Greenburgh Fire Districts Answered 5,000 Calls In 2012

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The Fairview Fire District responds to about 2,500 calls in Greenburgh every year, according to its website. Photo Credit: File/Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was another busy year for the Fairview, Hartsdale and Greenville fire districts, which combined to respond to about 5,120 calls in Greenburgh last year.

The Hartsdale Fire District, which serves a 4.5-square-mile area in Greenburgh, responded to 1,405 alarms in 2012, which is consistent with the previous couple of years, according to Fire Chief Ed Rush.

Only about 50 of the calls were actual fires, Rush said.

About 25 to 30 percent of the calls are EMS-related, and 20 percent were false alarms, Rush said. An additional 20 percent are what the district calls service alarms — when people have water leaks, are locked out of their houses or cars, or, as in a Dec. 19 incident, to rescue a Greenburgh Department of Public Works employee stuck in a 60-foot-high bucket on a truck.

Rush said his team is used to performing a number of different tasks in the town.

"If they don't know who else to call, they'll call the Fire Department," he said.

The Greenville Fire District totaled 1,215 calls in 2012, according to Fire District Secretary Lisa Dinon. That also is on par with the previous couple of years. Dinon said the district, which serves the Edgemont community, usually gets 1,200 to 1,300 calls a year.

Greenville firefighters had an especially busy time in the days after Hurricane Sandy in late October, when they responded to 87 calls in just a 60-hour period beginning on Oct. 29, according to their website. The calls consisted mainly of downed trees and wires.

The Hartsdale Fire District has 37 career members and 15 volunteers, while Greenville has 30 career members and 20 volunteers, according to each of the districts' websites.

The Fairview Fire District, which serves a 5.5-square-mile area in Greenburgh, responds to about 2,500 calls per year, according to its website. Composed of 45 career members and 16 volunteers, the fire district responds to hazardous materials incidents and provides EMT services in addition to fire suppression.

In addition, all three fire districts have members who participate in the Greenburgh Technical Rescue Team.

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Comments (7)

halmarc45:

If there are so few firemen in the firehouse, then let them bring their own food with them when reporting to duty. And you are claiming that there is no SUV available which can be driven by one person, whatever their pay grade, then I must be imagining such when I see these white SUVs parked at firehouses everywhere.
It would seem that one person buying food at local supermarkets would be less burdened and better able to respond to an emergency than a whole fire truck and full crew whose immediate mission is choosing between doritos and potato chips.

Salaries are salaries and jobs are jobs -- everywhere and at all levels. No one forces anyone into choosing one type of career over another. Would-be Firemen or Police Officers compete for the right to work holidays, weekends, nights, miss children's plays, sporting events...
If you don't like the heat, get out of the fire. Conversely few firemen (or police) are pressured to meet sales goals; few firemen are sued personally because they were unable to put out a fire; few firemen are judged by their ability to bring in new business; few firemen are required to travel throughout the year (including holidays, weekends, nights and play performances); few firemen work in on-fire office building needing firemen to put out fires...the point is that everyone has a workplace ax to grind.

As for the outdated term "public servant", this might have meant something once but times have changed -- both for the good and for the bad. Pay scales have moved up sharply as have benefits while civil service is no longer insurance against unemployment. On the other hand, while full retirement requirements may have increased to a shocking 25 years (horrors), private sector retirement still hovers around 40 years while eligibility for full social security benefits start to rise. Social Security is the only retirement available to millions in the private sector. To think that complaining about 25 years eligibility is a usable argument selling point is to seriously misjudge the discontent felt by other toilers (not owners) in the private sector. Whereas your comparison to politicians is fueled by the knowledge that they are the employers of firemen and policemen, the public already knows that this is an abusive caste; however, the goal is not to create more abuses by moving fire and police body enrollment up to that level; the objective is to get rid of the politicians.

You need to understand that the public whose taxes pay all salaries is not going to be sympathetic because some job titles are more abrasive than others or that some job titles are less abusive than others. If fire or police positions were vacant and no waiting lists to fill them were the case, then the marketplace would dictate that better pay and benefits must rise to ensure that these vacancies get filled. In turn, town A would be forced to bid higher than town B to fill these vacant positions.
However since this is far from the reality, there is no reason for town A to match or outbid town B since there is an abundance of labor in a rising pool impatiently waiting for their chance to wear the uniform. This is simple economics. And the idea that just because town A is currently offering a better deal, that B must follow "to be competitive" has nothing to do with what the position should pay based upon qualitative and dispassionate measurements of services performed.

And guess what, this is the norm in the private sector and par for the course for those jobs not controlled by unions. Unions have their place as advocates for their membership and putting self-interest as the goal is consistent with my belief in such ideas as voiced by Ayn Rand. However, absent any law binding everyone to think the same way, on this occasion, or perhaps in response to the feeble rationalizations for a better deal as put forth herein, I do not agree. And I remind you that as bad as you would characterize the work in Greenburgh; there is always the option to field a worse deal in nearby NYC. Don't let the door hit you in the rear on your way out. And thank Greenburgh for fronting the expense to train you.

