Editor, The Spotlight:
I read the editorial in last week’s edition about EMS consolidation [“Kudos (and attention) in order for EMS”]. I would like to address the remarks about the fire departments and the claim that “There’s effectively been zero movement on the suggestion.”
I can understand why you have this perception since there hasn’t been any “publically” tangible progress or publicity generated from the town fire service. This likely stems from the nature of volunteer fire fighters who focus on getting the job done and moving on to the next task at hand without regard to self-adulation.
As a commissioner for the Elsmere Fire District, I can report that significant progress has been made in the fire district’s collaborating and working towards recommendations identified in the referenced study. Fire districts are constrained by different laws than EMS, and each fire district has a primary obligation to the residents in their particular fire district as prescribed by state law. EMS in the town is controlled by one governing body, the Town Board, making progress much easier.
The study you referenced was completed at the end of 2011. During 2012 there were many hours and impressive efforts put forth by the volunteers of all the districts in the town to work towards the recommendations outlined in the study. There were several collaborative meetings with representatives from each of the fire districts during 2012 discussing different opportunities for collaboration and identifying obstacles that need to be addressed. Subcommittees were formed to address specific tasks relating to the study.
One issue identified at the meeting was inconsistent qualifications and requirements for being a firefighter, officer, chief, fire police and safety officer. The subcommittee and town fire officers put together common standards that will be used by all the fire districts.
The districts understand the need for proper personnel management to ensure adequate response times. In Bethlehem, we are very fortunate to have six to 10 fully qualified members responding on a truck where paid departments only send three members or possibly more. To maintain this level of response, the chiefs of Selkirk and Elsmere agreed to capitalize on the available manpower of the two districts. The chiefs signed a mutual aid agreement that permits members from both departs to respond to alarms in either district. Also, members in Elsmere that are proximate to Selkirk’s fire district will soon be available to respond to Selkirk’s fire house and have the opportunity to be trained on their apparatus. In addition, every week, each of the town’s five fire departments conducts a training drill for their members. Any member of any department is welcome to participate in any of the training events (cross train). Cross training among the fire districts increased during 2012, which was encouraged by each of the department chiefs.