Monday, March 13, 2006

Bar MItzvah for Fire Dept!

Record: Kiryas Joel - Sigh. They grow up so fast. It was only six years ago that dozens of freshly trained recruits came together here and formed Orange County's newest fire department, hoping to speed the response to emergencies in this Hasidic community's ever-expanding landscape of condominium buildings. Last week marked an important step toward maturity - a bar mitzvah of sorts - for the Kiryas Joel Fire Department: its induction into the brotherhood of fire companies known as mutual aid.Mutual aid is a cooperative network in which neighboring departments help each other out. When a house goes up in flames in the South Blooming Grove Fire District, Monroe fire trucks come roaring in to help. When an explosion rocks a business on the northern end of Monroe, South Blooming Grove returns the favor.In theory, Kiryas Joel joined this network on Wednesday. But how often they're called to help their neighbors remains to be seen, given lingering concerns about their inability to rush into burning buildings - a dangerous duty that demands the utmost trust among firefighters.Kiryas Joel's firefighters aren't qualified to fight interior fires, because federal regulations dictate that their beards prevent oxygen masks from fitting properly.They worked around that problem by contracting with Monroe to respond to serious fires and answer calls on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. But some neighboring departments still worry about Kiryas Joel's limitations as it joins their firefighting brotherhood."They can't come over to stand by in Woodbury, because they're not qualified as interior firefighters," Woodbury Fire Chief Brian Wallace said.But in a memo sent last week to Orange County fire departments to welcome Kiryas Joel, David Hoffman, the county official who oversees those companies, stressed the other ways in which Kiryas Joel firefighters can help their comrades.He wrote: "With the exception of not having interior firefighting capabilities and availability on religious holidays, they can provide Mutual Aid in all other aspects, such as but not limited to exterior firefighting capabilities, scene support operations, water supply, extrication, etc."
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