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Hawley announces launch of NY first training stipend program for volunteer firefighters

By Press Release

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) announced the launch of the state’s new training stipend program for volunteer firefighters today. This program came as a part of a push by the state to strengthen New York’s volunteer fire companies. 

It will include a total of $10 million, which will go toward the costs of mandatory training courses volunteer firefighters go through. Volunteer fire departments are essential to New York’s safety, and more than three-quarters of these departments have seen decreases in the number of those willing to serve. Hawley is proud to see this program take effect and is committed to supporting Western New York’s local volunteer fire departments.

The stipend rates are as follows:

Course Stipend

Basic Exterior Firefighting Operations - $750.00

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus/Interior Firefighting Operations - $1,250.00

Fire Officer 1 - $1,000

“Volunteer fire companies are one of the most vital aspects of public safety in New York,” said Hawley. “Over the years, however, we’ve seen a drastic number of volunteer firefighters leaving local fire departments because they do not have the resources they need to do their jobs properly. This new stipend program is a great first step toward supporting firefighters in training and incentivizing others to volunteer. I’m proud to support this program and I will continue to fight to make sure our volunteer fire departments get the help and support they need to do their jobs.”

Exemption or credit? County legislators mull questions about potential volunteer firefighter perk

By Joanne Beck


If Genesee County legislators approve a law to allow firefighters to opt-in to tax exemptions, it could mean an average yearly savings of $134 for every volunteer firefighter, Deputy Treasurer Kevin Andrews says.

There are a few caveats to the law, however. Firefighters must choose between taking the current tax credit or the new option of a property tax exemption. These may be offered in towns, villages, schools, fire districts and counties, but those taxing entities don’t have to participate.

City of Batavia firefighters and city residents cannot take part in the exemption, even if they’re a volunteer at another fire department, he said. And if someone rents, that’s disqualified as well.

To qualify, volunteer firefighters have to live within the fire district that they serve. They also need at least two to five years of service to participate or can apply for a lifetime exemption with more than 20 years of service. They cannot claim both the tax credit and exemption. The higher the property assessment, the more the savings, Andrews said.

Ideally, one would want to stack a town, school and the county for the maximum 10 percent exemption, he said.

“On average, just the county by itself isn’t enough to receive it,” he said.

He estimated that if every volunteer firefighter took advantage of the exemption, it would mean a two-cent increase on the tax rate, and every taxpayer would pay $3.30 more in yearly taxes.

“The levy would stay the same, but it would get shifted to others,” he said.

That didn’t sit well with Legislator Marianne Clattenburg.

“I'm very concerned about this cost shift because, you know, we have mutual aid. And I'm going to speak for the city constituents. Again, we pay a hefty price for professional fire service, which we want in the city of Batavia. This exemption is gonna get shifted onto an already burdened city resident. So I want to know what this shift is."

With 585 volunteers saving an average of $134, that adds up to $78,000 a year, Andrews said.

"So if we're willing to talk about taking x amount of sales tax money or something along that line to close the hole in the budget to compensate for that, then I would be okay with that. But I don't want it shifted to others," Clattenburg said.

Legislator Christian Yunker asked if this is a real recruiting tool.

“I think it's more every day, we're looking at it as a retention tool. How do you take care of the people that have been here and done the service for so many years, to keep those people engaged because every organization has got such a small group of people that are working there. And there's really nothing to incentivize them for staying, so like this, New York State Fire is talking about incentive programs for new recruits taking training, if you complete your first basic level, you're going to get $1,000. If you go to the next level, it's $1,000. But they're not doing anything for any of the people that are already in the system,” Emergency Management Services Deputy Coordinator Gary Patnode said.

He added, “You know, for a young firefighter that doesn't own their home, this isn't going to benefit them. But for me, being a taxpayer in town, this would certainly be attractive. Right now, they didn't really want to entertain this unless all parties were going to be involved. They wanted to get to school districts, fire districts, villages, you know, town, county, anybody that can go in, so they're getting the best bang for their buck. Otherwise, right now, it's, it's better for everybody to take the $200 tax credit."

He wasn’t sure if schools have even been part of the conversation yet, and pointed to the aspect of involving all volunteers, no matter their job duties. Some go out in the field to combat a blaze, while others maintain headquarters, answer phones, and do the bookkeeping.

“The nonactive is just as important as the active firefighters,” he said.

Clattenburg wants to see more active volunteers, which are those that go out when the bell rings.

“That’s the problem, there are not enough people to go out,” she said.

If the law passes, the earliest it would be adopted is in 2024. Volunteers would then have to apply by March 1.

“There are a lot of questions,” Legislator Gary Maha said. “Thanks for the information, there’s a lot more work to go through.”

Firefighters will have to understand which municipalities and schools are involved before signing up for either the exemption or tax credit, County Manager Matt Landers said.

"Right now, Tim Yaeger is going to be going to GAM and trying to get an understanding between the towns and the villages, getting an understanding from fire districts, and also probably the school districts, to be able to report back to the Legislature: What's the consensus out there? Is there a willingness from our local municipalities and schools to sign up for these exemptions?” Landers said. “Because if the county doesn't have this willingness from our municipalities, then from what I listened to today, it sounds like our legislature would not want to go it alone, it's not worthwhile for our firefighters just to have the county go along on this.”

File Photo of volunteer firefighters during training in 2021, by Howard Owens.

Reminder: Support volunteer firefighters -- queue up for some 'cue Sunday in Elba and/or South Byron

By Billie Owens

Don't forget to support these two volunteer fire departments on Sunday, Oct. 25, when each will offer drive-thru chicken BBQ to raise money for their respective departments in a year when opportunities to do so have been few and far between.


