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FIRE PREVENTION : Amherst Fire Department managing change

Amherst Fire Chief Greg Jones looks over old newspaper clippings showing the history of the Amherst Fire Department.
Amherst Fire Chief Greg Jones looks over old newspaper clippings showing the history of the Amherst Fire Department.

AMHERST – There’s much more to operating a fire department than fighting fires.

Since joining the Amherst Fire Department in 2000 and becoming its chief in 2014, Greg Jones has seen a lot of change in how departments are run and how its members do what they do best – fight fires.
“Everyday in the fire services is a change and you have to keep on top of it,” Jones said. “There is new technology coming out almost every day and there are always new training requirements. We have done a good job managing that change and it has made us a stronger organization because of it.”
Jones said his department is currently at full strength and he’s continuing to receive new applications for when openings come. The department has eight full-time career firefighters and 54 volunteer firefighters.
There are three engines and one ladder truck and a safety/support unit. There are two hazardous materials units, which can get called to any location in the province if needed. It also has one utility vehicle, a tanker, an antique fire truck and Pumper Joe, which is very popular with the children at community events.
The biggest thing he talks to new firefighters about is the time requirements of being with the fire department. Jones said being a firefighter sometimes means extended time away from family at odd hours of the day and night.
There’s also a lot of training before a recruit becomes a fire fighters and training is also a constant after that.
“There is a huge time requirement to being a firefighter,” he said. “In training alone, we respond to a number of different calls that requires a vast array of training for our firefighters.”
Along with fighting fires, Jones said the department also responds to hazardous materials calls, motor vehicle collisions, confined space rescues, does investigations, training and inspections along with daily maintenance of equipment.
What the department looks for in new members are people who share their values of integrity, teamwork, compassion, courage and diversity.
Some of the challenges faced by the department include the cost of fire service equipment, the lack of live fire training, mental health and support, changes in technology and finding the money to fully fund what the department needs.
Jones said the firefighters association and the ladies auxiliary also play a strong role within the department and both organizations are solid supporters of various community events and groups.
The community, he said, has also been a strong supporter of the department through the annual MD Ladder Sit, at the weekly bingo and during fire events such as the August 2012 fire in downtown Amherst when people brought food, water and other items to firefighters.
Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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