OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - A Facebook post has caused a flare-up between Ogdensburg’s mayor and a city fire captain.
Mayor Mike Skelly issued a news release Monday afternoon, criticizing Captain Gerald Mack for “deliberately spreading misinformation claiming that city fire fighters are being told they can no longer respond to emergencies outside the city’s municipal boundary.”
Skelly said, “No one has told the fire department not to respond to emergencies that they are summoned to.”
He went on to say Mack is “acting like nothing more than a small-town street thug or spoiled rotten kid” and “deliberately lying in an effort to frighten city and area residents.”
7 News spoke with Mack, who said he had “no response” to the mayor’s description of his behavior. Mack said he was unable to defend himself because the city manager issued a memo saying firefighters are prohibited from speaking to the news media about official business without the city manager’s consent.
However, Mack said he stands behind his post to the private Facebook group ‘Support Ogdensburg’s First Responders,’ which reads:
“Public service announcement. Be advised that the Ogdensburg Fire Department has been issued a new SOP ( standard operating procedure) by the part time city manager (PTT) that Fire/Rescue will no longer automatically be responding to any address outside the city limits without being requested by the appropriate agency. Up to now the Fire Department has been responding to all emergencies which they could get there first and provide essential assistance as far as life safety and fire loss. What this means is if businesses such as Burger King, Advance Auto, Verizon, Shoe Encore, half of the Seaway shopping center, Napa, Maple City Auto, the Ogdensburg International Airport, and even the storage buildings for O.F.A. experience a fire or anything else requiring an emergency response, it will be handled by the Heuvelton Fire Dept. This also means any motor vehicle accident that happens at Rt 68 & 37 along with NY AVE and Rt 37 will also be the responsibility of the Heuvelton Fire Dept. The Ogdensburg Fire Dept. still looks forward to providing assistance to these areas along with any that we can possibly make a difference in the protection of life and property but unfortunately we have been ordered to delay response which in the past has proven to make a difference. If you feel this is a dangerous step to take please let your elected officials along with the PTT know with a simple phone call.”
Within 6 hours of that post, Skelly issued his news release (see it in its entirety by scrolling to the end of this story).
The mayor said a recent standard operating procedure update issued by City Manager Stephen Jellie (who also happens to be Ogdensburg’s interim fire chief) over the weekend deals with improved protocols for handling emergency calls outside the city. He said the issue came up after concerns were raised by St. Lawrence County Emergency Services over the Ogdensburg Fire Department arriving at scenes within the Heuvelton fire district without being called.
“The Ogdensburg fire department should only respond to the village of Heuvelton fire district if called in for assistance,” Skelly said. “Both 911 dispatch in Canton, and Heuvelton fire officials on the ground, are capable of determining their needs, to include calling for backup and standby.”
Skelly’s full news release: