Some firefighters say these guys have "no respect for us". Hempfield Township Board of Supervisors picture from the township website.
The leadership of the 12 volunteer fire departments serving Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania (Westmoreland County) are saying the town's supervisors won't listen to them. After the supervisors unanimously passed a resolution yesterday to limit the salvage operations the departments can do, the firefighters are saying the supervisors have "no respect for us".
According to Richard Gazarik at the Tribune Review, this is the supervisors' reaction to concerns about workers compensation insurance. In an August 6 article Gazarik reported that township manager Kurt Ferguson warned that its insurance carrier will soon label them high risk because of $190,000 in claims for volunteer firefighters over the last five years.
Firefighters and fire trucks showed up at yesterday meeting listening as the supervisors discussed the salvage work they do, including boarding up windows and doors, placing tarps on holes in roofs and pumping water from basements. Today's article, with the headline "Firefighters rip Hempfield officials", points out that, "Volunteer firefighters work on roofs, near downed electrical wires and other hazardous situations in the aftermath of an emergency." Here's more:
Under the new policy, an incident commander will decide what salvage operations are needed. The supervisors also want building owners to sign releases absolving the township from liability if volunteers perform salvage tasks that are covered by homeowner's insurance.
"I am told this (policy) is needed to protect us," (Hempfield Fire Chiefs Association President Greg) Saunders told the board. "We believe our protection comes from experience and training, not restraints placed by (board members) or someone who has not been in our shoes."
The firemen say they don't like having the supervisors dictate policy without their input. He said in 2007, the firemen made recommendations to the safety manual "and they totally ignored us.