Eastern Battalion spending Wednesday in firehouse to get to calls quicker

Photos by Tom Rivers: These firefighters are spending several hours today at the Holley fire hall so a crew can quickly respond to an emergency. They are all past fire chiefs. They include, from left: Dave Smith of Holley (Past chief of Fancher-Hulberton-Murray), Fran Gaylord of Holley, Bob Freida of Clarendon, Kevin Dann of Holley, and Bob Beisang of Holley.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2019 at 2:43 pm

Holley, Clarendon, FHM and Kendall improve response to day-time calls

HOLLEY – An emergency call during the workday hours often is difficult for volunteer fire departments locally and nationally to quickly have a crew on duty.

Leaders of fire departments in the Eastern Battalion of Orleans County – Clarendon, Holley, Fancher-Hulberton-Murray, and Kendall – have picked what is typically the busiest day of the week for calls and now have a dedicated crew on duty at the Holley fire hall. They will respond to any call on the east side of the county – the towns of Clarendon, Murray and Kendall.

“The volunteer fire service is hurting across the country,” said Kevin Dann, a captain with the Holley Fire Department. “This is what we can to solve the problem – for one day.”

Dave Smith, front, and Kevin Dann check a Stokes basket, which they would attach to a rope on the new Holley ladder truck.

The departments started to staff the fire hall on Wednesdays for the first time on Aug. 7. Department leaders looked back on calls the previous two years to find the busiest day for call volume on a weekday. They found Wednesdays had the most calls.

Since August, there have been firefighters at the Holley fire hall from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Initially their territory was the Clarendon, Holley and FHM fire districts, but it expanded to include Kendall in October. Clarendon and Holley firefighters provide most of the manpower so far, but FHM and Kendall also have been on duty.

The first 17 weeks of the program have shown much faster response times, said Bob Freida, Clarendon’s assistant fire chief.

Before August, it would take 7 to 9 minutes from when a call was dispatched to have a crew at the fire hall and a truck out the door. Now, a truck is out of the firehall in an average of 1 minute, 34 seconds from when a call is dispatched, Freida said.

It was taking about 12 minutes to have fireifghters on the scene of a call, from when it was dispatched. Now, it’s taking an average if 4 ½ minutes from when a call is dispatched to when firefighters are on scene with a truck.

“I truly believe this is making a difference,” Freida said today.

Bob Beisang, on ladder, and Fran Gaylord are testing the pick device on Holley’s new fire truck.

Freida cited an Oct. 7 call for a structure fire on Groth Road in Murray, in the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray fire district. A grouo of firefighters were already in the Holley fire hall when the call came through dispatch. They were on scene at Groth Road in 7 minutes. They quickly put out the fire. The residents in the house were able to go back in to stay after two days.

“On an average day that probably would have been a full-blown working fire,” Freida said. “But we were able to keep it to a minimal fire.”

The Eastern Battalion learned from a cooperative effort in Broome County and Onondaga County, where fire departments have volunteers in the fire hall on what are usually busy days.

Most of the calls are for EMS, and the firefighters want to be able to help people as quickly as possible.

“This is what we have to do to protect the community,” Dann said. “Being a small town in a small community, we have to work together or else the job won’t get done.”

Dann works full-time as an emergency medical technician for the Ridge Road Fire District. He will spend several hours on duty in Holley when his schedule allows. Other firefighters move around vacation days to be available on Wednesdays.

Dann and Freida said the eastern battalion may try to expand having a dedicated crew in the firehall on other days. Besides the Wednesdays, the fire department leaders will mobilize firefighters to be at the firehall if there is bad weather that will likely result in many calls for service, especially during high wind events.

Fran Gaylord, right, and the firefighters practice lifting a Stokes basket, which is like a stretcher.  In back from left are Kevin Dann, Dave Smith, Bob Beisang and Bob Freida. When they aren’t responding to a call, the firefighters to training drills, fire safety checks and clean equipment.

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