A drive-thru chicken barbecue to benefit the Elba Volunteer Fire Department will be held on Sunday, Oct. 25 at the fire rec hall on Route 98 in Elba.

It starts at 11:30 a.m. and goes until sold out. Cost is $12.

Coronavirus protocols will be observed. Please wear a face mask and remain in your vehicle.

"Because of the (COVID-19) shutdown, last month was the first chicken barbecue we held this year," said an organizer, Barbie Starowitz. "It's sold out so fast! Now that we can be outside again we wanted to do another one. We're hoping for a nice (weather) day."

The address of Elba Firemen's Recreation Hall is 7143 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98). 


There will be a chicken BBQ fundraiser for the South Byron Volunteer Fire Company beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 until sold out.

It will be held on a drive-thru basis at the fire hall, located at 7389 Route 237 in South Byron.

Cost is $12 per person.

Please wear a face mask and remain in vehicle.

Total of 21 GC volunteer firefighters trained for traffic management and/or highway safety

By Billie Owens

Submitted photos and press release:

Emergency services responders assist in ensuring that the scene of an incident remains safe for firefighters, emergency service workers, and members of the public working in its vicinity as well as protecting bystanders and crowd control at emergencies. Duties include traffic control at fires, car crashes, mass casualty incidents (MCI) emergencies, drills and other fire department operations.

Instruction focusing on responsibilities for maintaining highway safety was presented in a two-part program at the Genesee County Fire Training Center. Twenty-two area volunteers completed the Traffic Incident Management (TIMS) training held on Sept. 7 and 18 area volunteers completed the Highway Safety for Emergency Responders (HS-ER) on Sept. 21.

A total of 21 of the 22 volunteer firefighters who took part in either one or both parts of the training program were from Genesee County. They are listed below.


  • Tina M. Carson (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Lyle M. Boundy (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Carl L. Hyde Jr. (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Scott D. Thurley (TIMS)
  • William J. Thurley (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Cory J. Russell (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Joe N. Marino (TIMS),(HS-ER)
  • David N. McGreevy (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Matthew N. Allen (TIMS)
  • Samantha M. Cavalieri (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Eric C. Holderle (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • David A. Martin (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Adam W. Pearce (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Nicole M. Boldt (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Chase A. Cone (TIMS),(HS-ER)
  • Allison N. Gurgel (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Andrew L. Konieczny (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Vito J. Muoio (TIMS), (HS-ER)
  • Jacob T. Yasses (TIMS), (HS-ER)


  • Samantha S. Call (TIMS) 
  • Stephanie E. Call (TIMS)

Total of 52 GC volunteer firefighters complete annual foam training for vapor suppression ops

By Billie Owens

Submitted photo and press release:

Annual Foam Training was held for members of fire departments in Genesee and Orleans counties, with three-hour classroom sessions held in each of the counties followed up with a three-hour hands-on session held on Sept. 30 at the Genesee County Fire Training Center. 

The annual foam training centered on terminology related to firefighter suppression foam, application techniques, equipment, calculations used in accordance with NFPA 11 and water supply to perform foam firefighting or vapor suppression operations.

The 52 Genesee County participants were:  


  • Sidney Eick
  • Gary Patnode
  • Michelle Patnode
  • Bill Schutt
  • Ryan Thompson
  • Todd Thompson


  • Bill Allen
  • Paul Barrett
  • Russell Borden
  • James Bouton
  • Josh Boyle
  • Dan Coffey
  • Paul Dibble
  • Gary Diegelman
  • Scott Garlock
  • Tom Garlock
  • Clayton Gorski
  • Stephen Kowalcyk
  • Bryan Moscicki
  • Scott Newman
  • Ian Sanfratello
  • Rich Schildwaster
  • Tyler Stewart
  • Chris Strathearn
  • Conor Wilkes


  • Dan Adams
  • James Duval
  • Jamie Fluker
  • Jeff Fluker
  • Gregory Johnson
  • Kyle Rombout


  • Zachery Johnson
  • Robert Mruczek
  • Cory Russell
  • Jacob Schultz


  • Lori Ann Santini
  • Brian Schollard


  • Jeff Luker


  • Ryan Hart
  • Christopher Lane
  • Michael Pfendler
  • Michael Schad Jr.
  • George Underhill


  • Edwin Mileham


  • Aaron Belluscio
  • Nicole Boldt
  • Chase Cone
  • Allison Gurgel
  • Vito Muoio
  • Jacob Yasses


  • Julie Bobo
  • Stephanie Call

Two dozen GC fire volunteers learn 'fireground strategies and tactics'

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Responding to concerns over the length of firefighting training programs, the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control has redesigned the Fire Officer I (FOI) program into five individual modules. Completion of all five modules will earn the participant a Fire Officer 1 certificate. 

The latest offering in the Fire Officer program held at the Genesee County Fire Training Center was "Fireground Strategies and Tactics for the First Arriving Companies." 

The Fireground Strategies and Tactics course prepares fire officers to act as the leader of a company or as an initial incident commander. The students received instructions in both fire and non-fire emergency operations with an emphasis on risk vs. benefit analysis while conducting operations.

The fifteen-hour module was completed by 26 volunteer fire personnel, nine of whom earned their Fire Office 1 certification. 

