Is Public At Risk Now That Heavy Rescue Truck Is Sidelined?

Is Public At Risk Now That Heavy Rescue Truck Is Sidelined?

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The Watertown Fire Department has staffed a rescue truck for more than 30 years.

That changes Saturday as the department moves to a staffing model in line with the city's directive.

So what does a rescue truck do?

Fire Chief Dale Herman says it's involved in "a lot of specialty rescue type things, such as motor vehicle accidents, rope rescue type situations."

The truck carries equipment like the jaws of life.

The rescue truck used to be sent to all accidents, but for the last year, the department has been sending the closest available vehicle, whether that's an engine, the ladder truck or the rescue truck.

Now it'll get by on just the 3 engines and the ladder truck.

"If there's a need for the equipment on the rescue truck, personnel will have to be allocated from another piece of apparatus to drive, deliver, or move that equipment to another piece," said Herman.

Dan Daugherty, the president of the firefighters' union, says not having the rescue truck staffed at all times raises concerns about public safety.

"The citizens of Watertown, who pay their taxes and expect a level of service, expect 15 men on duty at all times, might not be getting what they pay for anymore," said Daugherty.

From the city's side, some leaders disagree.

"They're not willing to be flexible enough to work with us. It is not a public safety issue. They will tell you that just to put the fear of God in the people of this community," said Watertown City Council Member Teresa Macaluso.

"The pumpers and the ladders, they can all respond to EMS calls, as well as structure fires obviously, so they can reassign personnel to the heavy rescue if necessary or they can put additional equipment on the pumper and the ladder," said Mayor Joe Butler.

The fire department says the rescue truck will sit idle beginning this Saturday.

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