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Owego Fire Department Hit by Mass Resignations

Traci Taylor

In late April we told you members of the Owego Fire Department were prepared to quit en-mass if the village board didn’t approve a new safety plan that was drafted after the very unfortunate death of firefighter Matt Porcari. The day has come and dozens held to their word.

Last night, the village board not only elected four new chiefs, but also approved the resignations of dozens of firefighters. The firefighters threatened to leave after the village board delayed approving the new safety plan. The firefighters say they left out of concern for their own safety and the safety of fellow firefighters.

After the death of Matthew Pocari in 2013, New York State’s Public Employee Safety and the Health Bureau cited the fire department for several violations regarding safety and training. Last month, the village board approved a portion of the manual that addressed citations, but not the entire manual.

In a press release issued in April, Assistant Chief Warfle stated, “The village board has become entangled in the politics of outdated and unsafe firefighting techniques, which are supported by a group of non-responding, untrained individuals and social members who possess political savvy but not concern for the firefighters who actually answer calls.” In other words, the fire department has had it “up to here” with being ignored and are ready to walk away rather than continue to put themselves in harms way.

Those firefighters who’ve stayed with the department will be taking additional training in the near future. New Village of Owego Fire Chief Daniel Gavin assures residents that there’s nothing to worry about stating, “My department is going to be safe and moving forward we have the people to hold the appropriate classes to maintain a safe atmosphere.”

According to the Firewire Tioga Facebook page, even with the resignation of several dozen firefighters, the Owego Fire Department is a volunteer fire department and still has “about 300 members of Owego Fire Department some active others who have been inactive, but stated that if needed they will respond.”

The village board says they hope to approve the rest of the operations manual on June 16th.

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