The FASNY 2023 Volunteer Firefighter Economic Study
The electronic version of the Study is available HERE:
New Career After 60: Firefighter? Really? Good Read You Can Relate To!!
The world’s oldest probationary firefighter, or probie, explains why he volunteered for the
difficult and dangerous job
After more than 40 years as a broadcaster and journalist, I’ve found a new career. It doesn’t pay very well (OK, nothing) but it’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve done with my life. I’m a volunteer firefighter. I ply my new trade in a tiny, very historic hamlet in the northern Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
As I wrote for Next Avenue three years ago, after I first landed in the region, I’m struck by how desperate rural departments seem to be for members, and further struck by how much these essential services are being carried by gray heads, most younger residents either absent, hamstrung with work and childrearing or just not motivated to this kind of community service.
We Do It Because Someone Must
It’s true, the fire service is not for the faint of heart (says the guy who visits a cardiologist twice a year). It’s alternately mind-numbing, adrenaline-spiking, broiling, freezing, physically and mentally challenging work. It’s also essential that when the siren goes off at the firehouse, people know that someone is coming to help. I feel safe in saying that’s mainly why most of us do it.
Case in point: One of my most terrifying moments was not at a fire, per se. We were “toned out” (modern fire service parlance for being summoned by an alarm) and initially two of us showed up at the firehouse. Two — neither yet qualified to drive the engines or operate the pumps.
With no officers, no drivers and no pump engineers, two guys certified for exterior firefighting-only kind of stood there, half dressed, wondering what to do next. Fortunately, some better-qualified members began filtering in and we got rolling on a mutual aid call to a neighboring town, where we sat in a queue of fire apparatus until eventually told to stand down and return to quarters. But the thought of how that might’ve turned out differently still haunts me. It’s why mutual aid agreements are so critical in rural firefighting.
And yeah, that “stand-down” part happens a lot. But let’s face it: is there anything more fun than riding in a fire engine, hitting that floor button that emits the BLAAT that announces you as the alpha vehicle on the road? Haven’t I dreamed of that since I was six years old?
No more riding the running boards, however. Everybody has to be strapped in before we roll. It’s the wise and prudent thing, of course, but doesn’t entirely square with my childhood fantasy.
I also found that moving to a new place, almost perfectly timed to a three-year pandemic, can be pretty isolating. The local fire company isn’t bashful about recruiting newcomers and so after about 18 months, I caved in and signed up, partly as a way to get engaged with my new community. It worked.
The Over-the-Hill Gang
And I’m not alone. Joining me on this odyssey are two other relative newcomers to town, Dianna Weaver, 54, and her husband Jim, 57. Dianna confesses that she kind of dragged Jim into it. “He was kind of like, ‘Mmm, I don’t wanna do that,'” she laughs. “But I’m used to volunteering and doing something within a community. It’s what I’ve always done.”
Dianna grew up without realizing that volunteers staffed the fire company in her Ohio hometown. In fact, volunteers comprise some or all of the staffs of more than 85% of fire companies across the U.S., according to an estimate by the National Volunteer Fire Council.
It seems they serve a largely complacent public. Firefighters Association of the State of New York estimates that the number of volunteer firefighters in New York state has shrunk from 120,000 to 80,000 over the past two decades.
So people like the Weavers play an increasingly vital role, especially in small rural communities where the recruitment pool is limited. “I went to the first meeting by myself,” Dianna recalls, “and I think Jim felt left out, so then he jumped on board. He’s like, ‘Well, you can’t go do that without me. That’s not fair.'”
But it was also daunting for her, being both new and one of only a handful of female members. “I did feel intimidated at first. I felt like all eyes were on me, like, who’s this woman? And I still do off and on a little bit. I am feeling more settled though.”
Dianna has proven her toughness. You should see her go after a car door with the “Jaws of Life.”
Why Do Firemen Wear Red Suspenders?
The answer, as we all learned in grade school, is, “To keep their pants up.” After a half-century or so of thinking this was just a joke, it turns out to be literally true for the 60-plus firefighter. In addition to the heavy black suspenders that hold up my turnout trousers, I’ve discovered that I also need suspenders on my street pants, underneath. Otherwise they end up around my lower thighs, which makes performing basic tasks like climbing in and out of the engine awkward, to say the least.
