Chester Township Council, last week, authorized members of the fire department to engage in discussions about a merger with the Upland Fire Department.
Chester Township Fire Chief Jeff Comisiak told Council that in 2012 the department averaged six volunteer respondents per incident, but as of this year the department is averaging two people per call.
“In 1976, the state of Pennsylvania had more than 300,000 volunteer firefighters and today there are less than 50,000,” Comisiak said. “The numbers are dwindling, but the number of emergencies is going up.”
Comisiak also said there is not one resident of Chester Township volunteering. He said the volunteers are from surrounding communities including Upper Chichester, Aston, Parkside and Media.
“Our response time is about 11 minutes to get to a call, and it should be six minutes.,” he said. “We are hurting right now.”
Comisiak said volunteer fire companies have saved taxpayers a lot of money and it’s in everyone’s best interest to discuss a merger.
He added that last year when the Chester Township fire building was shut down, the department operated out of Upland and the average response time was six minutes.
“Even though we only had three of our members, we would pick up a few of Upland’s members to ride with us on our truck,” Comisiak said. “(On) most of our calls this year, we had one to three people, which is not safe.”
Councilman Dennis Daye said safety is the number one issue.
“As our people are going out, not only is response time an issue, but there is an increased risk to our apparatus and firefighters.”
In other matters, Council unanimously appointed Kenneth Washington as code enforcement officer for the 4th precinct and Richard Knox was appointed inspector for the township incinerator.
Council, via ordinance, authorized the purchase of properties at 1502, 1504, 1506, 1508, 1510 and 1512 Powell Road in the Toby Farms section of the township. The purchases have been approved by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.