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Sen. Schumer calls for better firefighting apparatus at Fort Drum

Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y) makes opening remarks during a hearing attended by a panel of Department of Homeland Security senior officials. Jan. 20, 2016. (CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is calling on the U.S. Army to modernize Fort Drum Fire Department’s emergency response apparatus, which he says is aging and obsolete.

Sen. Schumer said that five of Fort Drum’s fire engines and its backup apparatus have failed to pass inspection and have not been repaired or replaced in several years.

In a press release, he also said Fort Drum is in desperate need of a new ladder truck, which cannot be replaced under the Army’s policy. The fire department had also been waiting to receive a new fire engine, which was due to be delivered in November, but arrived Tuesday.

In a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, Sen. Schumer asked the Army secretary to expedite the process, citing that the aged vehicles are putting a strain on the department.

“I write to request your immediate attention and assistance to ensure the Fort Drum Fire Department is sufficiently equipped with emergency response apparatus, specifically a ladder truck and engine truck,” Sen. Schumer requested in the letter.

On the same day that the senator sent out his press release, Fort Drum, coincidentally, received its new engine/pumper.

“The good news is that today we received a replacement engine/pumper and we are slated to receive a new engine/pumper in January 2021, and a third in fiscal year 2022,” said Julie Halpin, director of Fort Drum’s public affairs.

Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., said that Fort Drum first responders should have all the tools and resources necessary to do their job safely and efficiently. He also argued that the Army should change the policy preventing Fort Drum from qualifying for a new ladder truck, or consider exempting Fort Drum from that policy.

The Fort Drum Fire Department, as Sen. Schumer explained, does not meet the requirements for a new ladder truck from the Army because the installation does not have at least five buildings that are more than four stories tall and lack sprinkler systems.

That Fort Drum’s fire department doesn’t have proper equipment that would allow firefighters to reach the fourth stories of buildings on post puts both occupants and the lives of firefighters in harm’s way, he said.

Sen. Schumer argued that it is imperative that the federal government provide firefighters at military installations with the resources they need.

But safety is “top priority” for the people who live on Fort Drum and those who provide emergency services, Ms. Halpin said in press release.

“While our firefighters do not currently have the exact equipment the Army says is required in order to perform their services to their highest abilities, we do believe they have what they need to get the job done in the interim,” she said.

Since July, the fire department decommissioned two engine/pumpers, two ladder trucks and two rescue trucks.

Currently, Fort Drum is operating without a back-up fire engine/pumper, borrowing an engine/pumper and relying on mutual aid for ladder truck support.

The fire department does not expect to get another ladder truck since the Army does not think that Fort Drum needs one. Instead, Fort Drum will rely on mutual aid for a ladder truck from area fire departments.


© 2020 Watertown Daily Times