Friday, February 28, 2014

Amherst Fireground: Merrick Circle

A box alarm call at 8:05 PM brought a swift response from an armada of public safety vehicles to a structure fire at Merrick Circle in South Amherst in sub-freezing temperatures.

A half dozen AFD engines and almost as many police cars with mutual aid from Northampton, Hadley, South Hadley, Pelham and Belchertown combined to put down the fire in about 45 minutes.

Fortunately no one was home at the time of the blaze, although the initial report describing a kitchen fire did indicate one person may have been in the house. 


Anonymous said...


I feel that it is important to point out to the readers of this blog, many of them residents of Amherst I assume, that last night the Amherst Fire Department was staffed with 9 on-duty firefighters. This is 6 fewer than NFPA 1710 Standard for the
Organization and Deployment of
Fire Suppression Operations,
Emergency Medical Operations,
and Special Operations to the
Public by Career Fire
Departments requires as an initial response to a structure fire. Of the 9 who were on-duty, 4were engaged in ambulance calls and were unable to respond to the alarm. The result of this was that Engine-1 responded from the Central Fire Station with only 2 firefighters. When they arrived, the encountered a working fire and had a report of one resident being unaccounted for. This is the nightmare scenario that I have been pointing to in many of my posts. Let me be clear, this scenario placed our members in an extremely dangerous position as there were not adequate firefighters available to begin a fire attack AND conduct search and rescue. Engine-2 responded from the north station with only 3firefighters. The fact is that in order to even attempt a rescue with so few firefighters forces us to take additional risks and operate in an unsafe manner. Thankfully, the report of a missing resident was unfounded. I say thankfully because it is very possible that we may not have gotten to them. So I will say it again, YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT IS DANGEROUSLY UNDERSTAFFED! It is not unusual for all on-duty firefighters to be tied up with calls. It happens several times every week, sometimes several times a day! This is unsafe for both us and the residents. The Town Manager does not believe we have a staffing issue. If you are a resident and any of this makes you feel uncomfortable, please contact your Town Manager, Select Board members, and Town Meeting members. Tell them you are concerns. We have been talking about this issue for the ten years I've worked her, and for years prior. They refuse listening to us, perhaps they will listen to you.


Jeff Parr
IAFF Local 1764

Anonymous said...

I know that some people may be put off by the sheer amount of words, but the comment by Mr. Parr above is what makes this blog worth reading.

It does seem that this staffing problem is one that everyone knows about, but no one knows how to address effectively. I hope that it can be done without demonizing the Town Manager.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, It was not my intent, nor the intent of the local to demonize the Town Manager or anyone else. I personally have never had any problem with Mr. Musante. The point of my post was to shed light on the events of Friday evening as they relate to our staffing issues. That said, it is a fact that although both the union and the Fire Chief have repeatedly said the department is seriously understaffed, Mr. Musante does not agree. My understanding is that it is his belief that we have a scheduling problem and that if we schedule in such a way as to meet peak demand then we can continue at our current staffing levels. The problem with this notion is that contrary to popular belief, we don't know when the calls are going to occur. While it is possible to predict some trends based of prior activity, these trends do not tell the whole story. To put it another way, we are generally pretty sure we will be busy on a Friday night in April, but we can be just as busy on a Tuesday morning in July. The fact is that we are forced to rely on recalling off duty and/or on-call firefighters several times every week. Often these call backs occur several times a day. So eventually you have to ask yourself, if we have to call back off duty staff day in and day out, are we "busy" or are we simply experiencing our normal call volume and not staffing to meet said volume. I believe the latter is the case. As I've pointed out previously, even with a fully staffed shift of 10 firefighters, the department STILL is below NFPA staffing standards for initial response to a building fire. The point of my previous post, and this one as well, was simply to say once again that the staffing situation at the fire department is unsafe both for the firefighters and the residents and that if the information I have presented is concerning to any of the residents of Amherst who read this blog then those residents should contact their Town Manager, Select Board, and Town Meeting members and voice their concerns. I will go further to say that if you are unsure how the fire department works, any firefighter would answer your questions so that you can gain a better understanding of the problem.


Jeff Parr
IAFF Local-1764