Amherst Firefighters Union: We need more staff - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Amherst Firefighters Union: We need more staff

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It was early Sunday evening when a four-alarm fire ripped through the Southpoint Apartment Complex on East Hadley Road in Amherst.

The first engine to arrive on the scene had just one firefighter on board.

Containing the blaze was a task too heavy for one person.

There were seven firefighters working that day with two already on a call.

The fire would continue to burn freely in the 36-unit apartment complex until the remaining four firefighters would eventually get there, but the damage was already done.

According to the Amherst Fire Department Union Local 1764, this is a result of the town's shortage of firefighters.

On its Facebook page, it states, "...our community must take a serious look at our need for fire protection and public safety."

"It's scary to think that if there is a big fire and people need their help, it's scary to think there's only one person, maybe two people, available to put it out," said Audrey Markoff who has family in Amherst.

For a town of about 35,000 residents and double that number when UMass Amherst is in session, there are roughly 45 permanent positions per personnel and 25 call force per personnel in the department.

And on any given day, there could be about seven firefighters on duty.

Chief Tim Nelson said he understands the short staffing is an issue.

"It could prove to be critical, but we're trying to come up with a long-range plan to address those staffing needs," said Nelson.  

As for now, the fire department also relies on the county's mutual aid system, which played a role in yesterday's fire.

"You know it's sad because a lot of folks lost their things, but no one was seriously injured, which was a good thing," said Nelson.

Both the union and Nelson said the department works diligently everyday to keep the town safe. They applauded the work done by fire crews to help contain Sunday's blaze.

An unattended pot on a stove was the cause of that fire.

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