The 24 Genesee County participants were:


  • Anthony R. Johnston (FOI)


  • Russell S. Borden
  • Bryan A. Moscicki
  • Ian A. Sanfratello
  • Tyler J. Stewart


  • Gregory W. Johnson (FOI)
  • Peggy J. Johnson             
  • Rick J. Klunder III (FOI)
  • Christopher M. Page (FOI)
  • Corrie A. Rombaut             


  • Victor L. Flanagan (FOI)


  • Dean T. Eck (FOI)
  • Daniel P. Smith (FOI)


  • Jennifer A. Cardinali             
  • Timothy J. Hoffarth             
  • Christopher P. Lane             
  • Michael Pfendler  (FOI)
  • Michael J. Schad (FOI)
  • George M. Underhill             


  • Jared Chick
  • Thomas Feeley


  • Nicole M. Boldt
  • Chase A. Cone
  • Vito J. Muoio

Visit your local fire department to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

The time is near, Genesee County resident, when your house will be on fire and there's nobody available to respond

By Howard B. Owens


If you live outside the City of Batavia in Genesee County, the ability of volunteer fire companies to get enough able-bodied manpower to your house in a timely manner if it ever caught on fire is reaching a crisis stage, Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator, told members of the County Legislature today. 

"We're out of time," Yaeger said. "If anybody says that we've got time, we don't. We're out of time."

Volunteer fire companies throughout the county are running on a bare minimum of staffing. Many volunteers are past the age of retirement. And chiefs are getting burned out because there are few young firefighters with the training and experience to replace them.

Yaeger pulled no punches for the legislature and painted a pretty dire picture.

"You know you're out of time when the chair of the fire districts association is riding on an engine and he's well over 65 and he looks back and his crew is the average age of 72 years old and he thinks 'what do we do when we get there and it's actually an emergency?' The trucks go in. There are people on it. But can they do the job when they get there?"

The business model of volunteer firefighting is broken, Yaeger said, broken by changes in society -- people don't volunteer as much as they used to -- and changes in firefighting. The days of a young guy signing up, showing up the next day in his turnout gear to man a fire hose are over. Now a volunteer requires hours and hours of training, certification, and more training.

The state requires firefighters to be trained to national standards and firefighting has evolved to include multiple specialties, from haz-mat to rope teams, to extrication, to search and rescue, and medics.

"It's a dangerous job," Yaeger said. "It's a job that you have to be physically able to perform. And my concern is not only the numbers that have diminished but I think it's the personnel we're looking at. We don't have the personnel that we used to have to be able to do this job.

"We're seeing guys that are you, know, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, years old still trying to do the job because they still have it in their heart that this is what they need to do.

"My concern is some of those folks probably shouldn't still be doing this job. They need to retire. There are not many fire chiefs, volunteer fire chiefs, that want to go tell a 35 or 40-year member that it is time that you hang up the helmet."

Yaeger has spent years pushing for legal changes in Albany that would allow communities to compensate their volunteers. But there are folks in Albany, Yaeger indicated, who hang to the notion of volunteer fire companies as partly social clubs, which was fine in Ben Franklin's day and in subsequent decades, but doesn't work in the 21st century.

This is a crisis the state and the county have seen coming for decades. There was a 1987 study that warned of a shortage of volunteers and in 2000 the county produced a report outlining the challenges facing volunteer companies. But in neither case were solutions proposed.

"Society, economics, everything is against us," Yaeger said. "It's just a way different world than it was 20 years ago. I mean, we're seeing it now with the level of apathy in chiefs meetings. You've got chiefs that are into their second or third term and they're burned out. They don't want to do it anymore. But nobody else is stepping up to fill that position so they're fulfilling positions that they really don't want but they have to do it."

Yaeger said he doesn't have the answer but indicated he favors paying firefighters on a per-call basis, and also perhaps compensating them for training. 

The only thing stopping such reform is state law and there seems little willingness in Albany to make such a change.

A couple of years, the state gave volunteers a $250 annual tax credit. In Maryland, Yaeger noted, volunteers get a $3,500 a year tax credit.

"The fact that it costs them a significant amount of money to be a volunteer firefighter isn't right," Yaeger said. "And right now the best of the state and give us is $250. The tax credit isn't working."

Being a firefighter is a skilled job and firefighting, like all skilled jobs, there are fewer and fewer young people eager to pursue those kinds of skills. On top of that, rural schools are graduating half as many potential recruits as they were 20 years ago.

"My concern is, we're an aging population, we're definitely a declining population, and we're an overtaxed state," Yaeger said. "So, there are three things that I'm looking at and saying 'OK. How will we fix this?' Because as soon as we offer anything up it means it's going to cost money and everybody goes 'wait a minute we don't have any money.' "

Compensation, however, seems to be the key to fixing the problem.

"I mean, I'm sure nobody here is willing to sign up to give their life for free, go to all the training that they have to do and then say you're not going to get compensated, there's no health plan, there's no retirement, there is no benefit," Yaeger said. "As a matter of fact, it's going to cost you money."

Deputy coordinator Bill Schutt said being a volunteer firefighter is unlike just about any other kind of volunteer activity in a small community.

"As a volunteer firefighter, it's not on a schedule," Schutt said. "It's not going into a Kiwanis lunch. It's not volunteering once a month. It's some scheduled stuff but it's three o'clock in the morning when the alarm goes off, you got to get up and go even though you go to work in a couple of hours. That only appeals to an odd group of people and there's not many of them."

Some might think that the answer is a full-time paid staff for the entire county, but at $100,000 per firefighter, Genesee County just doesn't have the call volume to warrant the expense.  

It wasn't that long ago that volunteer fire companies were the center of a local community's activities -- Stafford had its carnival, Elba the Onion Festival, East Pembroke the mud races. Those have all disappeared and frequently now, multiple companies are being dispatched to calls that used to take only one fire company just so there will be enough manpower to handle even a minor emergency.

"I know the dispatcher has got to be sitting there with their fingers crossed inside the dispatch center hoping somebody is going to respond," Yaeger said.

Training in fire investigation for line officers completed by 32 Genesee County residents

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Fire Investigation for the Line Officer course is a six-hour, NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control program, which was conducted at the Genesee County Fire Training Center earlier this year.

