The month of July began not only with high temperatures, but a spate of unconnected fires that tested the limits of New Paltz volunteer firefighters. In a 24-hour span, beginning on July 1, they dealt with two building fires, a dumpster fire, two utility pole fires, a car crash into another utility pole and somehow found the time to lend a hand at a structure fire in Tillson, as well. And on July 6 the department again battled a serious house fire on Rocky Hill Road.
As one might imagine, fighting a fire during a heat wave is no picnic. The safety equipment is heavy, the fire is hot, the air is hot and by the end of an incident, the firefighter is bathed in sweat. As firefighter William Murray put it, “I’m not exhausted, but I felt it. You train for those, and work to maintain physical stamina and you just push through and get it done.” Nevertheless, it can be a “real challenge to be responsive and have enough energy for the work” at times.
Chief Cory Wirthmann said 10 to 12 firefighters showed up for each of those and several more minor incidents during that period. “Due to the hot weather and limited manpower, we called in some mutual aid help from area fire departments for several of the incidents,” he explained, even as they showed up when the volunteers in Tillson needed their aid in return. The volunteer system works because local residents are willing to step up, do what they can and help out when needed.
As detailed in a previous New Paltz Times article (https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2018/04/29/cory-wirthmann-takes-on-the-role-of-fire-chief-in-new-paltz/), volunteers might specialize in particular areas such as driving the trucks, directing traffic around incident scenes, or entering burning buildings. Wirthmann hopes to strengthen the department by getting more residents to sign up for specific roles, even if they feel the overall job of firefighter might be beyond their current skills.
Moving closer to a new firehouse
Ground could be broken to replace village fire station #2 on Henry Dubois Drive with a brand-new facility next spring. The environmental review has been completed by state officials, resulting in a determination of “no significant impact,” and the schematic design will be completed soon, according to New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers.
This project is mostly being funded with about $5 million, which was provided to the town and village from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. Rogers said it could cost as much as $2 million over and above that, but the precise figures will arise from those completed schematics. “We’re committed to this project,” the mayor said; he considers it an excellent way to leverage this one-shot infusion of aid.
One part of the leveraging is to create a temporary storage spot for the fire trucks during construction. The DPW pole barn adjacent to the waste water treatment plant is being insulated for that purpose, but once this project is complete, that insulated barn will mean no longer using electricity for engine-block heaters to keep the snow plows ready in winter.
The construction will also result in all the trucks being parked ultimately in one place, allowing the opportunity to refurbish a considerable amount of space in Village Hall, possibly to be used for town offices. In addition to the fire station, the space once used for the town police department is also empty right now.
For more information about the New Paltz Volunteer Fire Department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or message them on Facebook.