Skip to main content

East Pembroke Fire

East Pembroke Fire residents looking at higher costs down the road after rejecting retirement benefit for volunteers

By Howard B. Owens

Fram Oil Filters used to run a commercial with the tagline, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."

It may be the case that taxpayers in the East Pembroke Fire District decided earlier this week to the "pay me later" path for the future of keeping their homes and families safe in emergencies.

Voters turned down a proposal on Tuesday to fund a low-cost retirement program to help the fire department retain volunteers.

The measure was defeated 117 yes to 152 no.

Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger said he is disappointed in the outcome of the vote. He sees on a daily basis what is going on with volunteer fire companies in the county -- declining membership, fewer people turning out to calls, fewer people in training classes.

"The volunteer service is in bad shape, and it's getting worse," Yaeger told The Batavian.

In a social media post, members of the East Pembroke department shared their disappointment.

"The East Pembroke Fire Department has always put the community first, helping out whenever anyone is in need. On your worst day, the volunteers stop their lives to help you for hours on end with no compensation," reads a post on the department's social media page. Individual members shared their disappointment in comments on the post.

Yaeger said he understands the hurt and frustration members are feeling but believes they will regroup and come to realize the vote was not a rejection of their service to the community.

"Once the emotion subsides, they'll see that is not the case," Yaeger said.

Volunteer firefighters do the job for free, putting in hundreds of hours annually, some more than a thousand, not just responding to calls but also going to training, attending meetings, maintaining equipment, and supporting fundraisers.  It's an essential job with no pay, Yaeger noted. There is no pension. No health benefits. If you serve long enough, you might get a nice plaque at the end of your career.

"There are no benefits to being a volunteer firefighter other than it's a noble cause," Yaeger said. "And the calls are hard and getting harder. Most of them are EMS calls, and you're dealing with people who may not want you there. It might be drug overdose, and you're not welcome into the home, so it's disheartening (that this didn't pass)."

The program voters were asked to approve is known as LOSAP, or Length of Service Awards Program. It is run by an insurance company and would allow qualifying volunteers to earn $20 a month in retirement benefits for each year of service, with firefighters becoming fully vested after five years of qualifying service.

The cost to taxpayers in each of the first five years of the program -- when costs are at their highest because of a "buyback," allowing existing volunteers to qualify for five years of service -- would have been a maximum of 44 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on parcels in the district. After the first five years, the cost would have dropped by as much as two-thirds.

Issues that arose in the run-up to the vote were that residents had a hard time finding out what their actual individual cost to support the program would be. When The Batavian tried to find out, it took a couple of days to get a firm answer.  The first time  The Batavian asked the attorney for the district, Bradley Pinsky, what the rate would be, he said he was driving and didn't know. He suggested the reporter calculate the rate herself. Later he called back and said it was 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.  That didn't sound right because it was way out of line with guesstimate numbers previously provided to The Batavian. The Batavian contacted District President James Gayton, who contacted Pinsky immediately.  Pinsky admitted to an error in the calculation and said the correct figure was a maximum of 44 cents.

"East Pembroke is struggling for people to respond to calls," Yaeger said. "It’s a frustrating feeling not having enough people to do the job, and then you try to do something to attract and retain people, and it gets rejected by the people you’re trying to protect," Yaeger said.

Yaeger acknowledged that the rejection of the measure by voters may have come down to messaging.  There was a lack of clear information on a tax rate, but there was also misrepresentation and disinformation spread by two opponents of the measure. That left voters confused, so they just voted no.

East Pembroke volunteers think they know who those people who sent out mailers with incorrect information are and have pointed fingers at former colleagues.

Yeager said in looking at some of the recommendations from consultants on how to shore up emergency response times -- which, for Yaeger, response times is the bottom line issue at stake -- he and the area chiefs anticipated that some long-time volunteers would resist some of the initiatives, including LOSAP, because some people always hate any kind of change.

"We didn't have it before. It's not needed now," is that attitude that sometimes pops up, which in putting forward these proposals, consultants warned could happen.

It's not just a declining membership role that is making the volunteer firefighting service a challenge, Yaeger said. Equipment costs are skyrocketing. Turnout gear is more expensive. The equipment used in emergencies is more expensive.

A fire truck that cost $500,000 just a couple of years ago now costs $800,000, and the wait to get the order filled can take up to two years.

The countywide goal for response times is 10 minutes or  less, which can be difficult in a small rural county at any time, Yaeger said.

