Frequently Asked Questions - Ask The Chief

FAQs - Ask The Chief

Ever wonder why the fire company blocks the road at a fire, or how many firefighters there are in the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company? Well, we want to tell you. Anything about the fire department you want know, here's your chance. Send us your question, and we'll answer it to the best of our ability. Please limit the questions to fire department related issues, but there is no limit to how many questions you can ask and no subject is off limits. All questions will be answered, unless they are malicious or disrespectful to anyone in nature, and we are unable to answer personnel questions that deal with private information. Other than that, ask away. Please remember though, that being a volunteer organization, it may take a few days or even a week to see an answer. Please be patient. Send questions to askthechief@enfieldfirecompany.com.Thank you.

The days when a group of people could buy a handful of rubber coats and an old pumper and call themselves a fire company are gone. Nowadays there are many requirements made by State and Federal governments that greatly drive up the cost of running a fire company. Members are required to have occupational physicals every year or two that cost hundreds of dollars each. The fire department has to provide them with protective gear, which costs over a thousand dollars per member, and has to be updated periodically to comply with NFPA standards, even though the gear may be in relatively good shape. There are huge insurance costs, which is appropriate considering the number of emergency personnel who are injured or killed each year in the line of duty. Firefighters and EMT's have to meet government mandated levels of training, and that's not cheap. The government also sets the standards for our equipment. A fire truck may be in excellent condition, but become obsolete according to the standards, and need to be replaced. So while no one is arguing that these rules are bad, after all they are all designed to protect both the responders and the people they are trying to help, they have caused the cost of maintaining a fire department to increase quite significantly over the years.

Unfortunately, there is not always someone from the fire company available to go on a call. Every single member is a volunteer, and most of them have jobs, families, and lives outside the fire company. It is not possible to have coverage 24/7, especially with the number of volunteers on a steady decline. It actually happens rarely that a call comes out that absolutely no one responds to, but it is a harsh truth that it does happen. It happens anywhere that relies on an all volunteer company for protection. This is one of the issues that prompted a county wide mutual-aid agreement, and it's one of the reasons we're always looking for more volunteers.

Some folks may remember a long period where we didn't use the siren. The siren is to alert members of a call, and we had to go back to using it when the county dispatch center started to experience more and more trouble with the existing radio system. Especially in Enfield, which is such hilly terrain, calls put out by county dispatchers were sometimes not being received by EVFC pagers, so calls were being missed. While the siren can't always be heard everywhere in Enfield, it at least ensured that when the paging system failed, some members would hear the siren and know they were needed. So we went back to using it as insurance. There are a few reasons it goes off sometimes more than once. There may be no one available to respond to the call. Someone may respond but not get to the station before the second alarm goes out. It may turn out to be a serious call where additional resources are needed. And there are other, less common reasons. A second activation doesn't always mean that no Enfield members responded. Some members will go right to a scene, but since we can't afford radios for all members they can't notify dispatch in a timely manner. And sometimes arriving members will see that it is a large scale situation requiring large numbers of personnel and equipment, and they'll ask for a second alarm.

Some folks may remember a long period where we didn't use the siren. The siren is to alert members of a call, and we had to go back to using it when the county dispatch center started to experience more and more trouble with the existing radio system. Especially in Enfield, which is such hilly terrain, calls put out by county dispatchers were sometimes not being received by EVFC pagers, so calls were being missed. While the siren can't always be heard everywhere in Enfield, it at least ensured that when the paging system failed, some members would hear the siren and know they were needed. So we went back to using it as insurance. There are a few reasons it goes off sometimes more than once. There may be no one available to respond to the call. Someone may respond but not get to the station before the second alarm goes out. It may turn out to be a serious call where additional resources are needed. And there are other, less common reasons. A second activation doesn't always mean that no Enfield members responded. Some members will go right to a scene, but since we can't afford radios for all members they can't notify dispatch in a timely manner. And sometimes arriving members will see that it is a large scale situation requiring large numbers of personnel and equipment, and they'll ask for a second alarm.

