How Many Fire Depts Do We Need?
13 May, 2014
By Loop Contributor
theLoop welcomes Journalist Peter Moses, and his column Westchester Eye.
According to FireDepartment.net, there are 102 fire departments and fire stations spread around the whole of Westchester County.
The Village of Larchmont, Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Mamaroneck each have one. The question is why? Why does such a compact area comprised of two villages, the Unincorporated area and part of Rye Neck need three separate departments?
Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh Town Supervisor, has been wrestling with that very question for years; in the past few months Feiner has been tirelessly pursuing creating a petition to force a referendum to consolidate the Fairview Fire district with the Hartsdale Fire District. He is doing that to reign in high taxes in his town.
The town has three paid fire chiefs and only one paid police chief covering unincorporated Greenburgh. That’s in addition to volunteer fire departments spread around the villages that dot Greenburgh, like Ardsley and Dobbs Ferry. Fire chiefs in the paid departments in Greenburgh each earn more money than the chief of the New York City Fire Department and the Greenburgh police chief.
The fire districts are independent of town government and provide one service: fire protection. Fire district taxes in the paid fire districts are almost as high as the entire town tax bill in Greenburgh.
Firefighters are heroes who go into buildings everyone else is running out of. But the era of overlapping departments with highly paid chiefs poses a question local communities are starting to ask. So far this year, the Town of Mamaroneck has responded to a single fire on March 20 in Larchmont at the 37 Woodbine Ave. home of former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Cherkasky. That is according to the department’s website. The fire drew over 100 firefighters from local Westchester firehouses and was brought under control in 45 minutes. There were minor injuries to contractors working on the house.
Does the Town of Mamaroneck really need three separate fire departments? That’s a good question for local taxpayers and elected officials. What do you think?