I’ll admit it. When the dark of evening descends – especially in the dead of winter – and my steam starts running low, I’ll glare at the pager on the kitchen counter and think, “Don’t you dare.” Of course, it often does. Dragging myself off a cushy sofa or out of a warm bed is one of the most daunting aspects of the job.
Chances are it’s another false alarm. But it could be a neighbor’s home burning down around them or someone trapped in their car after rolling it over on one of our serpentine county roads. That’s the motivator.
At this age, setting boundaries is crucial. I’ve discovered my own limits and I have to respect them. So do my colleagues in the company. If I don’t make a call, nobody asks why and nobody ever will. It seems to be an unwritten code, at least in my company. All you do is all that’s expected.
But there is always an undercurrent of peer pressure to advance, gather more skills, more certifications. (My fellow firefighters tend to prefer working with people who know what they’re doing.)
That’s why last fall, at the tender age of 67, I decided to take the plunge and go for state certification as an exterior firefighter, even though it meant three months in a sort of fire service boot camp.
Stay tuned for those adventures, coming up in “Over-the-Hill Firefighter: the Sequel,” coming to a screen near you.
West Crescent Fire District Seeking Station Keeper
West Crescent Fire District
The West Crescent Fire District is looking for a professional and highly motivated person to perform custodial services and to maintain fire district buildings, grounds and equipment. Must have good communication skills, the ability to manage several projects simultaneously, be flexible with work hours when necessary. Prior experience preferred and all candidates must have clean driver’s license. Employment application and job description can be found on the district website at www.westcrescentfire.com or by emailing Fire District Secretary Arthur Hunsinger at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send application, cover letter & resume to Arthur Hunsinger via email at email@example.com
Position Announcement Station Keeper/Maintenance Person
Full Time (40 hours/week) hourly position, commensurate with experience. Benefits available (health and disability insurance, vacation, sick days, holidays, retirement).
- Minimum High School diploma or equivalent
- Relevant work or experience
- Pass District Physical, able to lift objects weighing 70 lbs.
- Preference given to those candidates at least 21 years of age
- Ability to understand and carry out instructions.
- Ability to deal with the public and work successfully with other employees and members of the Fire Department
Familiarity with equipment found in fire stations.
- Experience with cleaning and light building maintenance.
- Ability to perform minor mechanical repairs.
- Initiative, resourcefulness and good judgement.
- Basic computer knowledge for data entry.
- Hold a valid NYS vehicle operator’s license. A CDL-B license will be required within six (6) months of employment, to include Air Brake Endorsement. Driver’s license will be enrolled in the NYS License Event Notification Service. License acceptable to Fire District’s insurance carrier · Background check for Arson Conviction and Sex Offender Registry.
- Preference may be given to an active SCBA qualified member in a local fire department.
- Need to be CPR/AED Certified
General Statement of Duties and Responsibilities:
- Performs work under the general direction of the Building Committee Chairman and Fire District Secretary, as directed by the Board of Fire Commissioners
- Maintain Fire District buildings, grounds and equipment.
- Provide custodial type services at District Office and firehouse
- Other duties as assigned and approved by the Board of Fire Commissioners
- Within one (1) year of hire date, must be a qualified driver and pump operator on all District vehicles. (Training will be permitted on District time).
Examples of Work to be performed:
- Mowing and trimming of lawns, pruning and mulching, rake and remove leaves/debris as necessary.
- Custodial type services including but not limited to: mopping, vacuuming, washing, scrubbing, cleaning windows, buffing, carpet cleaning, and garbage removal.
- Paint interior/exterior of buildings as needed; power wash exterior buildings as necessary.
- Responsible for maintenance and upkeep of vehicles and equipment provided by the Board of Fire Commissioners to complete duties.
- Assist in the coordination of fire apparatus and equipment. Clean, fuel, maintain and transport apparatus and equipment as necessary.
- Assist in coordination of various equipment testing (i.e. hose, ladder, pump).
