By ELISE FRANCO
The reopening of two satellite fire stations in the township prompted spirited debate among some residents at Monday’s township trustee meeting.
Though several folks were glad the stations on South Avenue and Shields Road at Lockwood Boulevard will now be staffed full time, they did voice concerns about a lack of manpower.
During the public-comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Fred Hoover of Centervale Avenue said he thinks it’s unsafe to run a fire truck with only two men on board, which is what is likely to happen at each of the satellite stations that reopened last week.
“The [previous] board passed a levy with the promise that laid-off firefighters and police officers would return to duty, but they failed to do so,” he said.
Township Administrator Jason Loree previously said the minimum number of firefighters on duty per shift is eight, putting four at the main station and two at each of the satellite stations. Loree said this is a stipulation in the firefighters’ union contract.
Hoover said he thinks putting only two firefighters on a truck is a disservice to the township. He used a Friday evening fire at a residence on Southwestern Run as an example. Boardman Fire Department called on Western Reserve Joint Fire District and Beaver Fire Department for assistance.
“Mutual-aid in this situation is not like mutual-aid in police operations,” Hoover said. He said the time lost getting the firefighters into their gear, onto the trucks and to the scene is valuable and could be avoided if all three Boardman stations were properly staffed.
Steven Hierro, a retired Boardman firefighter, said when he first joined the department in 1965, each truck was staffed with one person. He said that was not enough back then, and two per truck is not enough now.
“Three men on a truck is the bare minimum,” Hierro said. “The fire department is like insurance. You’ve got it, but you hope you never have to use it.”
Hierro said the department struggled for years to have two men on the trucks at the outlying stations.
“When these guys started going with three per truck out here, it was great,” he said. “That way, you’ve got two inside and one outside on the pump.”
Not everyone was in favor reopening the satellite stations, however, and felt the trucks should carry even fewer firefighters.
Edward Derose, of Amberwood Trail, said he doesn’t think there’s a need for three fire stations to be open in a community going through financial struggles.
“We need more police, not more fire[fighters],” he said. “We don’t even need that many people on those engines.”
Derose said the township should rehire the laid-off firefighters as policemen instead.
“Make policemen out of them,” he said. “That’s where they belong. We have to stop the crime.”
Hierro, visibly upset with Derose’s statements, said it’s difficult and dangerous for one firefighter to attempt a rescue on his own.
“It’s hell when you pull up to a fire and you don’t know what to do with only one man there.
That’s why we have three men on a truck, and to send a truck out with less is ridiculous.”