Engine 1 Pomeroy Lane Cooperative
Although the Amherst Fire Department had to rely on "mutual aid" only once over the past weekend that doesn't mean they were not stretched dangerously thin.
On Sunday night four calls came in close enough together to tie up the entire minimum staffing level of 8 on-duty professional fire fighters.
So when a trauma call came in at 10:35 PM for someone who had taken a fall, that person had to wait until a mutual aid ambulance arrived from another town.
But another incident, which is pretty much considered routine, occurred earlier Sunday afternoon when four calls occurred almost simultaneously -- one of them a fire alarm at The Arbors, a large capacity nursing home on University Drive.
Engine 3, with four Student Force responders handled that (potentially catastrophic) call, with one veteran full-time fire fighter in command.
If your beloved wheelchair bound grandmother was trapped in a large structure fire, would you prefer a crew of fully trained professional fire fighters to arrive first on the scene or a crew of student volunteers?
Fire is a most formidable foe. Sometimes, even the pros don't return home.
Because of the recently ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement AFD will have a minimum staffing of 8 professional firefighters 24/7 from August 15 through May 31st (excluding academic Winter and Spring Break) up from a previous minimum staff level of 7.
So now four ambulances can be staffed simultaneously, up from three. But that leaves Central Station abandoned. With our institutes of higher education back in session, AFD is now staffing 9 on busy Friday and Saturday nights through Spring Break.
After Spring Break, when party season picks up steam, staffing will swell to 13 on Friday and Saturday nights, partially subsidized by UMass. That extra $80,000 pays for 4 additional firefighters (thus two extra ambulances) during the beginning half of the fall semester and the second half of the spring semester.
Or what high-tech business service providers might refer to a "surge pricing."