The Youngstown Safety Committee met with the city’s fire chief on Thursday to go over some statistics from last year and talk about needs in the department.
The city gives all 125 firefighters an allowance for uniforms, not including their firefighting suits.
“The NFPA, National Fire Protection Agency, says that you get a brand new set of gear [that’s] only good for 10 years. Well, that’s fine, but for Youngstown firefighters, we fight a whole lot of fire,” said Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley.
Suits getting more wear and tear than usual mean they wear out quicker.
“It’s pretty well beat up. It’s pretty well beat up,” he said.
So, Finley applied for a federal grant that would get his firefighters new firefighting gear. The grant is for $160,000.
“Their contract says the city must provide bunker pants and bunker coat. If the gear needs to be replaced, the city is going to be back on the hook for replacing it,” Finley said.
There’s also the matter of what Finley calls “nuisance calls,” those that come from Youngstown State University dorms.
“We normally, on alarm drops for YSU, we are going, constantly going to the dorms,” he said.
Two to three times a day.
One of his missions when he became chief last year was to find a way to be compensated for crews spending so much time responding to these nuisance calls.
He’s learned that’s not possible.
“But there is, even through legal, there is nobody for us to bill. Nobody. … It’s part of doing business. You’re a fire department. You have a college. We’re a college town. You’re going to have those,” Finley said.
There’s also the very serious matter of arsons. There were 169 in 2018 alone, many on the city’s west side in early fall.
“We knew we had an idea of who it might be,” Finley said.
Sometimes several a day.
“We might wait two or three days, but in those two or three days, one day they might burn three houses,” he said.
“As quickly as it started, it stopped. So we never made an arrest,” he said.
For this year, Finley says he wants to stay in budget so there are no more rotating closures.
He also wants firefighters to be out in the community, being seen and engaging with residents.