Owego Firefighters Resign

Written By: Asha McKenzie
Owego Firefighters Resign

OWEGO (WENY) -- More tonight on the situation in Owego, where the fire department and village board of trustees have gone back and force over a new operations manual that aims to ensure safety.
     A vote on the manual has now been tabled indefinitely.
     And after months of meetings and negotiations, 40 Owego Firefighters have turned in their uniforms and resigned from the department.
     The board was given until June 16th to make a decision on the fire department's proposed operations manual. 
     But firefighters grew restless, unable to work without feeling safety was a priority.
     A threat became reality Friday in Owego, when 40 firefighters turned in their gear, and said they were resigning from the department.
     "They kind of wanted things their way and we didn't do that," Owego Village Trustee, Ann Lockwood. "The way that we thought was the correct way to do it."
     After the death of Captain Matt Porcari last year, the labor department cited the fire department for safety violations.
     That prompted changes to the department's operations manual, making stricter job requirements and additional training.
     But trustees say the proposed changes left many firefighters unqualified to serve.
     So, they tabled approving it, and since decided to write a brand new manual for 2015.
     "I think that it should be heavily involved by the fireboard as well as the village trustees to put something that works that's functional," said Trustee Steve May. "and it saves a lot of homes and hopefully lives.
     The owego FD is making a bold statement despite the 40 members that put in their resignation. Outside their station is a this sign that reads "OFD still lives and saves lives."
     The future fire chief says no matter what happens, they'll still be here for the village and they are moving forward.
     "Right now morale is up. At a time like this, it is very easy for the morale be down," said elected Fire Chief, Daniel Gavin. "And everybody rechecked themselves as to why the joined and brought the morale back up."
     Gavin says he plans to make the department stronger by opening communication between the fire dept and  trustees.
     He says the former Owego fire chiefs, who decided not to re-run for their offices,  admitted there were issues with the proposed manual.
     But he assures the community there's still enough firefighters to respond in an emergency.
     "Our doors are up, when the whistle blows, you'll here the fire apparatus respond," said Gavin. "You'll have a full emergency squad responding."