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Fire service good, could be better

The Slingerlands Fire Department station was opened in 1966. A proposed $1.8 million project would expand the building to allow for more room for equipment, trucks, and storage.

The Slingerlands Fire Department station was opened in 1966. A proposed $1.8 million project would expand the building to allow for more room for equipment, trucks, and storage.

Residents of Bethlehem are receiving good service from fire departments across the town, but a new report also indicates that plenty of improvements could be made and that consolidation may someday be appropriate.

The report was the result of work by the Bethlehem Fire Districts Collaborative Planning Task Force, which examined existing service and the input of residents living within the five fire districts.

Task Force Chairman John Lutz provided a positive outlook of the fire services currently provided in the town.

“The districts are in good alignment with other districts around the state,” said Lutz, who is also a commissioner in the Elsmere Fire Department. “We’re kind of in the middle of the pack in terms of our expenses and the population that we serve. The quality of service appears to be good and the cooperation is well above average.”

The town, which does not have paid firefighters, has five separate departments: Delmar, Elmwood Park, Elsmere, Slingerlands and Selkirk.

The main goal of the study, according to Lutz, was to drive better performance among the five departments. The study looked closely at standard operating procedures, training, response times, personnel levels and issues related to cost.

“What we’re trying to do is more cooperation so that we can ultimately get to a situation where the service that you get across the town is entirely consistent,” said Lutz. “The average is OK, but we really need to strive to be better than just the middle of the pack.”

Details of the study indicate that if consolidation is a possibility, the five districts could be combined into two, with the creation of a town-wide district a possibility within 10 years of that consolidation. The report also states that a “considerable amount of the benefits of consolidation can be achieved through greater cooperation leading to a functional integration of operations.”

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