Pa. fire siren duration to be shortened after complaints

A new control system will reduce the duration of the alarm from two minutes to one

By Richard Gazarik
The Tribune-Review

HEMPFIELD, Pa. — Hempfield supervisors, trying to defuse growing tension between residents of West Point and its volunteer fire department, will buy and install a new control system that will shorten the time the fire siren sounds in the neighborhood.

The new control system will reduce the duration of the alarm from two minutes to one.

By a 3-1 vote, township board members agreed to purchase the equipment to quell the worsening relations between residents and firefighters who have been locked in a battle for 28 months over the decibel level and duration of the siren that residents claim rattles nerves and windows and is affecting the hearing of schoolchildren waiting at a bus stop near the station.

Supervisors Bob Davidson, John Silvis and Doug Weimer voted to buy the equipment.

Supervisor Tom Logan voted against the measure and tried to delay the purchase by calling for a study on the impact of sirens at each of the township's dozen fire departments. Supervisor John Bossi, who lives in West Point, did not attend the meeting.

"In my opinion, we don't have enough information to make that decision," Logan said.

"I can't see reasons for delaying this thing," Davidson responded.

"When we were here a year ago, I thought this issue was dead," Logan continued.

"This issue came back because it never died," Davidson retorted.

Solicitor Les Mlakar urged the board to make a decision.

"A dead horse is being beaten to death," he said. "The board has to make a decision one way or the other to bring closure to this matter."

Al Platos, who lives in West Point, said several residents have serious health problems, and the alarm is nerve-wracking. Some residents have resided in West Point for 49 years and have never experienced any problems with the fire department until a disaster siren was installed two years ago.

The township agreed to install a traditional siren but did not buy the control system that regulates the sound and duration of the alarm, which used to sound for three minutes.

Platos said residents have tried to talk to the firemen about the problem, but they have refused to compromise.

"What we're looking for is a one-minute siren — 60 seconds," resident Rich Janesko said. "Do the right thing for the people. Get back to working with the public."

Greg Saunders, president of the Hempfield Fire Chiefs Association, said the department is creating a legal defense fund to hire a lawyer in case the residents file a lawsuit against the department.

"These people will not stop complaining to you until they eliminate the fire service," Saunders said.

Neal Connelly, another resident, said he has lived in West Point since 1964 and has never complained about the fire department. He called the threat to hire an attorney "ludicrous."

"We have never attacked anyone," he said.

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