- Create written correspondence, generate maintenance records as necessary, enter data into fire district software and create reports as needed.
Last Commissioner Training offered by the Capital Area Association
The last course being offered by the Capital Area will be held at Berkshire Fire District in Fulton County at 320 Steele Ave Extension, just west of the intersection of Route 29 at Route 30. Saturday March 25th at 8am. Lite breakfast and a lunch will be served. Reserve your seat at CAAOFD@gmail.com, payments will be accepted at the door. Training Certificates will be provided so please make reservations so that certificates can be prepared in advance.
Know What Your Firefighters are Dealing With!!
Lithium-Ion Batteries: The 18650
The Micro-mobility or E-mobility industry has been receiving a lot of publicity over the past few years—and for all the wrong reasons. Through the media, online videos, and direct experience, we have all been witness to the increasing frequency of fires involving E-bikes/scooters. This phenomenon has drawn a lot of attention to this industry, and deservedly so, but it is important to understand the underlying energy source—the 18650 lithium-ion cell. It is the workhorse of the E-mobility, power tool, and portable power supply industry and one of the most common lithium-ion cells on the market. It is small enough to power an E-cigarette/vape cartridge, easily fitting into your pocket, or can be strung together to power much larger items that have become commonplace in the American home.
This cylindrical battery, which derives its name from its dimension—18mm diameter by 65mm in length—was developed in 1994 in response to an increasing demand for smaller and more powerful portable battery-operated devices. The 18650 cell offered a small/compact lightweight rechargeable energy source with high battery voltage—3.2v to 4.2v. The battery had an added benefit of being modular, making it appealing to a variety of rechargeable handheld products as well as larger stationary storage uses.
The 18650 is often compared to an AA battery because of the cylindrical similarities, but this is where the similarities end. The 18650 is larger in size than the AA battery, and its voltage is more than double. The energy density is four-plus times greater than that of an AA battery, but the real difference is in how long this battery can power a device and how fast it can offload its power when needed. This combination of longer-duration use and high cycle life coupled with its ability to offer high-output demands is rare. The 18650 fits into a category of batteries often described as “high drain” and is suited to portable devices that required constant higher voltage such as E-cigarettes, laptop computers, and power tools.
How It Works
Like all rechargeable batteries, it has three primary components: an anode, a cathode, and a separator. The design allows electrons to flow in both directions—hence, the “rechargeable capability.” This is different from a standard traditional nonrechargeable battery where electrons flow in one direction until the battery is depleted or “dead.” Rechargeable batteries are more complicated than your standard battery, and manufacturers employ a variety of proprietary chemistries to achieve their goals.
Unique to the lithium-ion battery is the use of lithium-ion particles in a liquid electrolyte suspension medium. This battery is designed to allow electrons to move from anode to cathode through the “load” as ions flow through the separator. The separator serves an important role and offers some insight as to how these batteries may fail. It keeps the anode and cathode separate; however, it needs to allow ions to flow back and forth through it during the discharge and charging cycle.
When the separator fails, the anode and cathode can contact each other and short out, creating a spark inside the battery. The electrolyte solution for the lithium particles is extremely flammable. As the separator fails and the anode and cathode fault, heat is generated and gas forms inside the battery cell. As the heat and pressure build, the battery casing weakens and fails, resulting in gas discharge from the cell. Some failures occur through the vent port, while others cause swelling of the casing, leading to a breach. This failure process can take days or happen instantly.
The failure of one 18650 cell may seem harmless, but consider this: One 18650 lithium-ion battery can produce eight liters of toxic/flammable gas. Many devices use several 18650 cells to work. In the case of a typical electric bike/scooter, the battery may contain between 50 and 130 cells. That’s a lot of heat and a lot of gas. Complicating this battery failure process is that hydrogen gas is one of the primary gases produced when a lithium-ion battery fails. So, we now have a combination of high heat, a spark leading to fire, and a gas compound that includes a high concentration of hydrogen gas discharging at high pressure like a mini blowtorch.
