NORTH WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. John Soloman, commissioner of the North White Plains Fire Department, has been on the job for 35 years and leads a force of 40 that is now highly trained.
After I joined I attended a New York state fire training class that wasnt mandatory at the time, but highly recommended," Soloman said. "Now we require new members within their first year to be enrolled in a class and they have to complete it or their membership gets terminated."
Todays firefighters take OSHA and blood pathogen training.
There are a large amount of skills involved because its a very hazardous occupation and they need to be aware of a number of safety issues, Soloman said. You have to have awareness so you dont stumble into a situation and have a problem. If a member of our force goes down, its a victim we have to focus on in addition to other victims and it will take away from our force.
The North White Plains Fire Department is equipped with five trucks that Soloman said are sufficient for the hamlet that has a limited number of commercial properties and is 80 to 85 percent residential.
The biggest fire to ever hit North White Plains was the Handelmans Garden Center fire in 1979. There were no fatalities but the blaze consumed the old building.
We had support from several surrounding departments and fought it from the outside rather than risk sending people inside, Soloman said.
Soloman is proud of the dedication of members of his force but said that while people are grateful, they dont truly understand what they do as a volunteer fire department.
When they dial 911 they expect us to be there but they dont see what goes into having the service available, Soloman said. We dont want recognition. We do it because we want to do it. That keeps the organization going.
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