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Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Stone Harbor Fire Department’s No Longer Volunteer-only

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – The borough Dec. 15 initiated a new era of combined paid and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).    

One by one, the eight new paid firefighters were called out by Chief Roger Stanford and sworn in by Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour, who called it a “historic day.” 

The change was a product of the shifting demographics in the island community, along with the steadily rising property values. Fewer of those moving into the borough were becoming members of the volunteer company.  

Stone Harbor Volunteer Fire Company began with 10 individuals Dec. 5, 1912. For almost exactly 108 years, the fire company protected the borough with fire service.  

As the borough grew, so did the responsibilities of the fire company.   

The age of the members was increasing, and the number of those who lived in the borough and were certified for the equipment necessary to enter a fire situation was declining. Increasingly, the company depended on volunteers living off the island, slowing response time to emergencies. 

In 2017, the borough tried to address the problem through a stipend program intended to ensure that the fire station was adequately staffed overnight. The program was largely successfulbut gaps in coverage persisted. 

In the end, a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters, many of whom are also certified as EMTs, took form as the way to maintain rapid response to all emergencies.  

An October statement on the borough’s website noted that the move would cost $500,000 per year, starting in January 2021. It also states that the number of paid firefighters/EMTs would be  nine 

The number of paid personnel was set to have a minimum of two career firefighters/EMTs scheduled at any one time, providing 24-hour coverage, and reducing the number of volunteers who must respond before a fire can be engaged.  

The plan called for the firefighters hired to also have or gain certification as EMTs. Stone Harbor will no longer be the only borough without a form of paid EMT coverage. 

Stanford noted that the new full-time personnel will supplement what is primarily a volunteer fire department. 

The county’s island communities are dealing with many municipal employees who cannot afford to live where they serve. When that problem hampered emergency response, Stone Harbor altered a century-old tradition. 

To contact Vince Conti, email 

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