"My concern is mostly with getting a trained, qualified person to that home or business or accident when somebody calls 9-1-1," Yaeger said. "Our goal is to be able to respond to anybody's house within 10 minutes. That's a high target to shoot for in a rural county, but if you asked anybody how fast they want us there when their loved one is having a heart attack or other emergency, they say, 'minutes.'  I'm more concerned with service delivery that we're unable to provide right now adequately."

While maintaining an adequate volunteer force is important, Yaeger's office is also looking at other recommendations from a consultant that include stationing full-time, paid firefighters in fire halls throughout the county on day shifts and supplementing their responses with volunteers as well as strategically placing ambulances outside of Batavia.

For Yaeger, keeping response times low is a matter of saving lives, but for property owners, there is also a financial cost to increased response times, which can go up when there are too few volunteers to respond to calls.

Insurance rates are based on a rating of fire services available to a particular parcel of property.  The Insurance Service Organization scores response times based on 9-1-1 operations, water supply, hydrant capacity, drive time, fire apparatus and equipment, staffing and several other factors.

A shortage of volunteers can affect an ISO score, which means higher insurance costs for property owners.

A decline in volunteer membership will also hasten the day that the county must implement a plan that supplements volunteers with paid, career firefighters. 

Yaeger doesn't yet foresee replacing volunteer departments with full-time paid departments, such as currently provides fire protection to the City of Batavia, and the semi-paid response teams, if they come, will be shared across departmental jurisdictions; for example, East Pembroke Fire District won't be shouldering the entire cost alone for such a service.

But when it is harder for a department to retain volunteers, such as the potential case now with East Pembroke's failure to approve LOSAP, it becomes much more likely that property owners in that district are looking at much higher tax bills to cover the costs of paid firefighters.

LOSAP probably would not have brought in new firefighters, Yaeger said, but it would have rewarded those volunteers who have given so much to the community -- not just fire protection but donations through fundraisers to local charities -- and that could have been an important retention tool to forestall higher fire protection costs down the road.

"When you consider the cost of equipment and maintenance and upkeep on a fire station in order to maintain response times, it's going to cost money," Yaeger said. "What that total expense is, I don't know, but if we can't count on volunteers, we can only look to paid firefighters or a pay-per-call model because we're having trouble retaining volunteers, and it's getting worse every day."

East Pembroke Fire will ask voters to make it the first department to offer retirement benefits to volunteers

By Howard B. Owens

CORRECTION:  After receiving comments stating that East Pembroke is not the first to pursue LOSAP, The Batavian checked with Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger, who said Pavilion Fire instituted a LOSAP program in 2022.  We regret that we weren't aware of this program, but Pavilion Fire never sent out any announcement to the local media about the program. Despite comments to the contrary, no other department in Genesee County has instituted LOSAP. 

If voters in the East Pembroke Fire District approve the proposition on Aug. 29, volunteers in that fire department would become the first in Genesee County to have a chance to earn retirement benefits in exchange for their service to the community.

The proposal is a recruitment and retention strategy, said Fire District President James Gayton, to help avoid the expense of replacing volunteers with paid, career firefighters, which he noted would be far more expensive for taxpayers than the proposed retirement benefit.

"We were always told by the previous administration that we couldn't afford (the retirement program), that we didn't want to pay for it, but now that I'm in charge, I wanted to look into it," Gayton said. "The alternative is to go to a paid career staff, and do you really want to fund that -- verse $29,000 a year -- over our entire tax base?"

It's been well publicized over the past few years that volunteer fire departments, not just in Genesee County, are struggling to maintain a sufficient volunteer base to adequately respond to emergency calls.

Gayton sees the proposal -- the only way to legally compensate volunteers in New York -- as a potential way to attract new recruits as well as ensure that current members stick around.

The program, run by an insurance company known as LOSAP, or Length of Service Awards Program, would allow qualifying volunteers to earn $20 a month in retirement benefits for each year of service, with firefighters becoming fully vested after five years of qualifying service.

To qualify, firefighters need to accrue 50 points a year for responding to calls, going to training, helping out at fundraisers, and other service for the department.

"The requirements are so obtainable that a snowbird can get the points just in the six months they're up here," Gayton said.

Many current department members have years, if not decades, of service.  The proposal will allow them to qualify for immediate vesting, which Gayton called a "buyback." The buyback can only cover the most recent five years of service but the extra expense means taxpayers will need to contribute $112,000 a year for five years. After that, premiums are an estimated $29,000 a year.

