Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Square mulls its own fire department or having volunteers join Hillcrest 

New Square officials may form a fire department or have their residents join the Hillcrest Fire Department to provide added protection for the community.

Either way, residents can't cut ties to the Hillcrest Fire Department, which is responsible for protecting the Hasidic Jewish village, and must be fully trained in firefighting before they can lift a hose.

The potential change comes as New Square volunteers have been dousing fires with a makeshift firetruck in violation of state laws mandating they must be trained.

The firefighting has increased simmering tensions between the village and Hillcrest firefighters and its Moleston Fire District.

Firefighters have complained about community members interfering at fire scenes, arsons set in Dumpsters and unsafe and congested housing conditions that makes the community a potential tinder box.

New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer said Friday that he and other village leaders want to maintain good relations with Hillcrest and county fire officials.

At the same time, he said, village leaders believe community firefighters can only improve safety for residents.

"We feel if we had our own fire department, we can respond quicker and have a better chance of saving a house," Spitzer said. "This is not to say we're not satisfied with the response time of the Hillcrest Fire Department. Our other option is to join Hillcrest Fire Department."

The cost of purchasing firefighting equipment could run as high as $1 million, Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said. He added that an older firetruck could be provided for trained New Square firefighters who become part of Hillcrest.

Spitzer said New Square residents who choose to become firefighters will take all the required training and follow all the regulations.

In the meantime, Rockland firefighters say New Square volunteers must stop fighting blazes.


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