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EAST PALESTINE New fire chief settles into job

Thursday, January 2, 2003

The fire department's budget is $120,000 less than last year's.
EAST PALESTINE -- Life around the East Palestine Fire Department has been fairly quiet in the two months Brett Todd has been chief.
Todd knows, however, that the quiet won't last long. Late-night calls and interrupted meals are to be expected, likely sooner rather than later, he said.
Although the department's EMS personnel are quite active, a car fire in November during former Chief Merle Stewart's retirement party has been the fire department's most serious call since Todd, 44, became chief Nov. 1.
"We got called out right after I got to the party," Todd said. "I wasn't there five minutes. The assistant chiefs, the captains, all of us were out there in our dress clothes."
Best, worst parts of job
Todd said the camaraderie around the firehouse and working with the public are the best parts of the job. The worst part, he said, is keeping up with the necessary paperwork.
He said maintaining equipment and keeping firefighters and EMS personnel trained in the latest techniques are all steps toward being ready for fires or other emergency situations.
Todd plans to use the department's $277,000 budget for 2003 and any possible grants to maintain the department's equipment and operations and make improvements.
With the budget $120,000 less than in 2002, Todd won't be able to replace any of the department's aging vehicles this year. A new firetruck would be in the $250,000 to $300,000 range, he said.
A 1996 tanker-pumper and a 1998 ambulance are the newest vehicles. The oldest is a 1969 tanker-pumper.
The top priority for equipment replacement is a 30-year-old compressor used to fill firefighter's air tanks. Todd has about $30,000 in the budget to replace the compressor, but hopes to secure a grant to pay for it instead.
Todd said his department works closely with the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency training for disasters, hazardous materials fires or spills and terrorist attacks.
Biggest concern
He said the department's main concern in fire protection is that the railroad runs through town. He wants to find out how many railroad cars travel through the city each day, and how many might contain hazardous materials.
Training firefighters and EMTs will continue to be a priority, Todd said. Staffing weekdays during day shift is a continual problem, and the department is always looking for new firefighter and EMS candidates, he said.
He said candidates for either post must be 18, physically able to perform the duties of a firefighter or EMT and have no felony charges on record. EMT candidates can begin classes at age 17, but can't be certified until they are 18, he noted.
Department firefighters and EMS personnel conduct training at the station. Todd said the next round of courses will begin in the spring for the 36-hour basic firefighter training and in the fall for the 240-hour program for anyone desiring to certify to be a full-time firefighter.
The department has 26 firefighter and 24 EMS personnel. Of the 26 firefighters, 15 have full certification in hazardous materials handling. Five of the EMS personnel are paramedics.