The initial retirement age will be 65, but Gayton hopes the district can eventually lower it to 55.  He would also like to see the retirement payout increased to $30 a month once the "buyback" is paid off.

Once members are vested, their beneficiaries will receive a lump sum payment of any benefits they qualified for, up to 10 years of benefits, that haven't yet been paid out.

"A lot of guys don't think about retirement until the time is on them," Gayton noted.  He hopes the program will draw the attention of younger recruits who realize it's an easy way to start accruing a little extra retirement income.

He said that while no department in Genesee County has yet adopted the program, several departments have contacted him recently, and he said that most volunteer departments in Monroe and Erie counties participate.

There is a public hearing on the proposal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the fire hall, 8655 Barrett Drive, Batavia.  An attorney will be on hand to answer questions.

The vote will be held at the fire hall from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 29.

Don Newton Sr. honored for 50 years of service in East Pembroke

By Howard B. Owens


Among the awards handed out Friday night by the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department was a plaque and gold-plated ax for Donald Newton Sr., for his 50 years of service to the department.

In those 50 years, Newton has been a fire chief, a commissioner, a president of the fire district board, a captain, lieutenant, assistant chief, vice president and a member of the board of directors.

In the photo above, he's hugged by his son, Don Newton Jr., while 1st Assistant Chief Charles Chatley and 2nd Assistant Chief Stephen Smelski hold the award.

Other awards Friday included Dan Vania, who served for 27 years as district treasurer. Charles Chately and Paul Kirch both received Firefighter of the Year. (Kirch was unable to attend the dinner.) 

Five years of service: Kenny Marble, Ryan Worthington, Joycelyn Perry, Jennifer Henning, and Paul Kirch; 15 years of service: Don Norway; 20 years of service: Dave Winters and James Gayton.

The department responded to 318 calls in 2019, which came to 1,200 manhours on calls for service.

Firematic officers for 2020: Don Newton Jr., chief; Charles Chatley, 1st assistant chief; Stephen Smelski, 2nd assistant chief; Paul Kirch, captain; Kenny Marble, lieutenant; Joycelyn Perry, EMS captain; Jen Groff, EMS lieutenant; Dale Lewter, fire police captain; Matt Allen, Rick Groff and Justin Nye, training officers.


Charles Chatley, Kenny Marble, Don Newton Sr., Don Newton Jr., and Stephen Smelski


Charles Chatley, Don Newton Sr., Kenny Marble, Dan Vania, Don Newton Jr., and Stephen Smelski


Don Newton Jr., Charles Chatley, Stephen Smelski


If you like our community coverage and want more of it, become a patron. Click the supporter button below.

East Pembroke selects Firefighter of the Year, Service Person of the Year

By Howard B. Owens


The East Pembroke Fire Department held its annual installation and awards banquet at Batavia Downs on Saturday night and Kenny Marble was named Firefighter of the Year.

Top photo: Don Newton Sr., president; Chuck Chatley, assistant chief; Steve Smelski, assistant chief; Kenny Marble, vice president; Paul Fenton, owner of Fenton's Produce, commissioner, and Service Person of the Year after serving on the board for 27 years; Don Newton, Jr., chief; Bill Lawrence, commissioner; Tom Dix, commissioner; and Rick Groff, incoming commissioner, replacing Fenton.


Paul Fenton, Service Person of the Year.


Kenny Marble, Firefighter of the Year.


Officers taking the oath of office.


The fire department members and district commissioners.

East Pembroke names Firefighter of the Year, installs officers for 2017

By Howard B. Owens


The Firefighter of the Year for the East Pembroke Fire Department is Andrew Martin, who received his award last night during the annual installation banquet for the department. He's pictured with the chiefs who selected Martin for the award, Chief Don Newton, 1st Assistant Chief Stephen Smelski and 2nd Assistant Chief Charles Chatley.

Sworn in as firematic officers for 2017 were Newton, Smelski, Chatley, William Torres as captain, Matthew Florian as fire police captain and James Gayton as training officer.

The administrative officers are Donald Newton Sr., president, Ken Marble, vice president, Joycelyn Perry, secretary, Dan Vania, treasurer, Ryan Worthington, sergeant of arms and parade marshall, Julie Waldron, assistant parade marshall and Pastor Bloom as chaplin.

