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Even as layoffs loom, fire union pushes forward with annual MDA fundraiser

By Howard B. Owens

At least for Friday, it's time for the community to come together and forget any disagreements over the soon-to-be-discontinued Batavia ambulance service, says Greg Ireland.

Friday is the 15th-annual "Fill the Boot" drive for MDA, a fundraiser sponsored by City of Batavia Firefighters IAFF Local 896.

Money collected during the fundraiser benefits children who are diagnosed with neuromuscular diseases. Donations cover the costs of everything from wheelchairs and braces to physical therapy, as well as summer camps.

"This year is as important as any to these kids," Ireland said in an e-mail. "There is no reason why our Union's disagreements with City Hall should get in the way of helping them. Sure there is a lot of tension around the Fire House right now with the impending layoffs, but that doesn't change the fact the the MDA needs our support."

Ireland said union members held a meeting recently and united around the need to ensure "Fill the Boot" came together again this year.

Off-duty members of Local 896, including firefighters and medics who will be out of work on Sept. 1, will be at the fundraiser at 1 Court St. on Friday.

Last year's "Fill the Boot" campaign set a record with $5,000 in donations.

"To me, the MDA is very important," Ireland wrote. "These kids have been sentenced to a life of pain and suffering for no apparent reason. If we can raise money to make their life easier in any way, it's worth it. For example, The MDA of Rochester has several day camps for the kids. I've visited there before, and to see the kids being kids, being able to do the things that normal children can do, it is really great. It gives them a day or two to just leave their illness behind and enjoy being a kid! It is quite touching to see."

Firefighter union out in force to picket city's decision to scrap ambulance

By Philip Anselmo

A constant chorus of car horns sounded support of the protestors circling the walk out front of City Hall this morning. Some two dozen members of Firefighters Local 896 braved the bitter winds to picket the City Council's recent decision to end its ambulance service by fall.

Some of the signs read: "Think! Where's your ambulance coming from?" and "Chest Pain? How long will you wait?" Such statements punctuated the argument that the gap in service could have quite dire consequences. Union President Greg Ireland spoke of a past incident, before the city had instituted its own ambulance service, when a man in arrest lay in the street with no transport available to get him to a hospital. In another instance, a victim suffering from third-degree burns had to drive himself to the hospital.

The occasion was also used to get out the word on a new Web site the union has launched at

Overall, the mood was civil yet determined as union members stalked the ground with purpose. Ireland stepped aside to speak with the media during the protest. We will post his comments in a video within the hour.

News roundup: Firefighters plan to picket City Hall on ambulance issue

By Philip Anselmo

A union of Batavia firefighters will set up outside City Hall "later this morning" to protest the City Council's decision to end the city-supported ambulance service this fall, WBTA's Dan Fischer reports. No time is given for when members of Fire Fighters Local 896 will hold the rally, which is being called an "informational picket."

In memoriam: Norm Koch: "To our Comrade... he's going home"

By Philip Anselmo

Rigs lined up over a dozen deep stretched along the side of East Main Street in Corfu this morning. Its riders, along with many more, crowded inside the Pembroke Community Center to pay their last respects to Norm Koch, former chief at the Corfu Fire Department and longtime firefighter who died in the line of duty assisting at the scene of a car accident in East Pembroke Tuesday. Koch served as commissioner and captain of the fire police in East Pembroke. He was 79.

Shortly before noon this morning, county dispatchers sounded the final alarm in honor of Captain Koch. This was that message:

This is the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center going on the air with a last alarm assignment for East Pembroke Fire Police Captain Norm Koch.

Captain Koch answered his last alarm December 30th at 12:34 hours at the age of 79. He served the East Pembroke Fire Department for 21 years.

The Alexander, Corfu and East Pembroke Fire Departments are thankful for the 58 years of service Past Chief, Commissioner and Fire Police Capt. Norm Koch has provided to the communities they serve.

His task completed, his duties well done. To our Comrade, his last alarm, he's going home.

Meanwhile, outside the Corfu Fire Department, the buckets from the Batavia and Le Roy ladder trucks joined some thirty feet from the ground to fly the flag in salute.

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