Officials say there is not necessarily a shortage of volunteers willing to fight fires in Lake George, but rather a drought on qualified drivers to get firefighters to the scene.
Mayor Robert Blais has proposed a fix to the driver and pump operator shortage, drawing on the town and village’s Department of Public Works crews, which have shared responsibilities after an agreement earlier this year between the two government bodies.
That is Plan B if the Lake George Volunteer Fire Company can not find more volunteers in its membership to take the course and training to become drivers and pump operators.
Volunteer fire officials met last week with Blais, Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, Deputy Mayor John Earl and Village DPW Supervisor Dave Harrington to discuss what Blais and Dickinson say has been a problem responding to calls during business hours on weekdays when many of the department’s members are at jobs outside the village.
Dickinson said he counted seven occasions where the Fire Department didn’t respond to emergency calls in Lake George.
Dickinson has floated requesting proposals from other neighboring fire departments, which already provide mutual aid.
The town contracts with Warrensburg volunteer firefighters to cover the northern part of the town.
“We have not done anything, but what is suggested is we put it out to bid and see if North Queensbury or Warrensburg or someone else is interested in covering the southern part of Lake George,” Dickinson said.
If the town did contract with another department, taxpayers would remain on the hook for paying for construction of the firehouse that was finished in 2009, which the village owns, Dickinson said.
“Truthfully, both the mayor and I are very anxious for the fire company to get themselves back on an even keel here and do whatever they need to do to get the company in good standing and respond to these fires,” Dickinson said. “We want them to get back on track here and move on.”
Volunteer shortages for fire departments and first responders is a problem all over. In Lake George, Blais said the trouble is a shortage of volunteers who are qualified to drive the firetrucks and operate the pumps when they get to the scene.
Blais estimated the fire company has 40 to 50 members, but of them only five or six can drive the trucks, and most of them work full time out of town during the week.
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