WPEyesNEars:

All three fire departments typically respond together to most calls, beefing up their per call manpower. As for the understaffing argument, the unions have a stranglehold over the departments, negotiate and mandate how many people respond on each of the apparatus. In Scarsdale, for instance, when they insisted the Chief hire more people to "adequately" staff the apparatus, the Chief took an engine out of service and divvied up that manpower to the in-service vehicles. Their goal was to hire more people. That backfired.

The paid departments will not call volunteer departments into the scene of a working fire if they can anyway avoid it. They will only call other paid departments. It is not unusual for a call in Hartsdale or White Plains to wait while a Yonkers or Mt Vernon apparatus respond - all while a next door volunteer department could have been utilized. Its unionism.

The career departments and most of their members are taught by their union representatives to not volunteer in their home communities, utilize volunteers or they will lose their union benefits. Many will still volunteer and keep it on the QT. It's called the Double Hatter issue, where they wear both a paid and volunteer helmet. While it violates the American Constitution as well as several laws, it still happens.

Many pro-union firefighters will say they don't call volunteer departments for numerous bogus reasons. They say the volunteers are not well trained. This is false as 95% of the instructors at the fire training center in Valhalla are career firefighters! It is the best part-time employment center for paid firefighters. Then they'll say the volunteers don't come out and they can't guarantee their response. This simply isn't true. When someone calls 911 in volunteer communities, they get responses for the fire, ems, and/or call is mitigated using the same training, gear and qualified personnel as the paid departments. But go ahead, and keep calling these far away departments and hope no residents lives are put at any additional risk. Who wants to hold that press conference?

As budgets get more and more bloated, the increased use of volunteers for the paid departments is the answer. But since the chiefs don't run the departments and the union’s do, that'll never happen. The other thing is it's time for the respective Boards of Fire Commissioners to take care of their beleaguered taxpayers. Stop the gravy train now that times are tight. These paid firefighters should not get a guaranteed 6 hours of overtime if they are called back in. And it shouldn't start when they answer the phone. They shouldn't have their gym gear paid for while they get to work out on department time. Let them buy their own sneakers and shorts. They can have one person take a chiefs car to the supermarket with a grocery list to get their food. If there's a call, they can respond to the scene from there. It doesn't happen all that often. BTW, the article doesn't discuss the amount of automatic alarm calls although the Hartsdale Chief did break down 50 of the 1400+ calls as real fires. How much is over-staffing just to have enough firefighters for the disproportionate ratio of actual fires to lesser runs?

Another difficult to justify amount of overtime is the SWAT team for the police department and the combined Technical Rescue team comprised of both police and fire department members. Westchester County has both a SWAT and Special Operations (Technical Rescue and Hazmat) team that Greenburgh can use AT NO CHARGE and without the overtime they cost us. Greenburgh’s team's training is all overtime as are their calls (there aren’t that many) and it’s a chunk of change that would be significant for the taxpayers to get back. But the unions will fight it because they want the OT for their members.

I support our fire department members but we are all struggling just to get by. It’s time they give back with us and give up some of the perks they can live without. And yes, I agree that the politicians should also shoulder some of this blame.

Greenburgherwithpickles:

How many calls did the Police Department have?

Compare budgets ??

Compare salaries ??

Just Sayin'..............

halmarc45:

I'm not sure what your point is.

Is there competition between services?

Would taxpayers be getting their money's worth if we had more fires and crimes?

How does one compare the Police (essentially on the road continuously (hopefully) and Firemen (essentially fixed point based)?

What I would like to know though is whether dispatching trucks with their full crews for food shopping is considered a "call"?

I am concerned about sending a fire truck with full crew* out to assist someone -- anyone -- who locked themselves out of their car. This is a needless "call" which should be handled by the Police or a Locksmith.

I am concerned were lumping routine safety inspections to be considered and included as "calls"
"Calls" to me are those times when the trucks roll, sirens roaring and everyone rushing to the scene of a fire or other emergency. A "call" implies some danger to Firemen and not the equivalent of, say, an inspection by an employee of the Building Department who earns a lot less.

If rescuing cats still occurs, I consider that a welcome escape from boredom.

What I would like to know is why Fire Commissioners are paid so much. And I don't care about justification based on playing follow the leader or playing dominos.

And rather than easing into another futile and deflective round of Fire District consolidation, I would like to know why so many "calls" require the dispatch of duplicative responses by both the Police and Firemen? This tradition, of which the hundreds of thousands of dollars spend on buying modern communication equipment and its human participants, has failed to reduce thus raising the "call" numbers.

However, I repeat that "call count" is not a measure of need. And, for the record, Greenburgh Town government thrives on wasteful, duplicative, redundant services: summer camps, after school programs, "cultural programs", ignored studies from consultants... Note the overlap of activities sponsored by the Parks Department (multipurpose center), the TDYCC, the Library, the Nature Center.

