January 14, 2006
Part-time firefighters axed in Barnstable
By ERIC GERSHON
The Barnstable Fire Department dismissed all eight of its part-time personnel Thursday and now plans to rely exclusively on professional firefighters and paramedics, Chief Robert Crosby said yesterday.
A chronically low response to alarms by the part-time, or on-call, fire personnel, who held other full-time jobs, no longer justified the expense and liability of supporting them, the chief said.
''We're expending funds and they're not coming,'' he said.
Crosby does not plan to hire more full-time personnel this year, as the 18 current professional personnel can meet service demands, he said.
The Barnstable department, which serves about 5,000 residents in and around Barnstable Village, joins the Hyannis and Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Departments as strictly full-time operations.
The smaller Cotuit and West Barnstable departments still depend heavily on on-call firefighters and will likely do so for the foreseeable future.
''We wouldn't be able to function without them,'' said Lt. David Paananen of the West Barnstable department, which just recently instituted 24-hour service.
Crosby indicated he had been questioning the value of the on-call program for years, but gave little warning about his decision.
''It was a surprise,'' he said. He did not say why he made the announcement suddenly.
Jeffrey Nemec, one of the dismissed firefighters, said he had no inkling of the pending terminations until they happened Thursday night at the firehouse. He also said he was not especially upset.
''It didn't really bother me that much,'' he said, noting that he is 45 and has a full-time job. ''With me, it was more like a hobby.'' He added, ''It's not my bread and butter.''
On-call Barnstable firefighters were paid between $12 and $18 per hour.
Nemec, who said he was with the department off and on for about 10 years, acknowledged that Barnstable's call firefighters often did not show up to alarms, especially during the day, when they were at their full-time jobs. ''I wasn't there much,'' he said.
The youngest and newest on-call firefighters seemed most disappointed.
The chief did not name the newest members and none could be reached for comment. On-call personnel were referred to other departments, he said. The West Barnstable department invited Barnstable's castoffs to seek positions there.
One Barnstable call firefighter, Yvette Brailey, was hired as a temporary stand-in for John Garran, a full-timer and military reservist who was recently called up for duty in Iraq. Another, Lt. Richards French, recently retired after 40 years of service.
One factor in Crosby's decision to eliminate the call program was the cost of insuring on-call personnel, he said.
A new law essentially requiring Massachusetts fire departments to insure them in case of injury or death was expected to double insurance costs, from $9,000 to $18,000 a year, Crosby said.
This, combined with the expense of training people who rarely responded to alarms, indicated it was time to eliminate the positions, he said. Having joined the department as an on-call firefighter in 1973, ''it wasn't a decision made over a cup of coffee,'' Crosby said.
Eric Gershon can be reached at email@example.com.
(Published: January 14, 2006)
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01-20-2006, 06:47 PM #1
Part-time firefighters axed in Barnstable
01-21-2006, 09:06 AM #2
We had a 20 man call department to augment the career staff when I got on the job in 1981. The same thing happened. The Chief got rid of the "deadwood" and only retained those who responded (ours would only respond to fires and work in a support capacity). Over the years, those numbers dwindled and the call department no longer exists."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
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