Residents remain protected as Copenhagen orders fire department to disband

Copenhagen fire contracts
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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COPENHAGEN, New York (WWNY) - The Copenhagen Fire Department is set to dissolve in 30 days. Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche says arrangements have been made with surrounding fire protection agencies to ensure there will be zero lapses in coverage.

Meanwhile, towns that rely on the Copenhagen Fire Department for protection are shopping around to see what options they have while the village of Copenhagen tries to right the ship.

On Thursday night, the town of Denmark held an emergency meeting, where the board voted to terminate it’s contract with the Copenhagen Fire Department, effective October 22.

Town Supervisor Scott Doyle said the town has been in talks with other departments for protection, but did not specify which ones.

It comes after a 4 to 1 vote at the Copenhagen Village Board meeting Wednesday night to disband the fire department, with Village Attorney Candace Randall laying out the reasons why trustees should move in that direction.

In her presentation to the board, Randall pointed out that the village and its board members could be held liable for the actions of the department or its volunteer firefighters had it continued to work with them.

The decision takes effect in 30 days in case residents force the issue to become a public vote. To make that happen, petitions would need signatures from 20 percent of village voters who voted in the last general election.

Wednesday’s decision comes after a state audit cited money mismanagement and safety concerns.

The village had given the fire department two options:

  • turn over its assets and financial books to the village, and continue to operate under the guidance of the village
  • dissolve

Deadlines for those decisions passed, bringing about Wednesday’s vote.

Fire Chief T.J. Williams says the department needed more time. He says he’d gladly hand over the general accounts, but the department doesn’t want to lose control of its building and trucks.

Citing a personal vendetta from village trustees against a member of the fire department, he says there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

“The taxpayers are going to hurt in the long run, unfortunately, not having a fire department in the village,” he said.

Williams went on to add the fire department is hosting a Community Days for Fire Protection Week on Sunday, October 2nd. He said the department will be there to answer question.

Town of Champion Supervisor Brian Peck says the town will honor its contract with the Copenhagen Fire Department and wait the 30 days. But once the time has passed, he will see what other towns are doing. He did say he has had discussions with West Carthage and Rutland.

We didn’t hear back from the towns of Pinckney and Harrisburg, but at a Lowville board meeting Wednesday night, village officials said they were in talks with the towns.