Westfield Fire Commission Debates Lake Erie Rescue Policies

WESTFIELD – Lake Erie rescues and the use of money gained by fundraising were both discussed at the Tuesday meeting of the Westfield Fire Commission and commissioners took unanimous action affecting future water rescue efforts by the village fire department.

Fire Chief Steve Pachanowski was given until July 12, to schedule a meeting among the fire department, fire commission and U.S. Coast Guard regarding emergency calls on Lake Erie.

Further, Commissioner Barry Underwood used the same deadline for a report from Pachanowski on the water-rescue training obtained by fire department members up to now.

“I want to make sure our rescuers are properly trained,” Commissioner Scott Mason said. “I just want to make sure (we) never have to rescue the rescuers.”

Mason, at the June meeting, made a motion to restrict the department’s 22-foot boat to water inside the breakwalls off Barcelona until Coast Guard or similar training was obtained by those manning the boat. The motion died for lack of a second.

“We do have a recreational harbor,” Commissioner Dave Spann said, explaining why he didn’t support Mason’s motion. “I am very against the (rescue) boat not leaving the harbor.

At the June commission meeting former Fire Chief Ed Kneer said the current boat has, for years, gone beyond the breakwall to aid boaters and swimmers, but the crews of the boat used “discretion” if the water outside the harbor was choppy.

The use of money raised by the department, a recurring topic at commission meetings, came up when Mason commented on the division of funds among the department’s general fund and it’s three hose companies.

“I hope this isn’t a smoke and mirrors attempt to keep the general fund as low as possible,” Mason said about the department’s current practices.

Kneer, during time set aside for public comments, said the hose companies use funds to reward current and past volunteers with dinners and awards, provide funeral memorials and buy promotional clothing such as jackets. These expenditures, Kneer said, help morale and also promote membership in the department. As for Mason’s comment Kneer said, “I hated to hear that said up there.”

Pachanowski was questioned by Mason regarding members, not named, who allegedly engaged recently “in conduct unbecoming of firemen.” Pachanowski said there had been what he termed “an incident,” but provided no details.

“We’re keeping an eye on that,” Pachanowski said.

Underwood said the topic should be explored in a closed executive session.

Underwood reiterated his concern about recruiting new volunteers especially for the department’s Emergency Medical Service. Westfield, he noted, allows volunteers to serve in the EMS without becoming firemen.

“All fire departments are in the same boat,” Underwood said referring to the EMS shortage. “I think we are one of the few to create this EMS-only policy.”