Forty-three volunteer firefighters completed this program; of those, 32 reside in Genesee County

The program addressed the purpose of fire investigations, the responsibilities of the fire chief, and responsibilities of line officers.

The process used to determine the cause and origin of fires, the importance of scene and evidence preservation, and fire behavior were also discussed.  

The Genesee County residents completing the course were:


  • Richard Brunea


  • James Call
  • Greg Ireland
  • Stefano Napolitano
  • Scott T. Maloy 


  • Jared Hicks


  • Gregory W. Johnson
  • Peggy J. Johnson
  • Richard J. Klunder III
  • Christopher M. Page
  • Corrie A. Rombaut
  • Kyle L. Rombaut


  • Victor L. Flanagan 
  • Zachary Johnson 
  • Robert A. Mruczek


  • Joe T. Marino
  • David W. McGreevy 
  • Theresa A. Tesch


  • Andrew D. Martin 
  • Thomas E. Dix


  • Michael Heale
  • Nicholas Guarino 
  • Christopher P. Lane
  • Michael J. Pfendler
  • Michael Schad Jr. 
  • George M. Underhill


  • Thomas E. Feeley


  • Kelly Kraft
  • Bryen Murrock
  • Tyler Schiske
  • Jason True    


  • Timothy Eckdahl

Volunteer firefighters train toward getting Fire Officer I certificate

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Responding to concerns over the length of firefighting training programs, the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control has redesigned the Fire Officer I (FOI) program into five individual modules.

Completion of all five modules will earn the participant a Fire Officer 1 certificate. 

The Genesee County Fire Training Center recently hosted several of the Officer Development modules, including the Leadership & Supervision module, Firefighter Health & Safety module, and the Planning and Emergency Response module.

The Leadership & Supervision module provided students with a fundamental knowledge of the duties, responsibilities and leadership required to be successful as a fire officer as well as the basic responsibilities of the fire officer as they relate to human resource management and common administrative functions

Firefighter Health & Safety presented the basic knowledge for effective communications for both administrative functions and emergency incidents. Students learned how to apply skills for oral and written communications in addition to conducting a size-up based on emergency incidents. Additionally, this course provided the company officer with the skills needed to identify and prevent common safety hazards and perform an initial accident investigation.  

Planning and Emergency Response addressed the fundamentals of building construction and commonly found fire protection features.  Students learned how to conduct a pre-incident plan survey; what elements to include and how to develop and manage the pre-incident plan. Company officer responsibilities were also reviewed.

Visit your local fire department to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

Genesee County Residents Completing Three of Five Modules


Completing the Leadership & Supervision, Health & Safety, and Planning & Emergency Response modules:

  • ALABAMA: David J. Kinney
  • ALEXANDER: Anthony R. Johnston 

                                   Sean M. McPhee

  • TOWN OF BATAVIA: Josh K. Boyle

                                             Thomas M. Garlock 

                                             Clayton A. Gorski

                                             Conor P. Wilkes

  • BETHANY: Gregory W. Johnson 

                              Richard J. Klunder III

                              Christopher M. Page

                              Kyle L. Rombaut

  • BYRON: Victor L. Flanagan
  • CORFU: Dean T. Eck

                          Gregory S. Lang

                          Tyler G. Lang

                          Lori Ann Santini

                          Daniel P. Smith

  • DARIEN: Aaron Elliott
  • ELBA: Jennifer A. Cardinali 

                       Timothy J. Hoffarth

                       Christopher P. Lane 

                       Michael J. Pfendler 

                       Michael J. Schad Jr. 

                       George M. Underhill


Genesee County Residents Completing Two of Five Modules

Completing the Leadership & Supervision and Health & Safety modules:

  • ELBA: Nicholas J. Esten 

Completing the Health & Safety and Planning & Emergency Response modules:

  • BETHANY: Peggy J. Johnson

                              Corrie A. Rombaut

  • LE ROY: Thomas E. Feeley


Genesee County Residents Completing One of Five Modules

Completing the Leadership & Supervision module:

  • TOWN OF BATAVIA: Scott T. Maloy
  • BETHANY: Timothy J. McCabe Jr. 

Completing the Planning & Emergency Response module:

  • BERGEN: William Wittman

County Emergency Services to seek state grant to assess problems, find solutions for volunteer fire companies

By Billie Owens

Whatever differences of opinion may exist about how to address the problems faced by small, rural volunteer fire companies, one thing pretty much all the stakeholders agree on is this: they are struggling and need help.

So said Emergency Services Manager Tim Yaeger at Monday afternoon's Public Service Committee meeting.

He asked for permission to apply for a state Management Performance Grant offered as part of the 2015-16 Municipal Restructuring Fund Program. Permission was unanimously granted.

The aim is to secure funds to contract with a consultant to assess the county's firefighting needs.

Yaeger said he and Bill Schutt, the West Battalion coordinator for the Genesee County Emergency Management Office, have talked with County Manager Jay Gsell about bringing a consultant on board. Schutt, a volunteer for more than 25 years with Alabama fire, also works full time as general manager of Mercy EMS, where he manages a staff of more than 60 and its fleet of vehicles.

"We want to look at fire services in Genesee County -- how do we provide that service in the future in a very efficient and professional manner," Yaeger said. "As you know, we've had conversations before, we're struggling, in some places more than others."

The amount of funding available to conduct such a study is "kind of open-ended."

Schutt said the grant is designed for consolidation-of-services projects, but fire service was listed as eligible and after confering with state officials, it was deemed that assessment and evaluation of Genesee County fire services would fit within that scope.

"The 10,000-foot view of what we'd like to look at, is what this grant is asking us to apply for, and it kind of goes down from there," Schutt said. "A lot of it is based on what you'd save for money. I don't think this project is going to be looking at saving money directly, but in the long term it will, so there's a way of working it in there in terms of the long term."

