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Rensselaer chief orders volunteers to stay out of burning buildings

Sep 17, 2018 11:30 am
Wendy Liberatore and Sara Cline are reporting for the Times Union Rensselaer Fire Chief Bill Hummel has ordered his crew of 18 volunteers to stay out of burning buildings. Mayor Daniel Dwyer said a complaint by a disgruntled firefighter to the state Public Employees Safety Health Bureau that volunteers were behind on mandated training led to the chief's decision. "The training will be upgraded," Mayor Daniel Dwyer said. "We will do it in a couple of weeks." The restriction placed on volunteers and not on the 12 paid firefighters is the latest in an ongoing battle between the volunteers and members of the paid firefighters' union, said Michael Stammel, one of the volunteer firefighters and a Rensselaer County legislator. Stammel alleges the paid staff is trying to squeeze out the volunteers, an effort that escalated into a 2016 lawsuit filed by Rensselaer Professional Firefighters Local 2643 against the volunteers. The suit seeks to restore city funds to the paid staff that were intended for equipment and other things the volunteers needed. Stammel said that he and most of the other volunteer firefighters have not received annual training and tests, including hazardous-material, workplace-violence training and fitness tests, for years. The Commissioner of Public Works Dominic Tagliento said that all the volunteers will receive an eight-hour refresher course in two separate sections this week and next. The volunteers can then be allowed to go back inside burning buildings. Dwyer said the dispute between fire department factions has been exaggerated. "We have fights," Dwyer said. "It's been handed over to the lawyers." Read the full story in the Times Union.