Longmeadow Fire Department is ‘always training’

Longmeadow Fire Department is 'always training'

LONGMEADOW – They’re the first call in a fire or medical emergency for the town’s 15,853 residents. They’re also responsible for rescue calls on three miles of the Connecticut River – from the Connecticut border to Springfield – and for emergencies on three miles of Route 91, including the Longmeadow curve.

No wonder, as Longmeadow Fire Chief John Dearborn told Reminder Publishing, the Fire Department is “always here planning, preparing and training, and working with emergency management in town.”

This summer saw the department recertifying members on water rescue protocols, checking out new department personnel on motor pump (truck) and aerial (ladder) operations, preparing to add a new multi-purpose vehicle to their equipment and hosting the first training for volunteers who will man the town shelters in disasters and emergencies.

Ready for the river

“We average about 20 calls a year on the river, though this year has been slower because the river is so low, boating traffic is down,” Dearborn shared. The department, he said, keeps a rescue boat stationed at the Pioneer Valley Yacht Club during the summer months and conducts water rescue training on a regular basis.

“That’s been an existing program for 20 years,” Dearborn explained. “Every summer we certify everyone [and] there are specific drills we have to do to certify new people on boat operation and rescue [procedures].” He added members also must practice with “special suits we put on to get into the water to rescue people.”

Beyond their responsibility for the stretch of the river from the state line to Springfield, Dearborn said Longmeadow is also a mutual aid call for river incidents, usually responding with crews from Agawam, West Springfield or Springfield, as a rescue call has a policy of dispatching two boats for safety reason.

Bringing aboard the Kubota

In July the department added a new piece of equipment to its arsenal, a multi-purpose utility vehicle that will, Dearborn said, let the department “access off-road areas – our larger parks, the refuge or an injury on one of the town’s two golf courses” with more ease and efficiency than deploying a larger fire truck.

“The machine is set up, so it has a unit on the back specifically for transporting somebody in a medical emergency,” Dearborn added.
The vehicle, called a Kubota, was purchased using donations by town residents. Dearborn said the department didn’t do any specific fundraising toward the $22,000 cost other than “at out open house we had a flyer talking about it.” Resident donations to the department come in “from time to time, and we just saved up” toward the Kubota, he noted. The department also received “a couple of large donations from people who asked to remain anonymous,” Dearborn shared. All told, it took the department about a year to amass the monies for the Kubota and they’re “just waiting for a few things to come in” and training to be complete before putting the new all-terrain vehicle into service.

Beyond off-road rescues, Dearborn said the Kubota will prove useful in the result a storm causing downed trees in a neighborhood to block the path of traditional fire apparatus in a medical emergency.

“With climate change we do see the frequency of storms increasing. In the past couple of years tree damage has resulted in us not being able to access neighborhoods” but with the new vehicle “we will be able to get in,” Dearborn said.

Shelter training begins

Dearborn said in mid-August, the department conducted the first of several trainings for town residents who have volunteered to man and operate the towns two emergency shelters. The primary shelter will be located at Longmeadow High School, with a secondary shelter at the new Adult Center, he explained.

“We had 60 [residents] sign up over the summer, but some people are away, and we had 22 attend the first training,” Dearborn said. “We have a pretty good size group for the second training” which will take place in September.

Dearborn said the volunteers came from “a community-wide solicitation and we had a great response … we’re really lucky to have residents to help us.” He noted that when a call went out for help with a vaccine clinic during the coronavirus pandemic, “approximately 270 people responded” and although the amount of COVID-19 vaccine available for community distribution wasn’t as much as anticipated, “all our vaccine clinics were staffed by volunteers.”

Dearborn added that anyone interested in volunteering to assist the Fire Department with the shelter or other project should email [email protected]

Always busy

Beyond certifying new department personnel on station equipment, Dearborn said the last weeks of August have included “inspections of all schools and [Bay Path] university and then we do safety training with the school administrators and staff – both public and private [schools] … this time of year is very busy.”

The Longmeadow Fire Department routinely responds to 3,000 emergency calls every year, along with an additional 1,400 to 1,500 non-emergency, inspection, and other calls, for a total of 4,500 department responses per year, Dearborn said.

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