Lansing at Large: Who wants to be a firefighter?

Chief Scott Purcell is looking for volunteers


Lansing needs more firefighters.

“We have 60 firefighters on the roster now and it’s touch and go,” said Fire Chief Scott Purcell. “Of those, 25 are really active. Ten to 15 more would be very nice.”

Purcell started with the department when he turned 16, the youngest age allowed.

“You can be a junior member at 16,” he said. “You are limited to training and observing at fires.”

New firefighters start with a physical examination to ensure that they are healthy enough for the activity and then move on to 12 to 15 hours of “basic training” in rules and regulations.

“It takes a couple of Saturdays to get through,” Purcell said. “For the first year, they are probationary members. They can go to fires and observe, and they can begin their basic exterior firefighting or EMT training.”

Those are state training courses.

Basic exterior firefighting takes 50 hours to complete and gives members the skills and knowledge needed to get from the firetruck to the front door, according to Purcell.

Emergency Medical Technician training involves a semester’s coursework at Tompkins Cortland Community College or at TLC Medical Transportation in Cortland.

To go inside at a fire, members must complete the 50 hours of the Firefighting 1 course. The Firefighting 2 training adds more advanced interior skills in 30 hours more.

New members are given firefighting gear and a pager; when the pager goes off, they respond to the station if possible and get on the truck.

How often is that?

In 2018, the town’s emergency medical services teams went on 272 calls while the firetrucks rolled 216 times. Fire calls range from motor vehicle fires to outside brush or rubbish calls to chimney fires to fire alarms in schools, churches, and other commercial buildings.

Around 30 to 35 percent of those are false alarms, according to Purcell.
“We respond to three to four fires a year,” he said. “One to two really turn into something.”

A fire last week on Horvath Drive resulted in a call for mutual aid, where firefighters are called in from throughout the county and surrounding towns. A large fire in an unoccupied house in the Sperry Lane neighborhood last year also drew firefighters from around the area.

As a result, Purcell and the deputy and assistant chiefs rotate the watch, working with each other’s work and family schedules to keep a leader on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So, a lot of training and time go into becoming and being a volunteer firefighter. What comes out?

“A sense of community,” Purcell said. “I like helping out.”

“We have all sorts of people,” he continued. “Engineers, blue collar guys from Cargill, the town, the airport crash and fire group, Bangs Ambulance.”

Firefighter Josh Nalley agreed.

“I’ve been in this business since 1997,” Nalley said. “I grew up in the firehouse. I like helping people.”

And it’s exciting, Nalley admitted.

“It can be dangerous,” Purcell said. “We try to be as safe as we can but there are obviously unknowns when you go into a house at 2 a.m.”

They are volunteers; they are unpaid for their time. However, there is an insurance program and a small pension benefit for active volunteers.
And like the man said, ten to fifteen new people would be very nice. To get started, you can call Purcell at 533-4203 or stop by the fire station in the evening to get more information.

In Brief

School to host bullying forum
The Lansing Central Schools will host a community conversation Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. in the High School Large Group Instruction room, where our school district attorney will discuss the Dignity for All Students Act and our roles in supporting our students. We will examine bullying, the influence of social media and the responsibility we all share in supporting a positive school climate.

Library events
• The Lansing Community Library will begin a youth library advisory board (YouthLAB) for fifth to eighth graders, to be held on the first Monday of every month beginning Feb. 4.
The goal is to discuss future library programs, test out new ideas (games, coding, escape rooms, etc.), and provide general input on space, events, and materials for the library.
• The library will also host the “Bedtime Math’s Crazy 8s Club” for third and fourth graders on Tuesdays from Feb. 5 to March 5 from 3:30 to 4:40 p.m. Members of the club will build stuff, run and jump, make music. It’s a new kind of math club.
• Finally, the library will host a FIRST Program (Fighting Insulin Resistance with Strength to promote healthy aging) with William Shang, M.D. on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dr. Shang is affiliated with Ithaca College’s Gerontology Program and is the director of the Ley Lab at Cornell University and the Hammond Health Center Lab at Ithaca College.

His aim is to raise the awareness of the effectiveness of exercise in preventing and treating diseases associated with aging such as dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia, as well as promote local exercise programs such as the YMCA’s community programs.


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