Poloncarz, emergency services commissioner both praise firefighters for going above and beyond the call of duty during 'Winter Storm Knife' weather event that buried portions of Erie County
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Erie County Commissioner of Emergency Services Daniel Neaverth presented reimbursement checks to 19 local fire departments - funding that will help the various fire companies from the region fully recover from the excessive use of equipment and manpower needed to penetrate select areas of Western New York that were buried with several feet of snow last winter.
"Whether paid or unpaid, Erie County was greatly assisted by thousands of men and women who worked nearly nonstop doing whatever was necessary to ease the misery of residents in need of help in a variety of ways," Poloncarz said. "From helping relocate young families in mobile homes whose roofs were damaged by heavy mounds of snow to providing first aid to senior citizens whose assisted-living facilities had to be evacuated, the firefighters who serve and protect the residents of Erie County ensured emergency services continued despite the severe winter weather conditions we experienced."
"The heroic efforts put forth by our first response community during the historic snow event of last November was second to none," Neaverth said. "The selfless actions of these dedicated volunteers, some of whom faced an unimaginable seven feet of snow, most certainly prevented an even greater loss of life, kept essential fire and EMS services running and were ultimately responsible for a quicker resolution of the incident."
The Southtowns were most directly impacted by the storm, leading to requests for assistance from volunteer fire companies that included Amherst, Clarence and Tonawanda to provide fire engines, all-terrain vehicles and manpower to communities such as Hamburg, Orchard Park, East Aurora and Eden.
"In addition to the numerous fire departments under the Hamburg fire control, our public safety dispatchers played an equally critical role providing emergency services to our citizens and the motorists impacted by the storm," said Sean Crotty, emergency manager for the Town of Hamburg who also works as a senior dispatcher in Hamburg and is a former chief of the North Boston Fire Department. "Starting at 11 p.m. on Nov. 17 and continuing for the next 155 hours, our dispatchers fielded 8,058 administrative and 9-1-1 phone calls, subsequently dispatching 1,544 police and 772 fire/EMS calls for service."
"By the time the snow ended late in the evening Nov. 20, a total of 96 inches had fallen on Orchard Park," said Rick Mrugalski, chief of the Orchard Park Volunteer Fire Department and emergency manager for the Town of Orchard Park. "The three companies of the Orchard Park Fire District (Hillcrest, Windom, Orchard Park) responded to over 500 calls, including requests for assistance for fire, EMS, structural collapse and power outages. Those calls led to the accumulation of more than 7,000 volunteer hours on call."
The fire companies who received reimburse checks of various amounts were Bellevue Fire Department, Hy-View Fire Department, Kenilworth Fire Department, Main Transit Fire Department, North Boston Fire Department, South Line Fire District No. 10, U-Crest Fire Department, West Seneca Fire Department No. 1 (Winchester), West Seneca Fire Department No. 2 (Union), West Seneca Fire Department No. 4 (East Seneca), West Seneca Fire Department No. 5 (Seneca Hose), West Seneca Fire Department 6 (Vigilant), Aurora Colden Fire Department, Chaffee Sardinia Fire Department, Clarence Center Fire Department, Clarence Fire Department, Elma Fire Department, Harris Hill Fire Department and Jamison Road Fire Department.