First of all, it is absolutely untrue that any member has ever used any tax funds for personal use. Second, unless you personally heard it, it is a rumor and the fire department would strongly urge you not to put any stock in it without some hard evidence. The fire company exists to serve the community, and rumors only hurt us all. I have no proof that any board member ever said such a thing, but if they had, I can't imagine why. It would be completely irresponsible and not in the best interest of the town residents. Whatever the truth may be regarding that particular issue, the fire company keeps very detailed and well scrutinized financial records, we have always provided a quarterly report to the town board, and we don't refuse to be auditted, we just believe that if the town board wants it, they should pay for it.

Simply put, we either have to carry it to the fire, by way of tanker trucks, or "suck" it out of a water source like a pond, stream, or even a pool if desperate. There is no municipal water system in Enfield, and therefore no hydrants. There are a few places around town where landowners have been kind enough to allow us to place a plastic pipe system, known as a "dry hydrant", in their ponds which make it much easier for us to get the water out when needed. We encourage any landowner considering putting in a pond to look into installing a dry hydrant. At the very least, it would be a great thing to have if there were ever a fire on their own property, and it could also be a great service to their neighbors.

Well, there is no easy way to answer that. It's dangerous enough that excluding 2001, because 9/11 was an isolated event with a huge loss, an average of 100 firefighters a year die in the line of duty. Now there are plenty of departments out there that have never lost a member in the line of duty, but the potential is always there. And it's not just getting killed fighting fires either. In fact, roughly half of line of duty deaths are cardiac related, and a quarter are the result of vehicle accidents responding to or returning from calls. So it's hard to put a concrete number on the risk factor. Safety is a major issue in all fire departments, with many steps being taken to avoid injury or death, but many firefighters get hurt on the job, and some die. It's part of the job.

That is because your town tax bill does not contain all of the information. Almost the entire fire company budget is collected from taxes on real property. The rest of the town budget, which is roughly $1,000,000 a year total, comes almost completely from other sources, such as county, state, and federal taxes, sales tax, and highway aid. For example, the town highway budget is roughly $500,000 a year, but very little of that comes from town property tax. So while it looks like the fire company is the most expensive service in town, that's not accurate. The fire company is not trying to deny that our budget is a lot of money. We do however have some unique issues to deal with. We don't have the luxury that most businesses do of being able to schedule our needs. We can't plan emergencies, we have to respond as needed. We can't limp along with equipment that is ready to kick the bucket any day now like some businesses can. To be blunt, if a garbage truck or a school bus or a tractor trailer delivering a load of cleaning supplies to Walmart breaks down on the job, at worst it's an inconvenience. The fire company has to be maintained at such a high level of readiness, because it would be hard to swallow at a fire some day, where a life is lost needlessly because the fire company tries to get by with a sorry old truck so a few tax dollars could be saved. This is not a black and white issue obviously, and I'm sure I've probably raised more questions than I answered, but you should know that if it was that easy for the fire company to spend the taxpayer's money we'd have four wheelers and a mini-pumper and a Hummer brush truck and walkie-talkies for every member instead of just the officers and two sets of gear for everyone. The truth is, we try to be as well prepared as we can for the least amount we can get by on, and we try to get the best value for the equipment we do have.

T.V. is almost never a good place to try to get your facts from, but I think that most firefighters would agree with me that we share a bond that isn't common in the workplace. Of course, it's probably different for every fire company, and it's unrealistic to believe that every member of a fire department, no matter how small, is just crazy about every other member. I mean, not even a group of people as small as just two persons will get along or agree all the time. But, in our line of work, you have to be able to trust the guy your working with, because at some point your life may be in his hands. That, and some of the terrible things we experience together, makes us "brothers". We may not always get along, or even particularly care for one another, but just like real brothers who aren't always best friends, when it comes down to it we're still family.

Just about anyone who wants to. You must meet certain education requirements, be at least a certain age, and pass a physical and a state mandated background check. Pleasesee our "Join Us" page for more information. It is currently under construction but we hope to have it up soon. We're always looking for new members, so we encourage anyone who's interested to check us out.

Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.