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked how long the process will take.

A timeline is not known. It would be a process of stages, perhaps two or three studies or consultations. 

"It's not going to be 'here's your information' and we're going to walk away," Yaeger said, "because it's such a vast program. There's so many moving parts to this."

If, say an initial study is done and that takes six or seven months just to identify what they true issues are, that may constitute the first step.

"This is not going to be done in a year or two and find a solution," Yaeger said. "I think it's going to take a few years to get to a position to where we can make some decisions."

It was asked, when looking at the big picture, if there is consenus amongst those in the firefighting community about what the future is and what changes may be forthcoming.

"I think today more than ever, there's a level of agreement that a level of government beyond the local fire company has to find some solutions for them," Yaeger replied. "I think they'll all agree to that -- that they are not able to find those long-term solutions for themselves and they need assistance.

"And the next step up would be to the county, because obviously we're going to be able to benefit everybody here. The issue with the volunteer fire service is you may have consensus today, and then two or three elections from now, the consensus changes."

To that, Clattenburg deadpanned: "Exactly."

"So it's a moving target," Yaeger reiterated, adding that no one should expect sweeping changes anytime soon and noting that Oswego is looking at this issue, but the problems in volunteer firefighting companies are statewide.

Thus he's meeting with fire associations of NYS this week to get the them moving toward a solution. He's already met with WNY fire personnel and emergency coordinators, "all agree...we have to start addressing these things."

"So some may go screaming, but some don't really have much to defend. In many cases, they should be the first to tell you they need assistance," Yaeger said. "They need to be doing something different than what we've been doing right now because it's not working. Right now it's primarily daytime, but we're seeing nighttime problems as well."

Gsell said, actually this is a national issue: "Volunteer fire companies are the backbone, particularly in rural jurisdictions, like ours to some extent, versus urban areas, where they have not just a full-time department but a number of them surrounding in a ring of suburbs.

"In talking with others, they have been able to find solutions that in New York State are not yet on the table, because the state has certain issues and preclusions built into statutes that say 'you just don't do it that way here.' So this (study) might be part of what the future might hold as far as prospective legislation that might need to change."

Any consultant up to the task, Yaeger said would "have to work with us and realize this is going to take some time. The more grant money that becomes available, the more services can be done. The preliminary numbers we were talking about on the phone were good numbers. I think we're trying to keep those numbers small, but understanding that if we expand it to $150,000 that may complete the entire project. ....But it's hard to say exactly what the total will come to."

Committee Member John Deleo asked about the scope of a grant-funded study.

"We're not talking about just two outfits combining together," Deleo said. "Is there a chance we could look at a whole big umbrella? I'm not advocating anything. I'm just asking."

No, this is not about just looking at how to combine or consolidate services.

"There's so many moving parts -- locations of fire stations, response times, and combining -- in some cases there's an opportunity but in our county, not many, because we're fairly spread out already," Yaeger said.

"But we're looking at the entire fire service. What does the city provide? What do the remaining volunteer fire companies provide? And they're all in different categories of capabilities, based on their manpower and their budgetary constraints. We're going to look at this whole thing, absolutely."

The thing that won't be done is approaching the issue with any preconceived notions about a solution.

"The first thing is, everybody understand," Gsell said, "and maybe start developing some consensus around all the constraints there are, and then, how do you address those going into the future."

Fire departments turn out to honor longtime volunteer, former chief

By Howard B. Owens


Dale A. Breitwieser, 60, who gave 42 years to volunteer fire services, including stints as chief in Darien and Corfu, was lain to rest today. He was honored with a funeral procession from the Darien Fire Hall through the Village of Corfu and past the Corfu Fire Hall. Town of Batavia fire and Alden fire provided ladder trucks to hang a giant U.S. Flag over Route 33.




Local volunteer fire departments hold Open Houses this weekend

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Genesee County volunteer fire departments will open their doors to residents this weekend so they can learn about what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter. This is part of the fourth annual RecruitNY statewide initiative of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY).

Over the last several years it has been very tough for many fire departments throughout New York State to recruit and retain volunteers for a variety of reasons. Like most volunteer fire departments, those in Genesee County need to bolster their emergency response numbers so they can continue to provide the optimal level of protection for residents.

As part of RecruitNY, this Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, the volunteer fire departments listed below will be open along with others throughout the state for a unified recruitment drive. This will be an opportunity to highlight the duties and rewards that come with being a volunteer firefighter; it's also a chance to check out the equipment, try on the gear, and tour the station.

Volunteer firefighters will be on hand to discuss the requirements to be a volunteer, and they will also conduct demonstrations, answer questions and let visitors know how to get involved in their fire department.

Last year, more than 500 fire departments in 55 counties statewide held recruitment Open Houses. FASNY is hoping for an even higher turnout this year.

Over the last year and a half, FASNY has worked exceptionally hard to build and deploy a multi-tiered plan for helping the state's 1,700 volunteer fire departments recruit more than 15,000 new volunteers by using federal SAFER grants for programs, including the "Fire in You" ad campaign, and the FASNY HELP community college reimbursement program, plus recruitment training programs.

Here is the line-up of Open Houses and activities at fire departments in Genesee County: (Information as provided by the individual departments and may not include everything offered; for more information contact the local department.)

Saturday, April 26:

Bethany -- 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- Coffee & Donuts, Open House, and Demonstrations

Byron -- Burn Car & Open House

Elba -- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Open House & Soft-serve Ice Cream

Indian Falls -- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- Open House

Pembroke -- Open House, Auto Extrication & Other Demonstrations

Stafford, Pavilion, Le Roy -- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- All three departments will converge at the Stafford Fire Station and will offer many demonstrations, an Open House, and a light lunch.

