MAYDAY! ……CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
By Edie Johnson
About two dozen firefighters and officials gathered at the Newburgh Grand Street Firehouse to hear about urgent new communication equipment that Senator Bill Larkin was able to obtain for them. Larkin said that after receiving a letter from acting Chief Terry Ahlers he knew he had to come up with some funding to help. That funding was $250,000 that will put the Newburgh Fire Dept. and EMS units on the same UHF radio frequency as Orange County Emergency Services and other squads, so that when multiple fire departments are at an emergency site they will be able to communicate seamlessly with one another. Ehlers shared “This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. When we were at the Vails Gate factory fire a few months ago, firemen entered the building with no idea that the situation had just been declared to be rapidly
deteriorating. They almost lost their gamble.” Within minutes the explosion happened, killing one of the Verla workers. The situation became even worse when another firefighter realized he was trapped, and for 9 minutes repeatedly messaged “MAYDAY, MAYDAY”. But no one could hear him. Fortunately he and the other firefighters survived, though some are still out of work due to injuries sustained that day. Ehlers said Its stressful enough that these men and women go out and risk their lives every day to protect everyone else, but to have their lives in danger when it’s not necessary is just unacceptable. The new radio units are also heat resistant and waterproof and have a strobe and locator Mayday button.
When Larkin took the podium he said that when he received Ehlers’ letter he knew he had to help. He had asked Ehlers in the past to take him out on a fire run sometime, and then got a call in the middle of the night and witnessed what happens at a major fire firsthand. “When you go to these calls neither you nor your family know whether you will be coming back home. Remember, we are put on this earth to help our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors.”
There were about a dozen officials there to attend the grant announcement, including City Manager Michael Ciaravino, Newburgh legislator Kevindaryan Lujan, Councilman Jonathan Jacobson, Orange County DA David Hoovler, Sheriff Carl DuBois, Justin Rodriguez representing the County Executive, Deputy Commissioner of Fire Services Vini Tankasali, and others.
Newburgh legislator Kevindaryan Lujan stressed that this is a great step forward, but that a long term solution must also be found for those firefighters whose funding may run out before the end of the year.
DA Hoovler said This is money well spent for Local 589 to keep them safe. They’ve done an admirable job and I’ve seen it firsthand on more than one occasion. If they are not safe, they can’t keep the rest of the people safe.”
Orange County Sheriff DuBois added, “Larkin does it again!” , adding “I’m here to support my brothers and sisters, and it’s not just about EMS. My son and grandson live here, and I want them protected.”
Larkin ended with “Some people say ‘As Newburgh goes, so goes the county’. Newburgh is a great city. The City of Newburgh deserves proper care. There is nothing wrong with our City except for our own failed minds. Think of what happens if these firefighters can’t communicate. This is important.”