Fire departments may respond together

JOHNSTOWN – The Gloversville and Johnstown fire departments would automatically respond to structure fires together under a new proposal.

Both city councils are working on an “automatic dispatch agreement” involving the two city fire departments.

Each department already often helps the other with structure fires, but the new agreement involving the Fulton County 911 Communications Center would be more structured.

The Johnstown Common Council on Monday reached a non-formal “consensus” to proceed with the agreement, pending a review by both cities’ attorneys. The Johnstown council may approve a formal resolution at an upcoming meeting.

The Gloversville Common Council may approve a resolution at its meeting at 6 p.m. today at City Hall. The proposed resolution in Gloversville authorizes Mayor Dayton King and Gloversville Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam to execute the agreement with the Johnstown Fire Department.

“This dispatch agreement … allows for expedited assistance for both cities through automatic dispatch, which then allows for safer and more efficient operations for the departments and citizens,” the proposed Gloversville resolution states.

Johnstown Fire Chief Bruce Heberer outlined the agreement for the Johnstown council Monday, noting he and Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius have discussed the proposed agreement with Gloversville officials. Heberer said his department is subject to the Fulton County Mutual Aid Plan governing public safety units.

“That means if somebody calls us, we go,” the chief said.

For emergency calls for structure fires, Heberer said, the new dispatch agreement would increase public safety with a formalized fire response from both cities. He said the agreement would allow the 911 dispatch center on Route 29 to dispatch fire units from both cities automatically and simultaneously for structure fires or “possible” structure fires.

“We’re not changing business, it’s just the way it’s being dispatched,” Heberer said.

He said the plan is “not a new concept” and would make fire service “more efficient” in the Glove Cities.

Heberer asked the council to pass a formal mo-

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tion Monday, but City Attorney Brett Preston said he preferred the council wait until he can talk with Gloversville City Attorney Anthony Casale about the proposal.

First Ward Councilwoman Cindy Lakata said there is a “general consensus” of Johnstown council members to approve the agreement, although no formal vote was taken.

Heberer said this morning fire units now are dispatched to a scene and decide whether they need backup help. He said the agreement allows for dispatching both cities’ fire units at the same time.

“It should be a quicker response,” Heberer said.

He said there would be no extra cost to the fire departments.

In an email, Gloversville Mayor King said Whitman-Putnam would not be in attendance tonight.

“We have not heard any complaints from the Common Council, and I expect this to begin next Wednesday morning or as soon as the Fulton County dispatch team can get trained on it,” he wrote.

“This is something I had proposed to [former Johnstown] Mayor [Sarah] Slingerland during my first term and glad it is something Mayor Julius and I could agree on early during my second term,” King wrote. “My goal is to make sure we have enough people to perform the tasks at hand while protecting taxpayers’ money. The city of Gloversville currently responds to a structure fire with the seven people it has on shift per the minimum-staffing agreement. Once this goes into place, we will have two more firefighters from Johnstown there very quickly as well.”

King wrote he believes that between purchasing a ladder and water truck, and this agreement for automatic aid, Gloversville is “safely addressing the concerns of having enough people and equipment to fight a fire. We appreciate the agreements we also have with the surrounding volunteer departments as well.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.