From the look of their individual fire houses, the Old Deerfield and South Deerfield fire departments are quite different.
The Old Deerfield fire house is a 65-year-old barn on Old Main Street that houses four trucks, while the South Deerfield fire station is a modern 21-year-old building housing seven trucks.
The operations, training and equipment of the two fire districts, which have been separate for decades, reflect their demographics and funding.
With more taxpayers and businesses, South Deerfield has become a much bigger department than its sister in Old Deerfield, which draws from a limited pool of tax revenue and serves the tax-exempt private schools and museums there.
The differences are not unusual. The training and equipment of volunteer departments varies from town to town.
The South Deerfield Fire District on Greenfield Road is an on-call volunteer department, but its facilities and operations rival that of a full-time department.
It serves the southern part of town, which has the higher proportion of taxpayers and businesses. The department averages 225 calls per year. The current roster includes one full-time firefighter and 21 paid on-call members.
Training for its members is extensive with South Deerfield firefighters spending a total of 1,592 hours training in 2013. All recruits complete a comprehensive training program before being authorized for call response, South Deerfield Fire Chief William Swasey said. Before joining the force, a volunteer is required to complete an application and a physical. Probation may last about 18 months.
The district follows state training standards. Training is a mix of classroom work and hands-on practical experience at regularly scheduled as well as optional drills held throughout the year, Swasey said.
The South Deerfield firefighters also train as the Rapid Intervention Team for the Conway, Sunderland, Whately and Old Deerfield fire departments. As an RIT team, a company of South Deerfield firefighters stand by to assist and rescue other fallen firefighters if necessary.
South Deerfield Fire Department, unlike many small town departments, has an aerial platform truck, which requires the firefighters to do specialized training for fighting fires from the lofty perch. This involves classroom training and practical experience specific to that piece of apparatus, such as strategy and tactics involving aerial firefighting and rescue situations.
Meanwhile, the Old Deerfield Fire District relies on a firefighting training course, called Minute Man Volunteer Firefighting. Fire Chief Chet Yazwinski said it is similar to the state class.
Yazwinski said his department tries to train twice a month. He said the probationary period varies depending on the volunteer. As long as the volunteer completes Firefighter 1 and 2 training, he or she can serve. It can take one to two years to complete, depending on individual schedules.
Yazwinski said the district reserves $2,000 for training. The district has 16 to 20 active volunteers, some of whom come from out of town. On average, the district could get four to five new volunteers each year, Yazwinski said. Last year, the department had 101 alarms, 59 of which were for the private schools in the area.
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