Like a lot of volunteer departments, Le Roy looking for ways to shore up daytime call response
There was a time, Jerry Diskin remembers, when there were seven volunteer firefighters working right in the Village of Le Roy.
That was a time, many years ago, when getting volunteers to turn out for daytime alarms was never a problem, but times have changed.
Lapp Industries has downsized, no new industrial employers have sprung up, businesses are smaller in the village, and more people work in Monroe County or elsewhere, making it hard for them to respond to daytime alarms.
That has Le Roy Fire District looking at any and all potential solutions for ensuring daytime alarms bring out sufficient manpower to cover the call, said Diskin who is chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
It's not that the department doesn't have enough volunteers -- there are 67 on the rolls, said 1st Assistant Chief Tom Wood.
"We’re not hurting for manpower," Wood said. "We’re hurting for guys available in a certain time frame. If you look at our roster, we have the manpower, but like everybody else, it’s just a time frame during the day time where people are in Rochester or wherever."
There was some confusion earlier this week over a report in a fire service newsletter, based on minutes from an East Battalion meeting, that the City of Batavia Fire Department would start to "cover" for Le Roy on structure fire calls in the Le Roy District.
That was never the plan, Diskin said. There was merely a discussion at the meeting about this issue and the city's changing role on structure fire calls.
"As a district, we’re directly accountable to the taxpayers," Diskin said. "To that end, if there is something out there that’s available to us to use or pursue we have a responsibility to do that."
The city has always sent what's known as a Fast Team (a group of firefighters tasked with being ready to rescue firefighters who might be trapped or having difficulty exiting a burning building) to structure fires in Le Roy.
There have been a total of 11 such calls in Le Roy over the past 18 months, Wood said.
In the future, the city will be asked to send a responding engine and another volunteer company will be asked to respond as the Fast Team, on daytime calls, Wood said.
"This is just change to an engine company," Wood said. "They’re not coming here to answer our alarms, they’re coming on structure fire only. ... This has been blown way, way, way out of proportion. This is just a change in assignment for them."
The county's fire response is broken into battalions and mutual aid companies and dispatchers use what are known as run cards to dispatch the right companies in the right order to the right location.
For Le Roy, the typical structure fire has Bergen sending its ladder truck almost right away, with another ladder truck (Le Roy also has its own) if needed from either Caledonia or Town of Batavia.
The city would not likely be requested to send anything more than the Fast Team, or, now, an engine company.
"The system is designed so we don't deplete any one area," Wood said.
Both Diskin and Wood emphasized that the issue Le Roy is facing with daytime calls is a countywide problem.
Last month, for example, there were back-to-back fires in Pavilion and Le Roy on a hot day. At the Pavilion fire, it was the third time recently that Wood became scene commander, even though it was Pavilion's district, because Pavilion didn't have a chief available to respond. An Alexander firefighter responded because he worked in Pavilion, even though his department hadn't been dispatched at that point (Alexander's Fast Team was dispatched that day). Le Roy was supposed to have a mutual aid company as a fill-in at its hall, and that company did send an engine but didn't have enough manpower available when the alarm sounded for the fire on Lent Avenue.
At that call, the city's Fast Team was pressed into firefighting duty to give the hot and tired volunteers a rest.
That's all a result of diminished manpower throughout the area for daytime calls, Wood said.
"This whole daytime thing is a countywide issue," Wood said. "It’s just being brought to the foreground by us because we’re being proactive about making sure things are covered."
Diskin said it's important to note that while getting enough people out on daytime calls is a struggle, calls are still getting covered in the district.
Like the Lent Avenue fire, calls sometimes pile up and over. And for the past couple of years, there seem to be more calls for service during the day, Diskin said.
"But that happens (the rare back-to-back call)," Diskin said. "It’s just like, 'it’s only a CO alarm,' 'it’s only a smoke detector alarm,' but somebody has got to answer that. That’s all it is, but somebody has got to go and handle it."
While manpower isn't an issue, recruiting more people is one obvious answer to boost the numbers with the hope that some greater percentage of recruits increases the number of daytime responders.
It's a challenge, and part of the challenge is that firefighting training has gone from a week to now you're into 79 hours of training, and 129 if you want to be an interior firefighter.
“It’s all good training," Diskin said. "I’ve been in training all my life. The issue is, it’s a big time commitment. So you’re trying to ramp that person up to be a valuable member of your department, you’re talking 18 months."
Because of the changing landscape of employment in Le Roy, Wood said, people's lifestyles have changed. A young firefighter probably has a family and kids today and they're signed up for more activities, making parents less available to respond to fire calls.
"Parents are just traveling all the time," Wood said. "I take my brother as an example. He’s got his daughter on a travel volleyball team. He’s gone most of the summer every weekend. So there’s a guy gone. I don’t fault anybody for doing that, but that’s the way it is."
To find out more about volunteering for your area department, visit ReadyGenesee.com.