In August 2011, Hurricane Irene devastated the Capital Region as well as many other communities. The hurricane felled trees and power lines and caused heavy flooding.
In Scotia, the Mohawk River covered roads, parks, homes, and businesses. During this time, the Scotia Fire Department received over 200 emergency calls. Firefighters evacuated residents and pumped out homes affected by flooding.
Even without a hurricane, the Scotia Fire Department, formed in 1873, stays busy, answering an average of 1,600 calls each year. About 65 percent of the department's calls are medical calls, and 35 percent are for fires, gas leaks, water rescues and other emergencies. The Scotia Fire Department works with other local fire departments and the Air National Guard. The departments share resources with each other.
The Scotia Fire Department also receives false alarms, mostly when smoke detectors go off in commercial buildings. Something as simple as a spider can set off an alarm.
Captain Dan Wanmer described a typical day for the members of the Scotia Fire Department. A shift begins at 7:30 a.m. and lasts 24 hours. There are three people scheduled for each shift, and at least one must be a paramedic. When the firefighters arrive for their shift, they check their schedules, check the firetrucks to make sure that they run properly and set out their turnout gear. Some other responsibilities include cleaning and maintaining trucks, administrative duties, checking equipment and giving building inspections.
There are many different positions in fire departments: firemen, lieutenants, captains, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and chief. The Scotia Fire Department has both paid and volunteer members. All of the professional firefighters have to attend the New York State Fire Academy for 14 weeks. They also complete 100 hours of in-service training a year. Paramedics have a full year of training, as well as continuing medical education. Other department training includes ice rescue, emergency bail-outs and code enforcement.
Captain Wanmer's favorite part of working at the fire department is that every day is different, and his least favorite part of working there is witnessing bad things happening to people. When asked about unusual calls, Wanmer shared a story about a man who was trapped in a hospital bed. The remote had malfunctioned, and the bed had folded up with him in it. When the firemen arrived, they unfolded the bed. As they were leaving, the bed folded up again; that is when they realized that the remote had shorted out.
Another unusual call came from an elderly woman who placed an emergency call because she needed help making her bed.
A local fire department stays busy all year and is ready to serve the community, whether there is a big storm like Hurricane Irene or a false alarm in a home or business. A firefighter's job is both interesting and important to our communities.