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N.Y. city, town officials discuss shared fire department

The Town of Watertown asks the City of Watertown for fire assistance while the town becomes a combination FD


By Craig Fox
Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — The town of Watertown is asking the city for help fighting fires. And the city council is willing to talk about the potential of sharing some services with the town.

On Monday night, council members informally agreed to begin a conversation with the town about the proposal. City Manager Kenneth A. Mix wanted to know whether it was something council members would be willing to pursue.

It’s unclear exactly how the city fire department would provide the service and how much it would cost the town.

“Big questions need to be answered,” Councilman Patrick J. Hickey said.

Some of those questions involve whether the city would be liable if a city firefighter was ever injured or died at a town fire scene, whether the firefighters union would agree to it and all the costs to the city.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to it but all the costs would have to be covered,” Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said.

The city now provides mutual aid on all calls in the town. They went out on 693 calls in 2022 and 357 so far this year, Hickey said.

The town department is looking to become a combination department that would include some paid firefighters supplemented by volunteers.

Having the city respond to fires would buy the town department time to get the positions filled.

The town department now has 35 firefighters, which is down from 39 in 2022, and the trend is going down. In 2017, the department had 68 firefighters.

The city would be dispatched to any major calls such as alarms, explosions and structure fires. The city would not be dispatched to every medical call.

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