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Blenheim Hose Co. to Community: All Under 70 May Apply

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/12/24 | 4/12/24

By Leila Crockett

BLENHEIM — The first Monday Town of Blenheim monthly meeting heard a plea from Lyndon Cornell, of the Blenheim Hose Company regarding a letter he sent to Supervisor Airey and the Town Board on March 15, 2024. In it he states that Blenheim is down to only 4 active fire fighting personnel and a single support person. 

Cornell, who is a 58-year veteran of the volunteer department, writes that “-all of us are ‘older’ and therefore the town needs to consider alternatives as far as fire responders are concerned.” 

He goes on to explain that Blenheim Hose Co. is able to cover motor vehicle accidents, trees on wires and other “normal” calls with West Fulton as mutual aid.  For structure fires, he lists Middleburgh as automatic mutual aid. He stated that Blenheim is able to call additional fire companies if needed. 

Cornell implored the board that it is past time to consider the future of fire service support. Cornell explained that over the years, they have asked many people to join with no response and that as far as he knows, there has not been one new volunteer during his tenure. He also stated that when people do show up for meetings, more often than not they don’t come back and if they do, they don’t show up for actual calls. He also explained that while the State is willing to provide a stipend toward free training to become a firefighter, that they have only had one applicant in 20 years, who ultimately did not pass the test. 

The training courses and relevant stipends are as follows:

$750 - Basic Exterior Firefighting Operations- 

$1250 - Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)/Interior Firefighting Operations

$1000 - Fire Officer 1

For more information, follow the link below. 

https://www.dhses.ny.gov/new-york-state-volunteer-firefighter-stipend-program

A January 25, 2024, BBC article titled, “The Dire Shortage of Volunteer Firefighters in the US” states that “-even in the largest metropolitan area in the US, a large percentage of the population doesn't have full-time fire departments.” 

Instead, volunteer firefighters fill this indispensable role in their communities, carrying out the same essential tasks as career firefighters. In most rural areas of the United States, these volunteers are invaluable assets to their localities. However, many volunteer fire departments in these regions face significant challenges, impacting their ability to provide crucial services.

In areas with inadequate volunteer fire department staffing, residents may encounter slower response times to critical situations, such as potential gas leaks or fully involved structure fires. These delays could result in increased injuries, fatalities, and substantial financial burdens for taxpayers, potentially necessitating the costly transition to professional firefighting services.

Furthermore, the potential closure of essential fire departments or firehouses due to insufficient staffing could leave even more communities exposed and at risk.

Of the more than one million firefighters in the US, 65% of them are volunteers, according to data from the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). Of the more than 29,000 fire departments across the country, almost 19,000 of them are run completely by volunteers.

In the past, a volunteer might be able to put in the hours after a day's work with a spouse at home.  Now, more families are reliant on dual incomes and working longer hours, plus struggling with additional child and eldercare issues. Potential volunteers simply don't have as much time as they used to.

The Town Board and meeting attendees spent a good deal of time trying to understand the scope of the issue as well as to come up with some possible solutions. Among them, ideas were floated about the possibility of approaching BOCES or local schools about offering a prep class or other incentives to young people. 

If you are interested in volunteering as a firefighter or support personnel, please call (518) 827 6115.

Other Meeting Notes:

  • Airey reported that the planned acquisition of a new 2025 Freightliner All Wheel Drive 10 Wheel Dump Truck is nearly finalized.  

  • An update was provided regarding the claim that Verizon made accusing the town of digging up one of their lines. Airey stated that he took the issue up with Verizon and let them know that the town is not responsible and had no part in any damage that may have been caused by a private homeowner. 

  • The town is accepting bids on needed roadwork as the specifications have been approved. Bids will be opened and approved at the May Board Meeting. 

  • Airey also provided information regarding the County’s plan to demolish the old jail and erect a 25 Million dollar low income housing and supportive services facility. Airey claimed that there would be no cost to the county. The plan includes funds from the State’s effort to address the housing current crisis. Airey went on to point out that it is well-known that the county has families that are living on the edge and need support. 


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