This article first appeared in the January 26th, 2012 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Eric Francis
WEST WINDSOR – The volunteer fire department has gained some useful new equipment in recent weeks with the purchase of “Jaws of Life” hydraulic rescue tools but there is still a chronic need for new firefighters.
“We need more help again. There aren’t enough volunteers,” West Windsor Fire Chief Mike Spackman said this week, noting that the shortage is most acutely felt on emergency calls that come in during most people’s normal working hours.
“We’ve been at 22 firefighters in the recent past but we are down to 18 right now,” the chief explained. Spackman said that ideally he like to get the department up to 25 trained first responders although he acknowledged that, “With the mountain (ski resort) being closed and no employment in town it’s pretty tough, especially for daytime help.”
“We take junior firefighters ages 16-to-18 and they are treated very similarly to a full-fledged membership,” Spackman said, adding, “We’ll train you however you need to be trained to whatever level you want to be trained at.”
The chief urged anyone who might be interested to “contact the fire department or any member any way they can.”
Despite the concerns about the number of personnel, the last few weeks have been busy ones for the department which has been putting the finishing touches on repairs to their flood damaged fire station and putting a set of “jaws” rescue equipment into service for the first time.
“We were one of the last towns to get these tools in this area,” noted West Windsor Selectboard Vice-Chair Tom Kenyon, who is also a long-time member of the fire department. “Golden Cross Ambulance basically sold us their jaws and all the equipment that goes with it for two-thirds off. We bought it for $12,500 and it’s well over $30,000 worth of equipment.”
“We are much appreciative of Golden Cross and we are extremely appreciative of people who have donated funds for the fire department to buy equipment,” Kenyon said, explaining that the lion’s share of the money used for the purchase came from those donations along with, “a little money left over from last year’s general fund account for the fire department. So the equipment has been purchased and is already in the station. We have it on a truck.”
Chief Spackman said that annually West Windsor averages about five to fifteen car crash calls “depending on the year and the slipperiness of the roads” and the new tools will mean that if it’s necessary to extricate patients from the wreckage his crews will not have to wait for jaws to arrive from the neighboring Windsor or Reading fire departments.