Members of the board of directors are Steve Smelski, Don Newton, Jr., William Torres, Andrew Martin and Charles Chatley.

Auxiliary officers: Diane Winters, president; Shannon Ferguson, vice president; Steven Petty, secretary; Amber Winters, treasurer; Millie Marble, sergeant of arms; Gordie Petty, standard bearer; and Mary Dix, chaplin.

District representatives: Robert Yungfleisch, William Lawerance, William Joyce, Thomas Dix and Paul Fenton.

The department also received an award, presented by Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger, for most training hours -- at 1,180 -- of any department in the county.

The department responded to 330 calls in 2016.


William Torres responded to the most calls for the year, more than 200. He responded to 212 calls.


Chief Don Newton, who has been chief for eight years, received a gift certificate from the department to take his family on an all-expensed-paid trip to a theme park in Pennsylvania. 




East Pembroke Fire takes delivery of new search and rescue vehicle

By Howard B. Owens


A new all-terrain vehicle for the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department will help improve the search and rescue capabilities of fire departments throughout Genesee County, EPFD Chief Don Newton said yesterday.

"This a new tool, another tool, we have available," Newton said. "I think it's a great addition for the fire services."

The only other similar vehicle available for search and rescue operations is with the Alexander Volunteer Fire Department.

Jan Schafer, owner of Buck's Motorsports in Akron helped arrange for the vehicle for EPFD as part of a manufacture's program that allows the department to get free use of the four-wheeler for a year with an option to buy it at 20-percent below dealer costs at the end of the year.

All members of the EPFD will be trained in the operations of the new vehicle, which can be used not only to rescue hunters or snowmobilers, but to help fight small brush fires.

"We need the volunteer firefighters who support our snowmobilers, our ATVers, our hunters, and at events and parades to be well equipped," said Schafer, who is an East Pembroke resident. "I think it’s extremely important that they have some vehicles like this."

There's been an increasing need in the county, Newton said, for increased search and rescue capabilities.

"In our area, Genesee County, we've been getting over the years more and more calls for lost hunters, hurt hunters in the woods, more snowmobile accidents, four-wheeler accidents and ATV accidents," Newton said.

The new vehicle will make it easier and safer for firefighters and EMS personnel to get to a person in need of rescue and more safely get the patients to ambulances or Mercy Flight helicopters, which often must land far from a rescue scene because they're in wooded areas.

Newton said the vehicle not only serves the practical purposes of search and rescue but will also be a good fundraising and recruitment tool. The department can put it on display and show people what their financial support helps bring to the community and greater search and rescue capabilities will help bring in new volunteers interested in that kind of work.


East Pembroke fire hands out 2015 awards

By Howard B. Owens


East Pembroke Fire Chief Don Newton is pictured with William Torres, who was honored as Firefighter of the Year by the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department at the department's annual awards dinner Saturday night.

Besides his tireless devotion to fire services and his many contributions to the department, Torres was honored as one of the top responders of 2015. He responded to 243 calls.


Ken Marble received the Fire Service Person of the Year award. The award can go to either a firefighter or member of the community. Co-winner this year, as voted by the members, was Ed Arnold Scrap Processors.

Marble also received certificates for going on 109 calls during the year and completing 54 hours of training.


Assemblyman Steve Hawley presented three long-serving members with certificates. From left are Dan Vania, 30 years of service, Robert Lang, 60 years of service, Hawley, and Don Newton Sr., 45 years of service.

Newton thanks the following local businesses for their support: Fenton's Produce , Ron & Newts , Holiday Ice , Kohorst Custom ome's , Ed Arnold Scrap Processors , Kohorst Trucking and Del-Mar Farms.

The department was called out 343 times in 2015. Members who made at least 25 percent of the calls and Monday night training combined for each quarter received a gift card, shirt and jacket.

The top responders, all making at least 100 calls, were: Kenny Marble, Andy Martin, Steve Smelski, Julie Waldron, James Gayton, Paul Kirch, Chris Bennett, Don Newton Sr, Don Newton Jr, Willie Torres, Matt Florian and Ryan Worthington.

Photos: East Pembroke Fire Department's Gun Raffle

By Howard B. Owens


The East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department hosted its first gun raffle Saturday night at its fire hall. The event was a fundraiser to support the department. We don't yet have a list of winners, but several prizes were given away.  