Figure 1. Common Gases Produced from Lithium-Ion Device Failure
This situation is not unique to the 18650 cell; it is the basic failure domino effect for any lithium-ion rechargeable battery format. This article focuses on the 18650 because of its total market saturation in the mobile and stationary energy storage space but, most importantly, because of how common this cell is in our homes. If you own a rechargeable drill that is less than 10 years old, it is likely powered by 18650 cells. That new 20v power pack for your cordless drill is five 18650 3.7v cells wired in series. If you have a 40v, then you have 10 18650s powering that tool.
An electric scooter may have as many as 130 18650 cells inside its power pack battery. If that battery fails catastrophically, that’s a lot of gas. If you own an E-mobility device, it is 99.9% powered by the 18650 cells. When considering a fire scenario involving this device, it’s a simple question of how many 18650 cells are in the battery pack and the location of the bike in your home.
18650 Cell Chemistry
The design chemistry for these cells is numerous. The most common ones in use are nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA), nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), and lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). Each chemistry has a specific strength of application.
NMC is currently the most popular chemistry, with a sizeable market share. It is cheap, has a good cycle life, and is considered a durable battery. This is likely what you see in most E-bikes, power tools, and some electric vehicles.
NCA is most noted for its superior power density and low passive discharge rate (a term used to describe a battery cell’s propensity to lose power while not in use). This battery chemistry has been a staple for Tesla vehicles—some models have more than 7,000 18650 cells.
LiFePO4 is considered the most thermally stable of the three chemistries; however, it has a lower energy density by volume, which means more cells may be needed to achieve the same energy density as an NCA. With stationary battery energy storage systems (BESS) facilities, where space is not necessarily an issue, this chemistry has become quite popular. One of the hazard considerations for this chemistry is that when LiFePO4 cells fail, the off-gas contains more hydrogen gas by volume that any of the other lithium-ion battery chemistries. Couple this with an enclosed BESS facility, with typical capacity in excess of 10 megawatts, and the hazard profile goes up tremendously. A BESS exploded in Surprise, Arizona, in April 2019 and injured eight firefighters and one police officer. That was a two-megawatt BESS of LiFePO4 cell chemistry. For the Seattle (WA) Fire Department’s Energy Response Teams, any fixed-facility BESS involved in a fire situation mandates an automatic “Defensive Posture” from the onset. The liquid electrolyte solution acts as a suspension medium for the lithium-ion particles. The electrolyte is extremely flammable.
Fire Gas Considerations
Most of the fire gases will be similar to those found in a couch/car fire, but there are a few new ones that we have not seen at this scale before.
Hydrogen gas is one of the primary fire gases present with any incident that involves lithium-ion batteries and creates thermal and explosive issues. We must be prepared for this eventuality. Whether the batteries are the cause of the fire or are damaged as a result of proximity to the fire matters not; the result will be the same: Up to 40% of the fire gases produced by volume can be hydrogen gas.
This is new. We have not seen hydrogen gas in residential spaces prior to this—not to this scale, anyway. This change is a result of two factors: First, all lithium-ion batteries will produce hydrogen gas when they fail. Each chemistry may produce a different amount of hydrogen gas, but it will be present. Second, this is a ubiquitous energy source. From the handheld E-cigarette to computers to the E-mobility, all are powered by this technology. As you can see, these devices are in every home in America, and that is not going to change anytime soon.
For operations, ensure continuous ventilation and don’t leave one single lithium-ion cell behind. This means increased time on scene performing a thorough overhaul. Don’t let the thermal imaging camera (TIC) dictate whether a lithium-ion cell represents a hazard. That cell may read cold on the TIC, but that does not mean that the cell is not in the slow process of failing. Get every cell out of the building. Cells left behind at fires that were believed to be fully extinguished have rekindled days later. The overhaul game has changed, so take your time and be thorough. Remember, no cells left behind.
Hydrogen fluoride gas. Like hydrogen gas, we have not seen hydrogen fluoride gas to this scale in traditional firefighting spaces. Beyond wearing your full personal protective equipment (PPE) with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), it is going to be difficult to safeguard for this gas when lithium ion is present. Like hydrogen gas, hydrogen fluoride gas is invisible. It may be present even when a fire-damaged product is reading cold on your TIC. Stay vigilant. Wear your SCBA and ventilate continuously until all cells have been removed from the structure. And, of course, launder 100% of your PPE immediately as you would after any fire.
