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Must Read Op-Ed: Belfast NY Fire Chief sounds the alarm

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“Do I need to paint the town hall green to get your attention?”

By Jeffery Chamberlain, Belfast Fire Chief, 3rd Generation volunteer firefighter

I’ve been a Volunteer Fireman in Belfast for 24 years. Left my family in the middle of storms to clear roadways so that community members could go home and tuck their own kids in for the night. Left my children sleeping to rush face first into a burning home to try and save family memories from ash. I don’t currently live in Belfast but I’ve always considered it home.

Today I look around and see we are in trouble. The members that guided me through the ranks are the same active members as when I joined except now, they are retired. I can promise them I’ll be here to help them and protect them as they grow older just like they taught me with the generation before them. But there is no one standing behind me to back me anymore. The average age of rescue squad member is 55. So, the next time an MTS rig sirens through town the only thing you should be thinking is thank God it’s not me today because there is NO ONE closer to help. When the whistle goes off 3 4 5 times in the middle of the night and you light up the key board with complaints, go back to bed sleep tight because fortunately it isn’t your house today. It goes off because no one is coming.  

Fire protection, prevention and EMS care provided by volunteers to our community should no longer fall on the shoulders of those who have gave the best years of their lives serving. ┬áIf we don’t start today by driving the idea of volunteering into our children I can promise you in 20 years you’ll be in the same boat as I am: The closest fire truck to my house is 10 miles away and will only be piloted if someone gives up their time.

The Belfast Fire District just made the purchase of another used pumper in attempts to stay up on state regulations and insurance ratings to keep your fire insurance at a minimum without a huge tax increase. That truck is almost 30 years old already. A new truck of the same caliber quoted in 2023 was over $800,000. Last night the town held an election for 1 open seat on that board and had an impressive ballot count of 15. This tells me the community wasn’t even willing to get out and ask someone else to do a job they don’t want.

So here I am asking you.

Do I need to paint the town hall green to get your attention?

Should we close the department down so you can all rent the space from the town and start an animal rescue for the stray cats and unleashed dogs?

Do  we need to throw a birthday party for the Fire Dept?

Or are any of you willing to step up and help me fill this void before it is too late?

My apologies if any of remarks offend any of you, I lost sleep over my thoughts and frankly it’s time to get a few of you riled up enough that maybe we can do something about this before it’s too late. Thank you for taking the time. Your application for an opportunity to make a difference awaits.

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