Controversy over fire department pre-plan after deadly fire - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Controversy over fire department pre-plan after deadly fire

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GREENWICH, N.Y. – A debate is brewing in Washington County over which fire department was called to a  deadly blaze January 12.

Multiple fire companies were called for mutual aid Sunday night to help battle the smoke and flames that claimed one person's life in Greenwich.

The Middle Falls Fire Department, however, was noticeably absent even though they said they were the closest to the scene following the Greenwich Fire Department.

Stephen Wilbur is a first assistant with the Middle Falls Fire Department.

"Our department was not called to assist them in anyway," he said.

Greenwich Fire Department Chief Dean Watkins said he had a village alarm assignment, a pre-plan already in place for a mutual aid response plan. The plan is drafted based on equipment and experience.

"We have to take that into account and say ‘Who are our strongest people? Where do we get them from?'" Chief Watkins explained.

"That's the type of call every fire chief makes for every individual incident," Mayor David Doonan said.

"For me to call a piece of apparatus that gives me 2,345 guys is a liability," Chief Watkins continued.

Middle Falls said they had more than five volunteer fire fighters ready to go on Sunday evening.

"I can tell you I had ten firefighters," Chief Wilbur said. "Seven of which are qualified for interior fires."

"There is no beef between us and Middle Falls," Chief Watkins said. "We just worked with them recently on a thing."

According to Chief Watkins, the decision came down to the equipment he needed to battle the blaze which had spread to neighboring homes.

"The time delays people are talking about – they would have been a fourth or fifth engine – and I didn't need engines at that point," Chief Watkins explained.

Chief Watkins believes the end result of the fatal fire would not have changed if Middle Falls was included in his pre-plan.

"There is going to be no change in the outcome of that fire no matter what anyone says."

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