Two drivers in East Pembroke ATV crash facing DWI charges

By Howard B. Owens

The two drivers reportedly involved in an ATV crash Sunday night have both been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Charles R. Chatley, 26, of 2392 Kilian Road, Corfu, was also charged with unlawful operation of an ATV on a public highway.

Stephen R. Smelski, 35, of West Main Street, Batavia, is also charged with unlawful operation of an ATV on a public highway and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

Witnesses say Smelski was the most seriously injured of the four people involved in the accident and he's the one victim still hospitalized, though he's listed in good condition at ECMC.

An East Pembroke Fire Department 1st assistant chief and Genesee County emergency dispatcher, Smelski was reportedly taken by private vehicle to UMMC following the accident and later transported to ECMC.

The accident was reported at 11:09 p.m. Sunday in the area of 2069 E. Main St., East Pembroke.

Also injured were passengers Kristina Rumble, 26, and Brenda Smelski, 37.

Brenda Smelski was treated and released at ECMC, as was Chatley.  Rumble, who was transported to ECMC by Mercy Flight, was released from the hospital two days ago.

Chatley is a 2nd assistant chief with East Pembroke.

The accident occurred the same date as the annual East Pembroke Mud Races, hosted by the fire department, but the accident was hours after the event ended and at least a mile from the mud pits. 

The accident was investigated by deputies Jason Saile and James Diehl and Sgt. Eric Seppala.

East Pembroke fire officials hope to persuade residents new fire hall is desperately needed

By Howard B. Owens


The fire hall in East Pembroke has served its department well for more than 80 years. Now, Fire District officials hope the department's next fire hall will serve the community well for another 80 to 100 years.

If there is a new fire hall.

Voters will need to approve the expenditure and tax increase to make it possible, and Fire District Commissioner Bill Lawrence says it's absolutely essential to approve the expenditure if East Pembroke Fire is going to continue to provide essential service to the 100 square miles and 5,500 residents over its coverage area.

The proposed fire hall would sit on land purchased by the district more than a decade ago that is a little bit east of the current location. The building would be 11,128 square feet and cost $3 million.

It would contain not only more room for existing fire trucks, but rooms for hose drying, decontamination and air packs.

"It's by no means a castle," Lawrence said. "It's just a basic building. It's got what we need and stuff that we should have had."

For a district that has traditionally held the line on tax increases, the proposal might make some property owners gulp. The tax assessment would go up from the current $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.98.

But that price factors in future inflation, new trucks, ongoing maintenance and other expenses.

"There won't be another tax rate increase for 20 years," Lawrence said.

The district, Lawrence said, has always tried to keep taxes down, even while always paying cash for new trucks and keeping its annual budget at $150,000 or less.

Now the district faces a situation where the fire hall must be replaced, but there's not enough money in the bank to cover all of the costs.

"Our feeling was to let the people keep their money," Lawrence said. "We've been asked, 'why didn't you increase the tax rate right along?' But we felt it was better to let people keep their money."

There will be a public meeting June 18 at St. Mary's to discuss the new fire hall and make the case that the expenditure is critically necessary.

A visit to the fire hall's basement might be the district's most convincing evidence.

The former rec hall for the department sits under three bays that were built in the 1970s. The floor was designed to support only 14,000 pounds. The current trucks occupying those three bays weigh more than 45,000 pounds.

On the advice of an engineer, the rec hall was gutted and support beams were constructed.

The lowest available price from a contractor for the support construction was $30,000. The department was able to reduce the sum with its volunteers and material donated by Ed Arnold Scrap, Jay E. Potter Lumber and Fastenal (top photo).

The 1930s era portion of the structure was designed to support on 8,000 pounds and it currently contains a 12,000-pound rescue truck.

The structural problems with the building came to light after a car struck the fire hall Nov. 15, 2012. Before the accident, replacing the fire hall was on the district's long-term to-do list, but didn't become a matter of urgency until the accident brought code inspectors and engineers to the property who found the structure was insufficient for its current use.

Firefighting has changed a lot since the 1930s. Trucks have gotten bigger and the state has implemented ever more stringent and costly regulations. 

For example, new turnout gear for interior firefighters must be purchased every 10 years, at a cost of $3,500. New air packs must be purchased every 15 years and cost $6,500 each. The state requires all tires on fire trucks be replaced every 10 years, whether the tires are worn or not.

Recently, more and more residents have been putting steel roofs on their homes and barns. That presents a new firefighting challenge because the roofs are harder to access -- especially in frosty or wet whether -- to ventilate a fire (a key firefighting strategy).  