The 18650 lithium-ion cell is one of the most common building blocks for battery designers. These products will be with us for a long time, and we must understand the hazards and that the fundamental firefighting tactics in the residential space may need to change.
The NYS 2023 Evidence Based EMS Agenda for the Future – Report!
The New York State EMS system has markedly deteriorated over the past several years due to declining volunteerism, lack of public funding to cover costs of readiness, inadequate staffing, rising costs, insufficient insurance reimbursement, rising call volumes, a lack of performance standards, poor understanding of the EMS system by elected officials
and the public, NYS home rule, and lack of transparency and accountability for EMS agencies. New York State’s (NYS) emergency medical services (EMS) are in trouble. Multiple ambulance services have closed their doors over the past
several years, and many who remain open are unable to respond to emergency calls in any consistent fashion. Originally established as a transportation provider, EMS has developed over time to encompass healthcare, public safety, disaster
response, mitigation, and public health. Today, EMS is an unanticipated (and often unfunded) safety net provider of pre-hospital healthcare, offering care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay for services.
READ THE ENTIRE REPORT AT THIS LINK: february_2023_sustainability_tag (1)
2022 Workshop Presentations
Sorry this took so long but here are the presentations from the November 2022 Capital Area Workshop
2022 Workshop Presentation Slides – OGS Purchasing (1) 2022 Workshop Presentation Slides – HR (Chief Harrington)
Look for the 2023 Workshop to be held on Saturday November 4 at a location to be determined.
Notes on the Volunteer FF Tax Incentive Law from the FASNY Webinar
- If they are still operating under the previous law, jurisdictions have until 2025 to adopt new legislation by resolution.
- What is an “enrolled” member, likely an active member who able to be covered by VFBL coverage. Not social, honorary members. Those who respond to calls, fire police etc.
- How many years you need to be active is up to the AHJ or the taxing district giving the tax break.
- The tax break is only for the primary residence and it must be residential. If any part of your residence is used for commercial purposes that portion cannot be covered.
- The tax exemption must be certified by the AHJ. District, village, Town etc.
- It appears that the person seeking the exemption must apply annually with a certification from the AHJ. You should discuss with Assessor how they are implementing the law.
- After 20 years the exemption becomes a lifetime exemption, the spouse of a deceased qualified member may also apply for the exemption.
- The governing body seeking to implement the exemption must hold a public hearing to start the process, the second step is to adopt a local law.
- Up to 10% deduction is the norm.
- There should be a written procedure/policy for certification of members.
- To obtain tax exemption for school tax a form RP—466a must be submitted to the assessor by March 1st.
- FASNY is going to have model forms, resolution, entire package on their website for universal use.
- One a jurisdiction opts in to the exemption forms must be submitted.
- FASNY will have in the near future the savings realized by having volunteers within County, Assembly and Senate Districts.
- This will not have any effect on local tax rates or levies, the jurisdiction will collect the same amount of tax money, no fiscal impact.
- If you live in a different jurisdiction from where you volunteer, the jurisdiction that adopts the exemption is where you apply.
- If both husband and wife in same household are volunteers you can combine that exemption. For example 10% for each.
- **You cannot collect on the property tax exemption and the income tax exemption of $200, that prohibition is in the income tax law. Its one or the other!!
- The notice of public hearing has to occur 20 days in advance of adoption of the exemption.
- Its 10% off of the assessed valuation of the residence.
- Just a quick reminder volunteers save the residents of the state $3.2B annually and that number has gone up since the previous study was done. If the volunteers went away you would need 32,000 paid staff!!
- Look for more good information on the FASNY web site FASNY.com
All Members and Business Partners are Invited to Our Annual Officer’s Reception
Open your invitation and RSVP at this link. Mark your calendar for March 11th and we will see you at the Embassy Suites in Saratoga Springs to share the evening.
