UPDATE: Owego Firefighter Controversy

Owego Firefighter Controversy


     UPDATE, 4/29/2014 8:58pm: The Owego Board of Trustees has decided to review some parts of the revisions that are specific to violations in May, with the rest of the operations manual will be decided in June.
       It is still unclear whether or not if the threats made by some firefighters to turn their gear in will be followed through, since the board did not adopt the revisions tonight. But during Tuesday nights meeting, no firefighter was seen leaving in protest, or turning gear in after the trustees made a decision.
     WENY News will bring you any updates to this story.

     OWEGO (WENY) --- With the death of an Owego fireman last year, the fire department decided to revise their operations manual.
     Now the Board of Trustees is yet to approve this manual and some firefighters are threatening to walk away.
     "I think a lot of them felt undervalued, not appreciated," Assistant Fire Chief Mark Warfle.
     And after losing Matthew Porcari last year, feeling unsafe.
     This revised manual was a year in the making for the fire department, after the State Department of Labor issued six citations following Porcari's death.
     Last week, the village board of Trustees tabled the approval of the new manual - which has some firefighters - fired up.    
     "This caused a lot of anger and disappointment  amongst my active firefighters and a number of those active firefighters are threatening to stop running calls for their own safety," said Chief Warfle. Board members say they can't sign off on a document blindly.
     Earl Hartman, a member of Owego Fire as well a village Trustee, says the mayor and the fire chiefs have had a year to create and review the Operations manual but the board has not.
     "The trustees, essentially for at least of a couple of them, didn't see the document until the meeting," said Hartman.  "And even if it was given to them 2 or 3 days ahead of time, it's a very complex document that they needed to time to wrap their heads around."
     Hartman stresses the board's main concern for the fire department is their safety, but still have some questions about the manual's content, and want further review.
     But any further delay has some volunteer members threatening to turn in their gear.
     "Essentially when you make that statement that if you don't pass it as we put it in right now, we're going to walk," said Hartman. "It unfortunately says to me, that maybe you're not committed to the program as you should be."
     There will be a board of trustees meeting tonight and the firefighters say they will be in attendance to voice their concerns.