Questions ignite defense of City's mutual aid fire and emergency procedures
A series of pointed questions focusing on the City’s mutual aid procedures and costs prompted a brief explanation and defense of the cooperative arrangement among Genesee County emergency responders at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
“How many times does our fire department leave the City for mutual aid? How many times do they call in for overtime? Is there any way to get overtime recouped from the municipality we are helping out? How much is it costing us?”
Those were the questions posed by City resident John Roach during the public comments segment of the meeting at City Hall. Council President Eugene Jankowski and Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano were ready to answer.
“We receive a lot more than we give,” Jankowski said, referring to the numerous times that volunteer crews from town fire departments have to assist in the City.
Jankowski said the town fire companies bring in a lot of apparatus and manpower, and do not charge the City for these services.
Napolitano pointed out that mutual aid is just that – a “reciprocal agreement.”
“If we start to charge agencies, we are the recipient of that reciprocal aid when we need that,” he said.
The chief said the perception that they have to call people in to “backfill the station” every time that City fire crews (or Mercy EMS) go out on a call is not accurate.
“Depending on what the staffing model is for the day, we send four people out with an engine, usually on a FAST team. If staffing is at maximum staffing, sometimes we’ll only have to call in one or two people. At times we don’t have to call anybody in,” he said.
In closing, Napolitano said it would be a mistake for fire departments to start mailing out invoices back and forth.
“I can’t give you the specifics as to the number of times we have to bring people in,” he said. “The benefit we derive when we have a major conflagration happening is invaluable. Those fire departments incur the same cost per unit mile that we incur on the back side, except we have paid staffing.”
“To start muddying the waters ...it would be, in my opinion, not a good idea to try to charge, number one; and number 2, you can’t charge. It’s a mutual aid agreement of manpower and equipment.”