Sunday, April 27:

Alabama -- 12 to 3 p.m. -- Open House & Ice Water Suit Demonstration

Bethany -- 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- Coffee & Donuts, Open House, Demonstrations

Byron -- Auto Extrication & Free Spaghetti Dinner

Elba -- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Open House & Soft-serve Ice Cream

Photos: Fire hall open house in Elba

By Howard B. Owens

The Elba Volunteer Fire Department was among the local departments holding open houses today, both to let the community learn more about the departments and to recruit more volunteers.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer, visit

Stafford FD hosting volunteer recruitment drive tomorrow

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The Stafford Volunteer Fire Department will open its doors to area residents, so they can learn about what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter in their community, as part of the third annual RecruitNY statewide initiative. Over the last several years, it has been very tough for many fire departments throughout New York State to recruit and retain volunteers for a variety of reasons. Like most volunteer fire departments, the SVFD needs to bolster its emergency responder numbers, so it can continue to provide the optimum level of protection for its residents. 

As part of RecruitNY, on Saturday, April 27 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the SVFD located at 6153 Main Road, Stafford, will join volunteer fire departments all across the state at their respective firehouses for a unified recruitment drive, as part of National Volunteer Week 2013. Not only will RecruitNY be an opportunity to highlight the duties and rewards that come with being a volunteer firefighter, it will also raise public awareness about the need for volunteers.

Throughout the day, the SVFD will conduct tours of the station and firefighter apparatus, allow visitors to try on firefighter gear, and provide activities and stations throughout the firehouse for visitors. The fire department will discuss the requirements to be a volunteer, as well as conduct demonstrations, answer questions, and let visitors know how to get involved in the fire department.

Last year, more than 430 fire departments in 55 counties across the state held recruitment open houses. FASNY is hoping for an even higher turnout this year and encourages departments to RSVP to let the community know they’re participating at: 

The goal of RecruitNY is that the collaborative effort among volunteer fire departments statewide will turn the declining number of volunteer firefighters around. RecruitNY is one example of FASNY’s key initiatives to recruit and retain volunteers. Over the last year and a half, FASNY has worked exceptionally hard to build and deploy a multi-tiered plan for helping New York State’s over 1,700 volunteer fire departments recruit more than 15,000 new volunteer firefighters across the state by utilizing federal SAFER grant funds for programs including the “Fire in You” advertising campaign, FASNY HELP community college tuition reimbursement program, and recruitment training classes.

For more information on becoming a volunteer in Genesee County, visit

Genesee County firefighters reflect on shooting in Webster prior to funeral for a brother

By Howard B. Owens

Shock, horrified, disbelief, these were the words that came to mind to some of the volunteer firefighters from Genesee County who assembled at the Bergen Fire Hall this morning before heading to Webster for a funeral service for Lt. Mike Chiapperini.

Chiapperini was one of two volunteers from the West Webster Fire Department murdered Christmas Eve while responding to a fire call on Lake Road.

The inexplicable ambush has affected firefighters over the entire nation, but especially in Western New York, where friendships often cross district lines.

The other important word this morning was "brotherhood."

"This effects us deeply," said James Bridges, assistant chief with the Bergen Volunteer Fire Department. "You just never know what you're walking into, what might happen. This is a brotherhood. We're all brothers. We are a team. When something happens to an individual, it happens to everybody."

Bridges knew Chiapperini. They worked together for about 15 years, Bridges said, while Bridges was on patrol and a fire investigator for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Chiapperini worked for the Webster Police Department.

"He was a great guy, a fun guy to be around," Bridges said. "He always had your back."

Volunteers serve to aid their communities, to help people.  You would just never expect to be a target, the firefighters said.

"We know what we do is dangerous, but most of those dangers we can control," said Bill Schutt, deputy fire coordinator for the West Battalion. "This is a danger you can’t control. You don’t even think about it when you’re responding to a call.  The fact that it comes out of the blue, it’s not something you would ever think about when you’re responding to a call most times."

That may not change the way volunteers do their jobs, Schutt and others said, but it's something that cannot easily be forgotten.

"I’m sure there are people who haven’t got to calls since Christmas Eve because of it, because that thought was in the back of their minds or the back of their wives' minds or kids' minds," Schutt said.

The idea that there might be a sniper at an emergency scene isn't something firefighters can readily prepare for, the way a police officer might. Schutt said it's not like firefighters are going to start wearing bulletproof vests or riot gear to fire scenes.

Tim Yaeger, fire coordinator for Genesee County, said responders probably need to be alert for dangers, but then, that's been the case since 9/11.

"We face hazards every time we go on a call," Yaeger said. "One hundred firefighters die every year in the line of duty, but never did we think gunfire from an assailant would be something we would ever consider as well. It puts a different perspective on our job. I don't think we're going to do our jobs any differently. We're just going to be as aware as we possibly can of our surroundings every time we go out the door."

That heightened awareness, Yeager said, has to really be part of a firefighter's life ever since 9/11.

"In Genesee County we know we're not the direct target of an international terrorist,  but it’s the homegrown folks, some bad people out there, that we’re worried about and I'd don't think it changes how we do our jobs. We just need to be very, very cautious every time we go on a fire run or EMS job."

Fire chiefs are responsible for the safety of their men and women and the shooting deaths of Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka was too shocking to really comprehend, said Don Newton, chief of the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department.

"It's unimaginable," Newton said. "To think your community and your district and your department can put out the money they do for volunteers and the support you get from your community ... and somebody could commit a senseless act on somebody who is there unarmed ...  I don’t know how to grasp it."

Newton said he didn't know how he would deal with the actual funeral.

"I’m going to be honest with you," Newton said. "When it happens in our own department, just a member passing away, I take it really hard, so I just don’t know how this is going to go over with me. I don’t like wearing my class A uniform for things like this, but unfortunately this is part of life now. We’ve got to keep going on."

