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How Many Fire Depts Do We Need?

westchester eye

theLoop welcomes Journalist Peter Moses, and his column Westchester Eye.

According to, there are 102 fire departments and fire stations spread around the whole of Westchester County.

The Village of Larchmont, Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Mamaroneck each have one. The question is why? Why does such a compact area comprised of two villages, the Unincorporated area and part of Rye Neck need three separate departments?

Paul Feiner, the Greenburgh Town Supervisor, has been wrestling with that very question for years; in the past few months Feiner has been tirelessly pursuing creating a petition to force a referendum to consolidate the Fairview Fire district with the Hartsdale Fire District. He is doing that to reign in high taxes in his town.

The town has three paid fire chiefs and only one paid police chief covering unincorporated Greenburgh. That’s in addition to volunteer fire departments spread around the villages that dot Greenburgh, like Ardsley and Dobbs Ferry. Fire chiefs in the paid departments in Greenburgh each earn more money than the chief of the New York City Fire Department and the Greenburgh police chief.

The fire districts are independent of town government and provide one service: fire protection. Fire district taxes in the paid fire districts are almost as high as the entire town tax bill in Greenburgh.

Firefighters are heroes who go into buildings everyone else is running out of. But the era of overlapping departments with highly paid chiefs poses a question local communities are starting to ask. So far this year, the Town of Mamaroneck has responded to a single fire on March 20 in Larchmont at the 37 Woodbine Ave. home of former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Cherkasky. That is according to the department’s website. The fire drew over 100 firefighters from local Westchester firehouses and was brought under control in 45 minutes. There were minor injuries to contractors working on the house.

Does the Town of Mamaroneck really need three separate fire departments? That’s a good question for local taxpayers and elected officials. What do you think?



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Truth Teller
Truth Teller
August 29, 2014 6:11 PM

Most home insurance companies each have their own calculation for determining home insurance premiums. The driving force behind rates is the likelihood a homeowner will file a claim – the “risk.”

To determine risk, home insurance companies give significant consideration to past home insurance claims submitted by the homeowner as well as claims related to that property and perhaps most importanty the homeowner’s credit.

The age of the home, the material the home is made of (frame or masonry), amount of coverage, location of fire hydrants and a fire station within 5 miles, are the next most important factors. Although they definitely contribute to annual premiums, these other factors aren’t weighed as heavily by home insurance companies.

It looks like by industry standards we would fine with two firehouses (one if it was centrally located) for residents of TOM, VOM and VOL. (The distance from the border of the City of Rye to the border of the City of New Rochelle is just 4 miles).

Town Rez
Town Rez
June 2, 2014 7:39 AM

The comments read like a lot of Mamaroneck fire fighters were “inspired” to respond (who else has the detailed information about recent department events). Fact is – there is a whole lot of waste by our fire departments – e.g., the special motorized mini-car purchased so that the Town councilperson “overseeing” the department didn’t have to walk around the quarter block station area; and needless noise pollution. Is the department for the public’s safety or to provide the volunteers with a place to gather, machinery to operate and trucks to drive?

May 16, 2014 12:23 PM

I hope you just *Pray you never need them !!!!! Where does Mr.Feiner live ????

May 14, 2014 10:09 PM

“So far this year, the Town of Mamaroneck has responded to a single fire on March 20 in Larchmont at the 37 Woodbine Ave.”

This is incorrect. For example, just this weekend, the town fire department responded to a fire at one of the apartment buildings on Palmer Avenue. It was a minor fire, but considering the effects such as smoke and carbon monoxide, and evacuating the building’s residents it was one that took many hours, and all the local departments the author mentions above to resolve safely. Along with the other first responders – EMS and the police, they did a terrific job.

It’s interesting that the author critiques the set up of our local emergency services, yet there’s no mention of speaking to the professionals who actually perform first responder duties. Is it not basic journalism to at least try to get the whole story?

Jim McNulty
Jim McNulty
May 14, 2014 9:01 PM

Fire departments are different than police departments. Fire Departments are gauged differently, homeowners insurance rates are a factor on the distance to a firehouse and other factors of the fire department. A police department could be centrally located and it wouldn’t have as much of an impact, because of the dynamic nature of a police department patrolling vs. a fire department’s static manning at a firehouse. Comparing the two services is really an apples vs. oranges debate.

To answer the question though, yes, the area does need the three departments. Well, three plus firehouses anyway. And since as its mentioned in one of the comments that the chiefs of the department, except Larchmont, are unpaid volunteers, the benefit of basically free leadership at two out of three firehouses is a benefit to taxpayers.

May 14, 2014 7:26 PM

minor injury? tell that to the contractor who is still in Jacobi– SEVEN WEEKS IN THE BURN UNIT… every sentence needs a spin

May 13, 2014 2:25 PM

The Chiefs in Mamaroneck are unpaid, and the firefighters are mostly volunteer. They respond to a lot of non-fire calls, especially during this past winter with the frigid conditions. My perspective is that you hope to not need them but in an emergency the coverage is needed, i.e. Hurricane Sandy.

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