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Open letter to Rombout Fire District residents
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By Member Kevin Barry
May 22, 2024

Open letter to Rombout Fire District residents

Recently, the Rombout Fire Commissioners received an email concerning the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) proposed rule changes concerning the operation of fire departments. The email stated the following.

“In February, OSHA published a proposed rule that will revise the current 29 CFR 1910.156  “Fire Brigade” standard to make it a multi-discipline “Emergency Response” standard that would require fire departments, EMS agencies, and other rescue services to comply with a wide range of responder safety and health initiatives. This will have far-reaching and possibly devastating effects on Fire Districts and Fire Departments across New York State.

The Rombout Fire District Fire Commissioners are greatly alarmed and concerned that these proposed rules will have on the recruitment and retention of firefighters and the effect that it would have on our budget with the increased training and equipment requirements. Following the tragic attacks of September 11, OSHA, with all Federal agencies, were directed to strengthen their preparedness to respond to terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

OSHA released the new proposal this February with a 90 day public comment session, The Dutchess County Board of Fire Commissioners, with the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York (AFDSNY) and the National Volunteer Firefighter Council (NVFC) agreed that this was not enough time to fully understand the 608 page new standard rule changes and how it would impact each and every one of the fire districts in the New York State. They successfully lobbied to push back the date for public comments to June 21. The Rombout Fire Commissioners do agree that many of these updates are long overdue to the 44 year old “Fire Brigade Standard” to meet the new technology and technical advances that have evolved in that time. But the fire commissioners also have a responsibility to the Rombout taxpayers to be fiscally responsible without putting undue financial pressures on them. The increased training requirements, required new equipment, administrative and health costs, will do just that.

The major OSHA directive from Congress was to formulate a standard that is economically and technically feasible. The Fire Commissioners have significant questions as to whether the entire proposed standard falls within these guidelines. OSHA approach is one size fits all fire departments but providing fire protection is surprisingly complex in New York State and each fire department needs are different. But our mission is the same, to serve our community.

If this proposed standard goes through ALL fire departments across New York, and Dutchess County will need to comply with it. The members of Rombout Fire Company help contribute to reducing costs to the New York State taxpayer. FASNY reports that New York State’s nearly 100,000 volunteer firefighters save New York taxpayers $3.87 billion annually in salary, benefits, and potential debt service. FASNY also added that property taxes across the state would rise on average 26.5 percent without them. There is an initial estimate cost of $8 billion in New York State to update stations and apparatus to the new standard IN ADDITION TO the taxpayers current annual costs. Preliminary estimates for the Rombout Fire District is that residents would see a severe increase for fire protection on their tax bill.

We are asking for your support and if you are a New York State residence, by signing a petition against this new proposed regulations. To sign this petition, go to this this link: https://www.change.org/p/call-to-action-osha-1910-156?recruiter=1334481811&recruited_by_id=246a7570-e538-11ee-929f-65b5e0d33f50&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard&utm_medium=copylink

For 53 years, the men and women of Rombout Fire Company have followed the proud American tradition of being volunteer firefighters that dates back to 1736. Every day and night they respond to your call during your greatest time of need. You can be assured that we will continue to do so until these new regulations have been resolved so that it benefits both the firefighters and our community that we serve and live in.

Respectively yours,
Rombout Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners

Hyperlinks: To sign this petition, click on this link
Attachment BFP 4.pdf  (1,565k)
Attachment Draft 5a.docx  (11k)
Attachment SDN 4.pdf  (1,556k)

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