically
Steve F December 23, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Rob def don't worry about that. Back in the day there were plenty of petroleum based products and plenty of reasons fires actually burned worse. These days fires come under control a lot quicker. Fire retardant insulation, Sheetrock, better doors, furnaces, and electrical systems all contribute to this. Balloon construction and engineered wood beams are a problem though.
Rob December 23, 2012 at 08:20 PM
So what you are saying Steve, is that if a room flashes over in 2 minutes, as the video shows, we don't have to worry about it. You said you were a NYS fireman. I think you should start worrying.
Steve F December 23, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Yes I am a fireman. Are you? How many building fires have you been in? Is all your drama based on an Internet video? Rooms don't flash up in 2 minutes on the regular. In fact it's very rare and requires some very perfect conditions. You can choose not to take my advice and continue to be a drama queen, but don't give me your sarcasm about how I should be worrying. The fire itself isn't even your real risk in a house fire but I am sure YouTube videos has taught you all you need to know.
Robert December 24, 2012 at 10:11 AM
Steve F Where are you a fireman?

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