Important Reporting Requirements for Fire Company Admin Officers
Reprinted from FASNY Magazine with permission from Tim Hannigan, General Counsel
The tasks of a fire company board of directors vary depending on the type of political subdivision that has jurisdiction over the Fire Company. For “independent’ or “contract fire companies that contract with a Town, City, or Village, the job generally entails procurement of apparatus, PPE, insurance and all other things applicable to firemanic operations of the membership. Conversely, fire company boards in a Fire District with no contract generally focus their attention on the social and fundraising functions of the membership, only. Regardless of the type of authority having jurisdiction, though, certain duties of the fire company board of directors are the same. With the end of the calendar year upon us, now is a good time to review certain annual reporting requirements of the board of directors and the timing for such reports.
- DIRECTORS” NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION LAWS 519 ANNUAL REPORT.
This report must be presented at the annual meeting of the fire company. Generally speaking, the annual meeting occurs contemporaneously with fire company elections. The 519 report is designed to provide a status as to the health of the corporation in terms of finances and membership. The mandatory topics that must be covered in this report and reported to the membership are:
- a) The assets and liabilities, including the trust funds, of the corporation for the fire company’s fiscal year;
- b) Changes in assets and liabilities, including trust funds, during the fiscal year;
- c) All revenue or receipts of the corporation during the fiscal year;
- d) All expenses or disbursements of the fiscal year; oration during the
- e) The number of members of the corporation as of the date of the report and a statement as to whether such number is an increase or decrease over the prior year; and
- f) A statement of where the names and places of residence of the current members may be found
The law requires that the 519 report be filed with the records of the corporation and entered into the minutes of the proceedings of the annual meeting. The Fire Company Secretary can either attach the report to the minutes, or record an abstract of the report into the minutes. The report must be verified/approved for accuracy by the President and Treasurer, the Board of Directors, or the Fire Company’s independent auditing firm.
- DIRECTORS” NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION LAW 1402 (F) ANNUAL REPORT.
This report is required to be filed by Jan. 15 each year in the County Clerk’s office. Most of the contents of this report can be taken from the N-PCL 519 report referenced above. Like the 519 report, this report must also be verified. The mandatory items to be included in the 1402 report are:
- a) the names of the directors and officers of the corporation,
- b) an inventory of the property of the fire company;
- c) a statement of the liabilities of the fire company; and
- d) a statement that the corporation has not engaged, directly or indirectly, in any business other than that set forth in its certificate of incorporation.
- FOREIGN FIRE INSURANCE MONEY (2%TAX FUNDS) ANNUAL REPORT TO 0SC.
On or before Feb. 28 each year, the Treasurer is required to submit a verified report of the receipts, expenditures and balance relating to the use and application of foreign fire insurance funds (2% funds) received and disbursed by the fire company. Notably, this report applies to Benevolent Associations as well.
- CERTIFIED LOSAP REPORT
This report, required by March 31 each year, applies those fire companies that participate in a Length Award Program. This report is made by the fire its authority having jurisdiction. The report must list all volunteer members of the fire comp any and identify who has qualified for credit under the award program for the previous year. It is required to be certified under oath.
- FIRE COMPANY IRS FORM 990 RETURN OF ORGANIZATION EXEMPT FROM INCOME TAX
Commonly referred to as the “990,”this tax return is filed with the IRS on an annual basis on or before May 15, unless an extension of time is sought and granted. If your fire company has total annual revenues less than $200,000 and total assets at the end of the tax year less than $500,000, you may be eligible to file Form 990-EZ, instead of Form 990. Continuous filing of this return is critical to obtain and maintain federal tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
View the Final Report of the NYS VFF Task Force
Here is a link to the final report of the Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention Task Force.
Directors and Officers Vote to Change Name
At their reorganizational meeting the Directors and Officers have changed the name of this organization to be Capital Area Fire Districts Association or (CAFDA). Within the next few months we will be introducing a new logo also. The new name emphasizes the location of organization and also notes that the many members come from areas surrounding the Capital District which is normally thought of as Albany-Troy-Schenectady. Our association is much larger and includes members from 8 counties many outside of the defined capital district. The Capital Area covers a land mass as large as the State of Connecticut and includes approximately 98 fire districts.