Commissioners Seek Training Info From Westfield Volunteer Fire Department

WESTFIELD – Consequences up to withdrawing permission to undertake Lake Erie rescues could follow if the Westfield Volunteer Fire Dept. doesn’t provide the village Fire Commissioners a list of pertinent training completed by firemen who use the department’s inflatable boat to answer offshore distress calls.

“If we don’t have it (the list) we need to question whether the boat is going out at all,” warned commission chairman Barry Underwood at the body’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday. Questioned during the public comment part of the session, Underwood said he was restating a comment he understood was made by a U.S. Coast Guard representative during a July 23 meeting about proper water rescue procedures and rough water boat handling. That meeting resulted from a commission order issued at its July session.

Underwood was reacting to the department’s failure to provide details of training by the previous July 12 deadline. “You guys ask us for a lot of things. We try to get it done. We expect the same in return,” Underwood said to Fire Chief Steve Pacanowski. Underwood then set Monday as a new date for compliance.

“I apologize; I should have gotten it to you last month,” Pacanowski replied.

“We have done training on the boat,” he added.

However, Pacanowski also said some at the Clinton Street fire hall are not pleased with the commission request. “There’s a few people who feel you’re trying to take the boat away from us,” he said.

“Our public depends on you being trained when you respond,” Underwood said. The commission wants the department to have personnel who are “best qualified, best trained,” he said.

Commissioners Scott Mason and Dave Spann attended the July session with the Coast Guard representative, and both said the training recommended could be conducted on Saturdays. However, Mason said such training would not result in formal certification, but rather a letter of completion. “That was a little concerning to me,” he commented. Responding to department concerns outlined by Pacanowski, Mason said, “We’re not going to tell you how you have to train.” Underwood added, “We’re here for the fire department. We’re here for no other reason.”

In other business the commission unanimously voted to back the department’s request to the village board for permission to spend up to $1,000 in department funds without seeking additional board approval.

A resolution to that effect was tabled by the village board last month when a member of the public lept up and objected because, he said, no one from the department was present. Mayor Mike Vandevelde agreed saying, “If they want to discuss this they can come,” and the resolution was withdrawn.

Commissioner Mason said “he was sick” about the comments, and made the recommendation that the commission go on record supporting the request. At the end of the meeting Mason asked if he could amend his resolution to support the department spending up to $2,500 without further permission and that was approved.

Pachanowski was applauded by the commissioners and those attending the meeting for his performance as president of the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen which last week held its 105th convention in Westfield. “I’ve had a lot of positive comments on the fire convention,” Underwood said, adding, “I think a good job was done by all.”