The increase in steel roofs means the district needs to buy a new ladder truck at a cost of $675,000.

"Somebody might ask, why are you going to get ladder truck and it's for that reason," Lawrence said. "We can't take care of these houses and some the barns that are getting these roofs on them. We're being pushed into a lot of stuff where we don't have control. It's depressing because you're losing control and still they're coming out with more regulations."

Lawrence also feels like the companies that supply fire departments with apparatus have the departments in a monopolistic hammerlock, giving them the ability to inflate prices.

Rescue 57 cost $270,000, a price Lawrence said is outrageous.

"It's like a wedding," Lawrence said. "If you're going to go anywhere for a wedding, and they know it's a wedding cake, they know it's a wedding dress, they know it's anything else, it doubles the price. They know it's related to fire, they kick the price up. There's no reason that truck should have cost nearly $300,000. No reason at all."

The current fire hall is owned by the East Pembroke Fire Department and Lawrence said district officials feel it would be better for the district to own the fire hall. Building a new one will give the district the chance to correct that historic anomaly.  

The fire department would then sell the current hall -- which, if you need to know -- is not the same parcel as the mud race pits, so the annual mud races would be unaffected by the sale.  

The department goes out on nearly 300 calls a year and currently has 31 volunteer firefighters. The district projects growth in the area that will mean 400 calls annually by 2034 and the department will need 55 volunteers to operate.

There simply isn't room in the current building to upgrade it enough to accomodate that growth. But even just upgrading the electrical, the structural, the mechanical and making it handicapped accessible (which would be required under federal law) would cost nearly $1 million.

Voters in the Town of Barre recently turned down a new fire hall proposal that was about half the price East Pembroke is seeking, but Lawrence said that vote doesn't concern him much.

"It doesn't make us nervous because we know what we have to have to serve the residents of the district," Lawrence said.


This fire truck arrived at EPFD new in 1934. It's the kind of truck the 1930s era fire hall was built to hold; not the massive engines of today. This truck is still technically operational, but is used for display and parades.


The crumbling cement of the floor of the firehouse as seen from the basement.

File photo from the 2012 accident that made the defects with the current fire hall much more obvious.

Photos: East Pembroke's 'Get Fired Up for Trey' fundraiser

By Howard B. Owens

The East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department is hosting a fundraiser today for Trey (pictured above with Chief Don Newton Jr., and his mother, Heather).

Trey recently underwent surgery for Chiari Malformation (Arnold-Chiari), a serious neurological disorder where the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine causing many symptoms.

The fundraiser will help cover his medical expenses. It includes a chicken BBQ, chance auction and silent auction and goes until 5 p.m. at the East Pembroke fire hall on Route 5.

East Pembroke firefighters hosting fundraiser for 5-year-old with rare disorder

By Howard B. Owens

Members of the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department are organizing a fundraiser from noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, June 30, to assist Trey.

The 5-year-old is the son of heather Gill Palandino and Donald Newton Jr. He is being treated for Chiari Malformation (Arnold-Chiari), is a serious neurological disorder where the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine causing many symptoms.

Newton is chief of the department and Julie Waldron said department members are ever grateful for all he does for the community.

"Donald and his family do a lot for our fire department and community and we would love to give back to them at this time," Waldron said. "We could never thank him enough for everything he has done for our department, and Heather and Trey, as well. They are all always there when we need them. We are one big family and we are helping our brother, our leader and his family."

The fundraiser includes a chance auction and a chicken BBQ. Pre-sale tickets for the BBQ are $9 and are available on Monday evenings at the department or from members.

Photos: East Pembroke Mud Races

By Howard B. Owens

Ed Woods attended the Mud Races hosted by the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday and provided us with these photos.

Bookkeeping problems, but no missing funds in East Pembroke Fire District audit

By Howard B. Owens

A state audit of the East Pembroke Fire District's financial records found problems with accounting procedures, but did not uncover any missing funds or improper expenditures.

The NYS Comptroller's Office released the audit this past week and was critical of the district for:

  • Not auditing treasurer's records and reports;
  • The treasurer has not completed and filed annual financial reports with state since 2005;
  • There's no evidence the board reviewed claims before they were paid;
  • Bank statements were not reconciled monthly.

The apparent problems with the bookkeeping required auditors to go through expenses check-by-check -- 75 checks in all totaling $21,875 -- from May 1 through Oct. 30, as well as all bank account transfers, deposits and withdrawals.

