Residents, workers, shoppers and visitors in the Town of Ulster have placing three to five calls for emergency response a day. Ulster Hose Company #5 is on the job. The fire company’s ranks are staffed with 84 active volunteers — a large number of able and willing bodies compared to most districts. Their job is to serve Ulster’s modest 13 square miles.
Fire chief Sam Appa credits the full roll call to the company’s training, diverse services, high volume of calls, and family atmosphere. It’s certainly a family operation. The company is filled with uncles, cousins, fathers and sons, brothers, and even a mother-daughter pair. Supervisor James Quigley has a brother, brother-in-law and four nephews who volunteer with Ulster Fire Hose, and his brother Richard Quigley died of natural causes while in service. Richard’s son, Timothy Quigley, volunteers. The pavilion in the back of the firehouse is named Quigley’s Kitchen in Richard’s honor.
According to supervisor Quigley, the fire district has the fifth or sixth largest fire-district budget in Ulster County. It has tremendous resources in terms of equipment and training with that equipment. Quigley credited good leadership, good equipment and an extremely active district — 1300 calls per year, compared to Glasco, which averages 200 to 300 calls per year.
The volume of activity is appealing for young volunteers.
“You put that all together, for the young man who has an aspiration to get involved, it gives him the opportunity to join an organization that not only has good leadership, good equipment and good training, but a lot of activity,” summed up Quigley. “If your son was 16, and lived close by two different firehouses, he would probably pick the one that is most active because they are going to see the most.”
Quigley said the fire department was “a tremendous resource” under mutual aid. Ulster Hose Co. 5 has 25 active EMTs, a dive scuba team with 30 divers, and even an ice-diving team. Water-rescue issues involve the New York State Police, Ulster County sheriff’s office and Ulster Hose Co. 5.
Appa said that nearly all the district’s $1.1-million budget goes for training and equipment, most of which is housed in the headquarters on Ulster Avenue: three marine units, two engines, an engine tanker, two ladder trucks, a dive command vehicle, dive boat, a rescue vehicle and an EMS vehicle. The second station on Route 9W near Saugerties is smaller, housing only one fire engine, a mini-pumper and a hazmat trailer.
A detailed, 30-year scheduled apparatus replacement plan is posted in Appa’s office, with monies either bonded or earmarked from the budget every month into a dedicated capital reserve fund. Recently, Ulster Hose Co. 5 bought several acres on Sawkill Road near Washington Avenue to build another firehouse, which was suggested of Quigley. However, ground will not be broken for several years, said Appa.
Appa said they receive the department receives three to five calls per day, amounting to about one hundred a month, adding, “a large storm can change that number dramatically.” Most of the calls are medical calls, he said, about half from residences and half from businesses. “And the vagrant population as well,” he added. Shopping season is the busiest time of the year, Appa said.
This company adds several new members every year. A third are new or young men, a third middle-aged, and a third oldtimers, with several members in their seventies.