Ben Fisher, a firefighter with the Town of Batavia Volunteer Fire Department, said he was a little apprehensive about going to the funeral. He took it hard, he said, when he heard about the murders.

"I was heartbroken, to be honest with you," Fisher said. "I was crying. I’m going to be honest with you. You might as well be losing family. It’s a brotherhood. I may not have known them, but obviously we’re all in it for the same reason. It’s like losing a family member."

Like the other volunteers, Fisher said he just can't comprehend why firefighters would be targeted by a sniper.

"What would possess you to shoot somebody who is just coming to help you?" Fisher said.

The shooting was terrifying, said Capt. Christine Marinaccio, Le Roy Volunteer Fire Department.

"It’s just the thought you’re going out there, you’re going to respond to a general call, and it’s something that you would never think would happen," Marinaccio said.

East Pembroke firefighter Destin Danser said he was horrified when he heard the news, and sad and angry.

"I'm going today to show respect," Danser said. "From what I know about the guys who were out there, if it were me who was down, they would be here for me. I want to show them that respect, too."

Photo: Yaeger briefs firefighters on transportation plans to the funeral.

Hawley promoting tuition reimbursement for volunteer firefighters

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) is promoting a tuition reimbursement program for volunteer firefighters in Western New York. The deadline for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Higher Education Learning Plan (FASNY HELP) has been extended to Feb. 15, and the assemblyman believes it is a well-deserved benefit for Western New York’s courageous volunteers.

“I have always felt that the safety and security provided by our selfless, volunteer firefighters is a cornerstone of a strong community, and that it is our duty to thank and reward them for their sacrifice,” Hawley said. “FASNY HELP is a great way to show our appreciation for these brave men and women, and I hope that this program is a productive incentive in volunteer recruiting, because we truly can never have enough help at our local fire companies.”

FASNY HELP was developed as an incentive for people to serve in New York’s volunteer fire service. This program will provide tuition reimbursement to student volunteers allowing them to attain up to eighty (80) credit hours from their closest New York state chartered community college, or one located within 50 miles of their primary residence.

Under the FASNY HELP tuition reimbursement program, student volunteers will be eligible to have up to 100 percent of their tuition reimbursed in exchange for maintaining defined grades and fulfilling defined service requirements as a member in good standing in one of New York’s volunteer fire companies. There is no restriction on the type of academic course(s) the FASNY HELP student volunteer can pursue.

For more information, contact John D'Alessandro, FASNY deputy Volunteer Programs coordinator at 518-694-3136, or visit FASNY HELP on the web at

Volunteer firefighters eligible for tuition reimbursement at GCC

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Local volunteer firefighters have the opportunity to continue their education at Genesee Community College thanks to the Fireman's Association of the State of New York's (FASNY) new Higher Education Learning Plan (HELP).

To address the vital need for volunteers, FASNY has developed HELP as an incentive for people to serve in New York's volunteer fire services. This program will provide tuition reimbursement to student-volunteers allowing them to attain up to 80 credit hours from their closest New York State chartered community college.

Volunteer firefighters interested in the FASNY Higher Education Learning Plan are urged to go online to and click on information involving the Tuition Reimbursement Program. The deadline for the spring semester is February 1.

Under the FASNY HELP tuition reimbursement program, student-volunteers will be eligible to have up to 100 percent of their tuition reimbursed in exchange for maintaining defined grades and fulfilling defined service requirements as a member in good standing in one of New York's volunteer fire companies. There is no restriction on the type of academic course(s) the FASNY HELP student-volunteer can pursue.

"Volunteer firefighters do a great service to our communities," said Tanya Lane-Martin, GCC director of Admissions. "We're happy to help these dedicated men and women achieve their dreams of acquiring higher education."

In addition to the HELP program from FASNY, local volunteer firefighters are also eligible for the Benjamin Franklin Scholarship from the GCC Foundation. Any individual who has served as a volunteer firefighter or volunteer emergency responder in the GLOW region for at least a year is eligible to apply, as are spouses, children, and grandchildren of volunteer responders.

The scholarship program is named for Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the United States and the founder of America's first volunteer firefighting company. Further information and scholarship applications can be found at

Volunteers from five departments head east to assist storm-ravaged county

By Howard B. Owens

Fifteen volunteer firefighters from five companies in Genesee County are headed east this morning to assist in relief and recovery efforts in one of the hardest hit areas of the state from Hurricane Irene.

The volunteers gathered at the Emergency Servcies Training Center on State Street Road at 6:30 a.m. to be briefed on their mission by County Coordinator Tim Yaeger.

The group then headed to the Thruway to make it to Schoharie County by noon for a 72-hour deployment.

"They're in bad shape down there and now they've got more rain coming," said Yaeger, who was among the state's emergency coordinators dispatched to the region right after the storm hit.

The firefighters will be relieving other volunteers who have been working in the county since the storm hit last week.

"There's still places that are getting drops by Blackhawk helicopters of food and water because they're still isolated," Yaeger said.

Yaeger said it's amazing what these guys have signed up for with no pay. They will likely be sleeping on cots, living on pizza and pumping sewage out of basements during their 12-hour shifts.

They might also be called upon to deliver relief supplies to residents isolated by storm damage or just help with general clean up and recovery.

"And they're offended if I don't offer them a chance to go," Yaeger said. "These guys have been waiting for this for a week."

Darien Chief Dale Breitwieser couldn't make the deployment, but he was at the training center this morning to see off the three volunteers from his department.  He said it's events like this where you see that volunteers are a special breed of person.

"There will be volunteers there from all over the state and they'll all pull together," Breitwieser said.

