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Fire Support Crew Gets the Go Ahead

Fire chiefs say associate members would do much more to help the department than serve refreshments.

The got the okay from the council Tuesday to move ahead with the creation of an associate membership branch.

Fire Chief Richard Giarratana and Asst. Chief Pat Hayes addressed the many concerns and criticisms about the associate branch which have been since it was first proposed.

Resident Susan Collins echoed some of those concerns Tuesday night. “If they are going to help serve refreshments and clean the fire house how does that help in an emergency?” she asked.

But the chiefs said the associate members, which will act as support staff, will do much more to help the shrinking department than serve refreshments and assist with events.

Although being on hand with refreshments is one of the roles these associate members could play, the fire chiefs said that specific duties crucial to what is needed during emergency calls can be assigned based on the associate member’s qualifications. 

By having someone qualified to operate radios, for example, frees up a firefighter to do his job in the line of duty, Hayes explained. With associate members doing things such as public relations at events, firefighters can be available to respond to a call, the chiefs said.

It is hoped that many of the former volunteers who left due to the inability to devote the required time to firefighting could come back as associate members, and would therefore be qualified to assist in some areas, they explained.  

As for charges that this would allow the department to take people off the street and make them firefighters Giarratana said, “In no way shape or form would they ever perform a firefighting function. They are not schooled to do it and I wouldn’t let them do it.”

Despite the loss of members there is not much difference in the amount of calls being made now compared to when the department had more volunteers, Hayes said.

As for why so many volunteers left, Hayes said there were some who left for personal reasons but in most cases it had to do with not being able to make their percentages. Those volunteers were notified by letter which led to the resignation of some and the termination of three who Hayes said did not follow through with what was requested.

Hayes explained that the department may have appeared to be larger in numbers but it’s the core group of members that are still on the team today that has been making the calls.

Giarratana told Patch they will continue to go out to recruit firefighters but he knows it’s  difficult to find those that can make the commitment. Training alone includes 36 weeks at the fire academy, he said.

“This volunteer fire department runs in par with paid fire departments throughout America. We are proud of that and we are still holding it together,” said Hayes.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Alana Quartuccio at alana.quartuccio@patch.com, or follow Hasbrouck Heights Patch on Facebook or Twitter. For news straight to your inbox sign up for the daily newsletter.

john smith July 11, 2012 at 01:53 PM
There's no words for how much of a disaster the hhfd has turned into. Wow. I wonder when people are going to wake up and accept the truth of it all
Joseph Benkovic July 11, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I can’t wait to see just how successful these associates turn out to be. Radio operations? Are they planning on playing telephone on a fire scene? Are these now so called radio helpers going to be “schooled” in the incident command system and have certificates?
Mike July 11, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Its definately a relif to hear that the associate members will play a bigger role. Handling the radio will definately help.......when calling out to other towns for help because there are not enough people fighting the fire or at the medical emergency. And when things get dangerously out of hand they can still always fall back into refreshment mode....sounds like a safe and solid plan. Hell, sounds like the chiefs can just get rid of the rest of the firefighters and enlist some cheerleaders. Feel safer...and when someone in my family has a medical emergency the first responders can serve me water and coolaid while i perform cpr and wait for the next town or two over to respond.
Joseph Benkovic July 11, 2012 at 09:34 PM
In all my years involved with the department, what seemed to be the norm (since we were all supposed to be a “brotherhood” and on the same team) was to solve problems or come up with new ideas or form committees etc. internally FIRST rather than running behind the memberships back to the mayor and council and then pushing what you thought was a good idea on the membership later. The whole thing appears to have been created for “certain people”. I can only imagine who. Some of which were members and the chiefs apparently had to push out in order to push out the ones they really WANTED to push out. I can bet that any of these other certain people will not be at fire prevention week or available to hand out refreshments or make any difference at all with anything. These chiefs (as they demand to be referred to as) definitely appear to have their own agenda.
Mike Christensen July 11, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Sounds good. Force out the qualified people that can fight a fire and make calls when they could. Why would we come back. To deal with the lack of leadership, or be subjected to the chiefs witch hunts. The same core of members, really. What are the real numbers there. Who else left. Are you planning to bring back people that were thrown off for undesirable actions. Its all smoke and mirrors.
Tony Greco,Former Chief July 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM
OMG You Chiefs drinking the same cool aid. Did you say all that with a straight face. I hear the double and trible pages for the fire department. Never was this bad. Most members left because of the blatant abuse of power and complete disregard of fire department rules and established protocol.(no review board hearings, unapproved fundraiser,ect). I like many others had a passing percentage and when the chief admitted I did he attacked my residency as to remove me another way. Why, to volunteer? I have to defend myself after all these years. No thank you. What are you people so afraid of? Maybe because all of you are borough employees.
Joseph Benkovic July 12, 2012 at 12:31 AM
The MAJOR PROBLEM that I believe exists now (among all the others that have been brought up) is that the current membership is burning out fast. They are stretched out far and it seems to be only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt somehow someway (member or victim). I have also heard that more of the few remaining members are going to become less available or even completely unavailable soon. What is going to happen then? Again, the town needs to have a plan in place. The per diem EMS idea that was introduced briefly to the department years ago was a good start and it seemed like things were on the right track which impressed me. But for some unexplained reason the ball was dropped. What happened?
Deborah Greco July 12, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I would like to respond to Pat Hayes statement that the "three people who were terminated did not follow through with what was requested".
Deborah Greco July 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I received a letter from the CHIEF-ELECT, R. Giarratana, which was not endorsed by the Chief or any other Chiefs and I responded MULTIPLE times. No one addressed my responses. I acted accordingly and appropriately. This was one big plan to kick out anyone with a brain. Good Luck, you deserve each other.
Joseph Benkovic July 12, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Well, I hope these chiefs prove me wrong. I also hope they keep HH Patch and the taxpayers updated on their anticipated rosters of both memberships. Meanwhile most likely the out of town ambulances will keep coming in, the first responding police officers will run out of oxygen while waiting 20 MINUTES or more for an EMERGENCY AMBULANCE to finally arrive at a medical call or they will continue to wait for that first and only fire truck to finally arrive and check a building at a fire alarm.
Joseph Benkovic July 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Hasbrouck Heights has LOST MANY SKILLED PROFESSIONALS from its VOLUNTEER Fire and EMS departments. - GOOD PEOPLE which because of their backgrounds and knowledge alone, I considered some of them to be bonuses that other volunteer departments did not have the privilege of having. I am glad to say that prior to this point I have devoted 15 years of countless hours of MY TIME to this volunteer department and to the people of Hasbrouck Heights. I don’t mean any disrespect to any of the remaining members, they do their share as well but as far as I’m concerned, the REAL HHFD “CORE MEMBERS” are now gone. Good luck.

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