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SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS: Officials, union differ on solution to firefighting problem in Canandaigua

Funding options will be looked at next year for the fire department.

That’s the word from officials with the City of Canandaigua, who have been dealing with a number of complaints and criticisms since a fire destroyed a popular restaurant last year. Jay Boock, President of the Canandaigua Firefighter Union told WROC-TV that current staffing levels are dangerous and said that more manpower is necessary.

Canandaigua’s City Manager John Goodwin told them in that same report that they are looking to hire a Deputy Fire Chief to recruit more volunteers.

Volunteers may not be the answer, though. A New York Times story featured in 2014 highlighted the disappearance of the volunteer firefighter. It wasn’t for a lack of interest, but rather, a lack of time to invest in a volunteer effort.

The allure has diminished because fund-raising now takes up roughly half the time most volunteers spend on duty. It’s also harder to fit in volunteer work. The rise in two-income households often means that there is no stay-at-home parent to run things so the other can dash off for an an emergency. Urbanization and the aging of the rural population are taking their toll as fewer young people are available to replace firefighters who retire. – Read more from ‘The Disappearing Volunteer Firefighter’

Goodwin says that he wants to add a deputy chief, who is both interior qualified, and capable of going inside a fire. Firefighters on-staff now are skeptical of that arrangement, as the fear remains that the money would disappear.

“For the cost of the Deputy Fire Chief position, they could hire a firefighter and a part time secretary. That would give us enough firefighters for the whole annual schedule and that would still give you your office administration,” Boock told WROC-TV.

Some question the move to pull funding from the fire department, which was moved to other areas of public works. Canandaigua City Councilwoman Renée Sutton says the people she represents are asking for more fire protection. It will cost more, but if Boock’s request is one more full-time firefighter, then how difficult could it be to add?

Mayor Ellen Polimeni says it’s complicated and budgeting is a challenge every year.

While there’s no specific answer in the short-term, the City says they will remain vigilant in pursuing this matter in the next year.

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