Longmeadow Fire Department ‘always in training’

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LONGMEADOW – They are the first call in the event of a fire or medical emergency for the town’s 15,853 residents. They are also responsible for emergency calls for three miles of the Connecticut River – from the Connecticut border to Springfield – and emergencies for three miles of Route 91, including the curve at Longmeadow.

No wonder, as Longmeadow Fire Chief John Dearborn told Reminder Publishing, the fire department is “always there to plan, prepare and train, and work with city emergency management.”

This summer, the department recertified members on water rescue protocols, checked new department personnel on pump (truck) and aerial (ladder) operations, preparing to add a new multipurpose vehicle to their gear, and arranging the first training for volunteers who will occupy the shelters of the city in case of disasters and emergencies.

Ready for the river

“We average about 20 calls a year on the river, although this year was slower because the river is so low, boat traffic is down,” Dearborn explained. The department, he said, maintains a lifeboat stationed at the Pioneer Valley Yacht Club during the summer months and regularly conducts water rescue training.

“It’s been a 20-year-old program,” Dearborn explained. “Every summer, we certify everyone [and] there are specific drills we need to do to certify new people on boat operation and salvage [procedures].” He added that the members also have to train in “special suits that we put on to get into the water to save people.”

Beyond their responsibility for the stretch of the state line river in Springfield, Dearborn said Longmeadow is also a mutual aid call for river incidents, usually responding with crews from Agawam, West Springfield or Springfield, as a rescue call has a two boat dispatch policy for safety reasons.

Board the Kubota

In July, the department added a new piece of equipment to its arsenal, a multi-purpose utility vehicle that Dearborn said will allow the department “to access off-road areas – our largest parks, the wildlife refuge or a wound on one of the city’s two golf courses” with more ease and efficiency than deploying a large fire truck.

“The machine is configured so that it has a unit in the rear specifically designed to transport someone in a medical emergency,” Dearborn added.
The vehicle, called Kubota, was purchased with donations from townspeople. Dearborn said the department didn’t do any specific fundraising for the $22,000 cost other than “at the open house, we had a flyer that talked about it.” Donations from residents to the department come in “from time to time, and we just saved up” to the Kubota, he noted. The department also received “a few large donations from people who asked to remain anonymous,” Dearborn explained. All told, it took the department about a year to raise the funds for the Kubota and they’re “just waiting for a few pieces to come in” and training to be completed before putting the new all-terrain vehicle into service.

Beyond off-road rescues, Dearborn said the Kubota will prove useful in the event a storm causes downed trees in a neighborhood to block the path of traditional fire apparatus in a medical emergency.

“With climate change, we see the frequency of storms increasing. For the past two years, tree damage has kept us from getting into the neighborhoods,” but with the new vehicle, “we will be able to get in,” Dearborn said.

Refuge training begins

Dearborn said in mid-August the department held the first of several trainings for city residents who volunteered to run and operate the city’s two emergency shelters. The primary shelter will be located at Longmeadow High School, with a secondary shelter at the new adult center, he explained.

“We had 60 [residents] sign up over the summer, but some people are missing and 22 people attended the first training,” Dearborn said. “We have a fairly large group for the second training” which will take place in September.

Dearborn said the volunteers came “from a community-wide solicitation and we’ve had a great response…we’re really lucky to have residents to help out.” He noted that when a call was made for help with a vaccination clinic during the coronavirus pandemic, “about 270 people responded” and although the amount of COVID-19 vaccine available for community distribution wasn’t as large as expected, “all of our vaccine clinics were staffed by volunteers.

Dearborn added that anyone interested in volunteering to help the fire department with the shelter or another project should email [email protected]

Still busy

Beyond certifying new department personnel on station equipment, Dearborn said the final weeks of August included “inspections of all schools and [Bay Path] university, then we conduct safety training with school administrators and staff – public and private [schools] …this time of year is very busy.

The Longmeadow Fire Department regularly responds to 3,000 emergency calls each year, as well as 1,400 to 1,500 other non-emergency, inspection and other calls, for a total of 4,500 service responses per year , Dearborn said.

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