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Watertown Fire Department to hire more firefighters

in Employment 177 views

Feb. 6—WATERTOWN — City Council members on Monday night informally agreed to hire four city firefighters and to apply for a federal grant that would pay for additional staffing.

Council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey supported adding the fire department staff after Fire Chief Matthew R. Timerman said over the weekend that overtime costs could reach as much $1.2 million, citing current staffing shortages.

In a memo sent to council over the weekend, Chief Timerman said that overtime costs are “extraordinarily high.”

Overtime expenses are skyrocketing after the city failed in December to secure $1.338 million in federal funding from the Staffing for an Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER grant program. That would have paid for the hiring of five city firefighters, Chief Timerman said.

During a lengthy debate, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith argued against adding more fire department staff, in part by contending that long-term retirement and health benefit costs would increase by having more personnel.

The four new firefighters would bring fire department staffing from 64 to 68, but Chief Timerman expects two retirements will occur later this year. He told council members that the “sweet spot” for staffing is 72.

The new hires would save the city about $100,000 annually, but that would take about three years to achieve, Chief Timerman said.

“You might have more savings or less savings,” he said.

It will take about six months to get the new firefighters trained and on staff.

Without hiring the five additional firefighters with the SAFER grant, Chief Timerman said the department has spent $680,000 in overtime, or about 87% of the budgeted amount with half of the fiscal year still remaining. He expects overtime costs to reach $1.2 million by the end the fiscal year.

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Watertown Fire Department awards 46 firefighters for lifesaving efforts

in Event/People 145 views

WATERTOWN — Forty-six firefighters received awards for their lifesaving efforts in the community during a ceremony Wednesday at the Emma Flower Taylor Fire Station on South Massey Street.

The awards included EMS Citation Bar, which is given to someone who did an exceptional job on an EMS call; Lifesaving Bar, for when a firefighter directly saved someone’s life; CPR Save, for an incident in which CPR was given to a member of the community, and that person is now healthy; and Stork Pins for people who delivered children in the field, among other awards.

The firefighter awards used to be held annually, City Fire Chief Matthew R. Timerman said, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing issues, the ceremony hasn’t taken place since 2018.

“Finally here we are tonight, here to celebrate all the hard work of the Watertown Fire Department crews,” he said. “They do a wonderful job.”

Normally, there would be around 20 to 25 firefighters recognized, but since it has been a few years since the ceremony has taken place, more firefighters are receiving awards.

“Firefighters really don’t like to be recognized,” Chief Timerman said. “Pretty much, to a person they’ll tell you ‘I’m just doing my job,’… On the other hand, no matter what your job is, if you do your job well, it’s good to recognize people for doing their job well.”

He went on to say that sometimes as a firefighter, it’s easy to get down on yourself, but ceremonies like this one remind them why they do what they do.

“We’ve saved a lot of lives, we’ve done some great things,” he said. “I don’t disagree that this is our job, this is what we’re hired to do, but it’s good to review all of the good things we’ve been able to accomplish … it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture sometimes, so this is a good way to remind everybody why we’re here.”

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Watertown’s newest firefighters grew up together

in Local News/People 409 views

WATERTOWN — The city’s newest firefighters began their long career path together when they were still boys.

Pat Vincent joined the town of Watertown’s department as a volunteer firefighter when he was a senior in high school, while then 12-year-old Josh Wilcox hung out at the fire station with his firefighter dad.

And now they’re members of the city’s fire department after making a lateral move from Oswego in what is believed to be the first time that city firefighters switched jobs from another department.

They were sworn into their new jobs during a ceremony at the Emma Flower Taylor Fire Station on South Massey Street Friday night.

Both men said they are fulfilling career goals — they’ve always wanted to be a member of the Watertown Fire Department.

“It’s a dream come true,” Mr. Vincent said.

Between the time they were boys and now as new city firefighters, they were colleagues many other times in the past.

The two friends worked as paramedics for Guilfoyle Ambulance Service while they also served in the town fire department. Mr. Wilcox joined the town department 14 years ago.

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Watertown firefighters remember late battalion chief with 9/11 flag ceremony

in People 1,499 views

WATERTOWN — The only local firefighter who died as a result of the efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was honored earlier this week when an American flag that flew over ground zero made its way to Watertown.

City firefighters and others remembered Battalion Chief David Lachenauer during a ceremony in which a ground zero flag flew at the South Massey Street fire station on Wednesday.

The ground zero flag came to Watertown as part of a four-day run to Albany.

A Port Authority Police Officer had the 3-foot by 5-foot flag made to honor a colleague who died on Sept. 11. It flew on the rubble days after two planes flew into the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Battalion Chief Lachenauer died in 2018 after being diagnosed with cancer, which was linked to exposure to toxic materials during his service at ground zero following the attack. He was 61.

Fire Chief Matthew R. Timerman said that having the flag fly at the fire station reminded him of the sacrifice that Battalion Chief Lachenauer made.

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