The financial activity was properly recorded and disbursements appeared for district purposes, but claims lacked proper approvals.

The audit period was Jan. 1, 2010 through Nov. 29, 2011.

The district has an annual budget of $158,000.

East Pembroke Fire Department commemorates 9/11

By Destin Danser

The East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department held a memorial service this morning to honor all those who perished in the events that took place on September 11, 2001. Members from the department came out early this morning to decorate the trucks, and stayed there throughout the day to have a total of six moments of silence; one at the exact time when each plane hit, and one at the time of each tower's collapse and to mark the carnage at the Pentagon. Each moment of silence began with blowing the air horn on one of the fire engines, followed by one minute of silence to honor the victims and heros of that event. 

Pictured above: Firefighters observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives when the first tower collapsed at 8:46 a.m. Below: A memorial set up in front of antique truck, "Old Betsy."




Pictured above is Firefighter William Torres, who joined the East Pembroke Fire Department in March of this year after moving up here for a job with the Loyola Recovery Foundation. Torres worked for the New York City Fire Department for 21 years, and was on duty on September 11, 2001. He was stationed in the Bronx that day, but once the first plane hit the Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., he was immediately called in to help with the rescue efforts.

He recalls bringing a patient out of the south tower just before it fell, "We were a couple of blocks away, headed for our ambulance when the first tower collapsed. When I saw the cloud of dust, my partner and I just started running as fast as we could while pushing our patient on the stretcher." It's obvious that he was greatly affected by the events that unfolded that day, but he says they made him a stronger person.

Pembroke kids have fun learning about fire safety

By Daniel Crofts

When Mr. Fire comes knockin' at your door, make sure you know what to do!

That's the gist of the message Sgt. Major William Joyce, of the East Pembroke Fire Department, had for Pembroke Primary School students last week.

He and firefighters from various districts came to talk to the kids about the importance of being prepared for fire-related emergencies.

These are some of the trucks that pulled up to the school in the morning, much to the delight of the children:

Part of being prepared for a fire, according to Joyce, is developing an evacuation plan, which has to include a designated spot for the family to meet outside the home.

"And please don't pick your mom or dad's truck," Joyce said. "Mom and dad might have gone to the store or something, which means the truck could be gone."

He recommended picking a neighborhood tree or telephone pole, because "last time I checked, trees and telephone poles don't walk away."

Secondly, Joyce stressed the importance not only of getting out of a burning house, but also of staying out.

"Don't go back in for your dog or your cat or your favorite toy," he said. "You can always buy a new dog, cat or toy at the store, but there's no store I know of where your parents can get another little boy or girl."

Families should practice these and other safety measures through home fire drills, according to Joyce.

"Monday night is the best time for fire drills," he said, "because the firefighters are at the hall and we have all the equipment we need ready."

And in case one of these little ones were to get stuck in the house during a fire, Joyce stressed one very important thing they would need to remember:

"Don't be afraid of the firefighters."

He acknowledged that firefighters can look kind of scary when they come crawling into the house or room in the dark, masked, dressed in heavy gear, and breathing like Darth Vader.

Joyce explained that the masks and suits are to protect the firefighters, and that they crawl in order to avoid the fire, which is going to be "up above."

To help the kids out, the firefighters did a little demonstration in the gymnasium, with the lights off -- the kids were asked to shout out "help," as if they were trapped in a fire and needed rescue:

Some practical tips for fire prevention and safety were included in the presentation as well. Some of these were:

• Remember to empty your wastebaskets

• Keep the doors unblocked

• Change your smoke detector's battery regularly

• Don't try to put out the fire yourself; call the fire department

The assembly was followed by some hands-on activities for the kids, including tours of the buses, a look at firefighters' equipment, and trying on firemen's uniforms. These activities went on for most of the day, with classes taking turns touring the rigs:



On the way back to my car I got a look a the school's playground, which I thought looked pretty cool:

Photo: Emergency preparedness day at Pembroke Primary School

By Howard B. Owens

Volunteer firefighters from several companies turned out to Pembroke Primary School today as part of East Pembroke's annual effort to educate students on emergency preparedness.

Eleven trucks rolled up to the school first thing this morning, with all the sirens, horns and flashing lights the children could hope for.

Most of the trucks stayed at the campus throughout the school day and classes of children took turns touring the rigs.

Firefighters also provided information on emergency preparedness.

Authentically Local