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Town of Oswego Fire Dept. hoping to end service at SUNY Oswego

TOWN OF OSWEGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — After sounding the alarm for more than a decade at SUNY Oswego, the Oswego Town Fire Department is now working to end its service to the campus.

The department says the number of calls there has spiked in the last few years, becoming a burden on the department and its volunteers.

“It’s frustrating and we are a 100 percent volunteer department and the majority of our members work the day shift at their real jobs. They need to get some sleep and they have one or two calls in a night, that’s sustainable. But when you have 4 or 5 calls overnight, at some point, they have to turn the pager off, they’ve got a job to do, they can’t tell the boss, hey sorry, I am not going to be at full production today, I had another night running to the college all night long,” said Robert Lighthall, fire commissioner for the town of Oswego Fire Department.

Frustrations are fuming at the Town of Oswego Fire Department.

“We’ve had to send crews away from a structure fire to respond to calls at the college for fire alarms,” said Lighthall.

A bulk of them are fire alarm activations and non-emergency-related calls at SUNY Oswego.

“Somebody smoking, or burnt food at 2 a.m. aerosol sprays at whatever hour,” said Lighthall.

The department started serving the college in 2013. From the time it began serving until 2020, the department says it would respond to nearly 190 calls each year at the campus.

However, the department says that number increased dramatically in 2021, jumping to over 300 calls from just the college alone. Since then, that number has stayed above 300 each year, resulting in pagers being turned off overnight and growing concerns.

“If we have a real emergency that requires substantial manpower, we may not get it because so many people are turning their pagers off. So that’s what we’re trying to get ahead of before we find ourselves in a crisis that we don’t have enough people responding,” said Lighthall.

Right now, the town of Oswego has enough volunteer firefighters to get by, but can always use more. However, the department is worried that if its service continues at SUNY Oswego, that number and the need for volunteers will grow even more.

“We’re going to reach a point where we are not going to have a full response that we need on a major incident,” said Lighthall.

Currently, the department is still responding to calls at SUNY Oswego, while waiting for the town board to meet. If a resolution is passed, a new fire protection district will be established, and the department will no longer be responsible for responding to calls at the campus.

The department says everything remains up in the air, and details on what’s next won’t be released until the end of April.

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