2017-02-15 / Front Page

Local Fire Departments Stretched Too Thin

By Rosie Cunningham

DELAWARE COUNTY - Too many emergencies, too little time and money.

Delhi Fire Chief Daren Evans said responding to fires and emergencies is a must, but with the cost of gas, wear-and-tear on vehicles and man hours, the department covers a lot of territory and there is no funding in place when Delhi gets called out of its district.

The cost of local volunteer fire services lays on the shoulders of the taxpayers and fundraising. Although there is no question that the volunteers do and will continue to do their jobs, perhaps paying the area fire departments for going outside of their territory should be considered.

“There’s nothing in place and I know little about it. We go where we are called,” said Evans. “We had 22 fire calls last year. Total EMS and motor vehicle accidents it is 785.”

Evans said the number of calls that come in seems to be growing.

“And, daytime calls are tough, because people have jobs that they cannot leave.”

Evans said during the SUNY Delhi college school year, there is an increased number of calls, but oftentimes, the SUNY Delhi University Police respond and call his squad off.

Evans said for a volunteer department, the Delhi squad has good numbers with about 30 active members. The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) has about 10 active members in addition.

“We go wherever we are told to,” he said. “Andes, Walton, Bovina, Downsville - anywhere.”

Evans said the number of calls he is toned out to depends on the week.

“We can be called out once a week or 12 times or more,” said the fire chief of six years.

“We go out from two to three times a month to 30 times a month,” added the Hobart Fire Chief Josh Mason. “It all depends on how often people are sick or are in need of help. We do, on the fire side, 55 to 75 calls a year, and on the ambulance side - 150 calls or more a year. EMS does 80 percent of our call volume and the number of responders also depends on the time of day or even what day it is.”

According to Mason, the department does not charge for their services but he said the Hobart EMS, which does not take in a fee, should do so.

“It would help offset the training and mandate costs, the cost of fuel, the cost of having special drugs and narcotics - which are always going out of date and having to be replaced at our cost. It would help alleviate wear on the vehicle, which can which cost anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 just for an ambulance and anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000 for a fire truck - more if it’s specific.”

Mason said the low number of new volunteers has not helped.

“The older generations are getting tired and retiring and the state makes all these training mandates that people don’t have the time for. Also, travelling to the courses is taxing and there is little reimbursement for these trips.”

On paper, the Hobart department has 32 members, of which 12 to 15 are active members.

“The fire and ambulance services needs more young blood in there or there will be no more fire or EMS services in our communities. There needs to be more people who want to volunteer their time and help out because it could be your neighbor, a family member, or a perfect stranger that needs help, and you will feel good about helping someone in the community in which we all live.”

“We get 400 to 500 EMS-related calls each year,” said Stamford Fire Chief AJ Vamosy.

“For our EMS, it’s very difficult. Any given hospital is at least 25 miles away from us. A non-life threatening type call takes an average of almost three hours for our department to handle. It makes it very tough for volunteers to leave work to handle calls because of the time away from work - some places allow it and others don’t. Then, you add the amount of time it takes for folks to become just a basic EMT - it’s a lot and even more if you want to further your education to a critical care provider or even to become a paramedic. Then you get your credentials and it seems you’re right back at it with the continuing education to kept your EMT card. It takes a toll on people.”

As far as Stamford charging, Vamosy said the department does as much as they can to come up with the best solution to be able to handle calls.

“I don’t have an answer for whether we should charge or not outside of our area, but we have a newly formed district and our department is going to actively work with them and decide what our best options will be,” said Vamosy, who added that there are about 20 active members in the department.

“I appreciate everything my members are able to contribute. It takes a lot of time away from their families,” he said.

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