As Mort Sahl would say, is there anyone I haven't offended?

greenburghresident:

So far these comments contain numerous false and incomparable information. This article regards three districts while the Greenburgh police department covers numerous villages as well, so call volumes and budgets are completely non-comprable. In addition, police budgets encompass numerous other line items that cannot be cross-compared to fire budgets. Salaries are directly in line which you can compare on any of the websites out there.

With regard to calls, shopping, safety inspections, and other safety details are NOT considered calls. As you stated, a call is only one with "sirens roaring and everyone rushing to the scene of a fire or other emergency." Non-emergency details do not factor in with call volume.

Regarding concern of sending a crew out for lockouts or other assists, would you like the department to explain to you, a taxpayer, that they took 5 minutes longer to get to your loved one because they had to return to the firehouse to get the truck in case of a "real emergency."

With regard to Fire Commissioners being "paid so much," this is completely 100% inaccurate. Fire Commissioners in the three districts DO NOT receive a single penny or compensation in any form. It is a completely voluntary position that is elected by the public.

Duplicative resources are not dispatched on calls. The police department is the primary care agency for medical calls. However, the police department is often short staffed to handle all the emergencies occurring in town which results in a fire department response to assist.

"Call count" is directly a measure of need. High call volume provides fact of need for services. For example, if an office secretary cannot efficiently answer phone calls to a given office, there is a need for a second secretary. In this example, call volume is under a different meaning, but the basis is the same. More calls equals more need.

This issue will continue to be beaten to death in Greenburgh year after year after year. Consolidation has been proven to be ineffective at regulating or reducing costs.

halmarc45:

My mistake; Fire Chiefs, not Commissioners. But in making the correction, add the highly paid office staff payroll to the statement. Salaries are "in line" which is the problem. One hand washes the other as is the fear that someone is going to break the chain of keeping up with the neighbors.

Lockouts or assists (like buying food at the supermarket) can be handled by sending 1 person paid by the Fire District and using a car. Like whatever rank rides around in an SUV and this person could leave immediately for an actual call. Or, the Police or a Locksmith could respond to a lockout. That's what I would tell a loved one.

The number of "calls" is not the tipping point as I earlier stated. I was just expressing my curiosity as to what constitutes a "call". Furthermore, when the Police respond; it is not uncommon to see three units arrive for a non-urgent matter. Does this constitute one "call" or three to four?

Untrue as to duplication. The slightest hint of the need for medical assistance draws both services.

As for consolidation, I don't agree that Fire Districts or the Police should be consolidated. What I am concerned about is the salaries paid within these "departments" and whether "response" requires the amount of manpower and equipment dispatched.

greenburghresident:

Quite often due to staffing levels, it is not feasible sending 1 person in a car. Two of the three fire districts operate with 1 man ladder trucks while FDNY for comparison has 5-6 man ladder trucks. This eliminates his ability to go. The other apparatus often have 2 men on it, which stripping 1 man is also not practical. In addition, 2 of the 3 districts do not assign a member to ride around in an SUV. The ranking officers ride around on the truck, not in cars.

Any incident is classified as 1 call. The amount of resources that respond do not alter call volume. For example, if 3 police cars respond to a burglar alarm, it counts as 1 call, not 3. Same goes for FD. If there is a fire alarm and 3 apparatus respond, it is still only 1 call.

Both services respond on medical assistance calls because as stated the police department is the primary care agency, and they often do not have sufficient personnel available to handle solo. The fire department thus supplements and assists by getting resources on scene much quicker. In addition, it is not uncommon for all Greenburgh Police Ambulances and Paramedics from being tied up on other calls, and mutual aid resources responding, for example Ardsley-Secor VAC, or Scarsdale VAC. This often results in a minimum 5-10 minute delay. Fire department is on scene within 3-4 minutes of dispatch. An additional 6-7 minutes can surely mean the difference between life and death. Why would anyone not want both resources responding to ensure efficient response.

Salaries are salaries, its always amazing that the public service sector is bashed for their salaries while nobody cares to look at the politicians who make hundreds of thousands of dollars and don't have to work holidays, weekends, nights, or any day they feel like taking off. They don't miss children's plays, sporting events, or other activities. In addition, they don't go to work and put themselves in harms way. Yet their salaries are well in line with any police/fire department members. Let alone they often receive lifetime pensions for serving a single term in office!!! That means pension for life, for 4 years of service. Meanwhile, police and fire minimum retirement ages for pensions are steadily rising from 20 years of service to 25 and probably higher. So a politician can serve the public for 4 years, make 100K+ a year, then collect a pension for the rest of his life while a public servant must work 25 years or more, at the same pay rate, miss out on irreplaceable family time, and place themselves in harms way. Yet the public continues to attack salaries and pensions of these members. To me it sounds like were fighting the wrong fight

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