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Abuse: The Fire Engines Of Penfield, New York

by Chris Chichester on 03/07/18

The frequency of a fire engine careening past my house at 26 Sanders Farm Drive in Penfield has achieved an absurd status.  The deployment of the vehicles is not directed at a structure burning to the ground.  It is for a situation where no fire or no emergency or no threat to human life exists. 

My house is approximately 300 yards from Penfield Road.  I've lived here for 5+ years.  On March 2 I walked to Wegmans on Willow Pond Way as a fire engine is blazing down Penfield Road.  In the opposite direction another screaming fire engine approaches.  I concluded The Towering Inferno or Acadia Planetia on Mars are destinations for this cacophony. 

Both fire engines stopped at 2140 Penfield Road.  This structure is perfectly normal in its presentation. There is not a puff of smoke in sight. Or an individual at a window in search of a ladder to escape a life-threatening blaze. Or an arsonist with a box of Diamond Strike-On matches in hand.  Why did two fire engines respond to a structure with no fire?  When I returned to my house the fire engines are gone. Each is at the residence for less than 20 minutes. 

Yesterday I left my house at 11:20 a.m. to go to Target. As I was about to enter the store two fire engines with blaring sirens travel by on Fairport Nine Mile Road. I don't know the reason, obviously.  I'm confident it is not an event that rivals the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Today at 11:24 a.m. an insane fire engine shrieked past my house.  The possible reasons:

 A cat is stuck in a tree
* A child lost his bike
A senior citizen misplaced his glasses
* A smoke alarm requires batteries
* A garden hose is punctured 
* Dunkin' Donuts at 1802 Penfield Road is about to run out of Maple Frosted With Sprinkles

The official identifiable vehicles of government are not the only vehicles on Penfield Road equipped with sirens.  On March 2 I walked to Wegmans. A white van performed a U-Turn on Penfield Road -- and the driver activated a siren. This vehicle has no government emblem or marker. Yet it began to travel in an emergency capacity.  The driver is an excellent candidate for fire department recruitment by Fire Marshall Tom Tette. 

I lived on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. when I worked as the press secretary for Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas.  It is a majestic Avenue on the northern border of the National Mall and extends to the United States Capitol.  I rarely heard a fire engine in the most significant and powerful city on earth.  

I lived on Winthrop Avenue in Albany next to Washington Avenue for five years when I worked for Senate Majority Leader Ralph J. Marino and Governor George E. Pataki.  Washington Avenue is the major four-lane east-west route that travels to the New York State Capitol.  I wasn't under siege in my residence from fire engines. As firefighters in our capital city respond to . . . fire. 

From "Plenty of Firefighters, But Where Are The Fires" in The Boston Globe by Leon Neyfakh on September 8, 2013:

"The number of career fire fighters per capita in the United States is essentially unchanged since 1986, but of the roughly 30 million calls America's fire departments responded to in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, only about 1.4 million were fire-related -- down by more than 50 percent since 1981, according to the National Fire Protection Association."

If the number of fire-related calls are down 50 percent nationally since 1981, the number of fire-related calls in Penfield are down 50 percent or thereabouts. If that assertion is incorrect I want to hear Penfield Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain explain precisely why. 

As the duly elected Town Supervisor since since January 1, 2010 Supervisor LaFountain is charged with a responsibility to ensure the proper use of government vehicles. The people own these vehicles.  The people deserve a fire department defined by integrity, character and dedication.  Integrity, character and and dedication is not present in Penfield because out-of-control public employees concoct emergencies in a disgraceful breach of public trust.

I wrote to Supervisor LaFountain.  He responded:

"Thank you for the email.  I will forward it on to the Penfield Fire District for their information as they are their own taxing district completely separate from the Town with an elected board. Their budget and election of board members is voted on by all residents of the town annually in December. Watch their legal notice of budget and board vote."

What a joke.  An election in December is the calculation that ensures low turn-out.  The only elections I can identify in December are special and run-off after the Louisiana Blanket or Jungle Primary.  Moreover, a separate taxing district insulates the fire district from accountability. 

For you individuals at the Penfield Fire Department I report that fire is a rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat and light.  Your job is to extinguish this threat. If you deduce no such threat exists you must forego the temptation to drive past my residence like the fast and furious.  And ludicrous. 


Freedom Lies In Being Bold -- Robert Frost