Besides Darien, participating departments are Bergen, Town of Batavia and Stafford along with staff from Emergency Services.

Yaeger is not joining this group, though he may be deployed later today to Green County where a village of 700 people in the Town of Plattsville was wiped off the map. The town supervisor lost his house and his gas station and now he's trying to help his town through the devastation, Yaeger said.

The Albany Times Union has a photo slide show of the damage in Schoharie County.

Bergen Fire Department celebrates 150th anniversary

By Howard B. Owens

When the Bergen Fire Department was formed, bucket brigades were still used to get water from cisterns and wells to a building engulfed in flames.

That was in 1861. 

Now, 150 years later, the department responds to a fire in heavy duty trucks, deploys 5-inch hoses that can pump out water at more 1,000 gallons per minute and firefighters enter burning buildings swathed in protective gear.

But one thing hasn't changed about the Bergen Fire Department: It's still an all volunteer force.

On Saturday, the Bergen Fire Department celebrated its 150th anniversary with a dinner and officer installation ceremony at the Genesee Country Museum.

The department received numerous proclamations and handed out its own awards to its members.

In all, 13 past chiefs attended the dinner (pictured above). They are (in no particular order): Paul Cummings, Scott Crosier, Jim Pascarella, Carl Pocock, Norm Pimm Sr., William Kolmetz, John Zastrocky, Lewis Cunningham, Jim Keller, Merton Reynolds, Robert Bobzin, Gerald Fuerch, Larry Smith.

The 2011 officers are: Chief Paul Cummings; Deputy Chief Eric Wies; Assistant Chief Jim Bridge; captains Garrett Dean and Doug VanSlyke; lieutenants Brian Carson, Kevin Bruton and Mark Holley; EMS Chief Barry Miller and Assistant Chief Melody Kolmetz; Fire Police Captain Gerald Fuerch and Lt. Frank Watson; President Joseph MacConnell, Vice President James Ride, Secretary Gail Ride and Treasurer Wayne Keller; and Ladies' Auxiliary President Lisa Crosier, Vice President Linda Cunningham and Secretary Sharon Fuerch.

This year's awards went to: 

Firematic Awards

Most Fire Calls - Gary Mielke and Jim Pascarella
Most EMS Calls - Sara Gillard, Mark Holley
Most Combined Fire and EMS Calls - Mike Crosier, Sara Gillard
Most Training Hours - Jeff Thomas
Service and Membership Awards
68 Years - Merton Reynolds
55 Years - George Cunningham, Wayne Keller
10 Years - Collette Dodson, Charles Wies
5 Years  - Lisa Flanagan, Victor Flanagan
Ladies Auxillary Service and Membership Awards
15 Years - Linda Cunningham, Lisa Crosier
10 Years  - Sherry Watson

To find out more about becoming a volunteer emergency responder in your community, visit

More pictures after the jump:

Federal grant will help with recruitment of volunteer firefighters

By Howard B. Owens

A grant of more than $288,000 has been awarded to Genesee County by FEMA as part of an nationwide effort to ensure volunteer fire departments remain adequately staffed to handle disasters and emergencies.

Called the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER), it has been awarded to a cooperative venture by Lake Plains Community Care Network, Genesee County Emergency Management Office, Genesee County Fire Advisory Board and the Genesee County Recruitment and Retention Task Force.

Funds will be used to address recruitment and retention challenges in the fire services locally with a goal to attract 320 new firefighters, as well as EMS, fire police and other roles, over the next four years.

The goal is to sign up 18 new members for each department in the county during that time, which would allow departments to address normal attrition rates and grow the volunteer force at the same time.

Funding will cover hiring a marketing firm to create a program to raise public awareness of the importance of volunteer fire departments and promote opportunities for people to get involved with their local departments.

Lake Plains will act as lead agency in administration of the grant.

Full press release after the jump:

The Lake Plains Community Care Network (LPCCN) in collaboration with the Genesee County Emergency Management Office (GCEMO), Genesee County Fire Advisory Board and the Genesee County Recruitment and Retention Task Force has been awarded The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) in the amount of $288,680 over a four year grant cycle.

The SAFER Grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities.

This grant will help address the growing recruitment and retention challenges of the fire service in Genesee County. The goal of the recruitment plan is to attract and maintain 320 new firefighters over the next four years; an average of 18 new members for each department over the four year span. This rate of recruitment will allow County fire departments to induct, orient, outfit and train these individuals at an affordable and manageable pace. This systematic approach will allow the normal attrition rate to be addressed while achieving a positive net increase in volunteer staffing levels over the next four years and beyond.

Two primary themes have been established for the recruitment plan:

1. The first theme will focus on the physical, intellectual and compassion qualities sought in today’s volunteer. It will also include a clear, concise call to action and benefit statement.

2. The second theme will address the fact that many fire departments offer flexible opportunities other than just firefighting. Individuals can join specific departments as Fire/Rescue, EMS Only, Fire Police Only, or Associate members.

A key component for the success of the marketing plan involves the hiring of an outside Professional Marketing Company whose objectives would be to create greater public awareness as to the need for volunteers and the role of volunteer first responders; to promote the opportunities for the community to get involved and stay involved in the solution, and to support the overall goals of the recruitment and retention plans. 

According to the 2010 US Census data, Genesee County’s fire service protects 60,079 people over 502 square miles through their 17 volunteer fire departments. There are approximately 900 volunteer firefighters listed on the roles in Genesee County which averages approximately 52 active firefighters in each organization but only an average of 30 members per volunteer department are actually qualified to perform fire suppression.

The Lake Plains Community Care Network (LPCCN ) will act as the lead agency for the SAFER grant on behalf of all 17 volunteer departments and county government. LPCCN is a non-profit organization which promotes cooperation, preventative health education, and access to quality care in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties.

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