Volunteer firefighters may be a case of ‘you get what you pay for’
Re Justin Mason’s Jan. 6 article, “Residents face cost to maintain 8 fire companies”: Mr. Mason did a good job reporting on how expensive new firehouses can be, [but] a few facts need to be clarified.
The number of calls in Rotterdam is exaggerated: There are some where more than one fire department responds. So when two or three fire departments respond to one call, it’s counted as a call for each fire department — not one call for the town. Since there’s no shared information between fire departments, there are duplications of fire reports for the same incident. So the reported number of 1,522 could easily be cut in half — more or less.
Next, comparing Rotterdam to the Schenectady Fire Department: Yes, salaries are a factor in the higher cost, but the Schenectady Fire Department does offer far more [service] than Rotterdam. For example, Schenectady firefighters routinely do hazardous materials response for the county, water rescue, and advance life support.
A little-known fact about volunteers is that money is put aside in an interest-bearing retirement fund for certain firefighters approved by the district. So technically, they’re not [working] for free, but are getting a stipend which isn’t collected until they’re in their 60s.
Another thing: There is no training standard for volunteer firefighters per state law. Professional (paid) firefighters [must] achieve 229 hours for their initial training, plus an additional 100 hours of training each year. Volunteers just need to maintain eight hours of OSHA training each year. It’s up to each fire department to make sure that their volunteers are trained to maintain some service to their community.
Unfortunately, the average person doesn’t know just how well trained the volunteers are and whether the officers are elected on merit or popularity. These factors can compromise the performance of the district.
The consolidation of some districts/services would be helpful, but volunteerism is not always the answer for less expensive and better service.
Timothy J. Gaffney Jr.
The writer is a former Rotterdam volunteer firefighter and is currently employed by the Latham Fire Department.
Reilly’s ‘Lincoln’ piece spurs other memories
Being a Civil War history buff, I read Ed Reilly’s Jan. 6 Viewpoint [“‘Lincoln’ prompts recollections of Capital Region connections”] about President Lincoln with great interest.
Ironically, it is little known that the elder brother of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln, actually saved the president’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln.
“Todd” Lincoln was on his way back to Washington, and on a train platform in Jersey City, N.J., (circa 1864-65) and was accidentally pushed by the crowd between a railway car and the platform as the train started to move. He was pulled back by Edwin Booth and saved from serious harm or death. The young Lincoln recognized him immediately and thanked him for his deed.
Having researched and presented on the founder of the Union Army Signal Corps, I’m presently researching the U.S. Military Telegraph. As many know, President Lincoln spent much time in the telegraph room at the War Department, adjacent to the office of “Old Mars” (Edwin McHale Stanton), secretary of war.
Stanton kept a strict oversight of the telegraph system. The president would walk to the War Department and be informed via telegraph messages about theater operations. He would also nap there in the afternoon occasionally.
I would like to thank [Reilly] for his kind words about the Wemple family and the individuals mentioned. He has always had a way with words. As a 10th generation descendant of Jan Barentse Wemple (Wemp) arriving at Fort Orange, circa 1643, and one of the founding fathers of Schenectady, I have always been interested in the city.
To stop the violence, we must remove the guns
Re David Petronis’ Jan. 8 letter, “Despite protests, Saratoga gun show will go on as scheduled”: I’m appealing to all Americans to take back America. We also have our rights to live in a society without guns.
The increase in violence — the accidental handling of firearms, domestic violence, mass shootings — is a problem every day throughout the whole country and is getting worse. The government has done nothing over the many years and now it’s an epidemic.
How to stop this insane violence? The young wouldn’t have had handguns if there were none made. Accidentally firing at someone, killing a person, would not have happened if they didn’t have a gun.
In a domestic argument, the hate at that moment becomes a time to destroy each other — by a gun.
Handguns and semiautomatics, especially, need to [be] removed from our society now. Gun owners need to stop being selfish [about] their little hobby and stop stuffing it down our throats with their stupid, demanding ways.
Let’s clean [up] our America; write to our government and make them listen to us. I will.
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