More houses means a bigger fire station in New Salem

— From Google Earth

Don’t try and find it; it’s not there anymore: The New Salem Volunteer Fire Department’s second station on Route 85, near Town Hall, was demolished about a month ago.

NEW SCOTLAND — While the town has fewer residents today than it did nearly 40 years ago, the number of housing units in New Scotland has increased by about one-fifth in that time, precipitating the need for more services.

And so, as much of the new development in town is located closer to the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department’s second station on Route 85, near Town Hall, it’s become clear that the tiny single-bay firehouse needed to be extinguished.

“The growth down on that end of town seems to be pretty rapid,” said Craig L. Shufelt, the department’s chief. So, about a month ago, said Jeremy Cramer, the town’s building inspector, the 800-square-foot firehouse was knocked down, paving the way for construction to begin on a new 2,700-square-foot three-bay firehouse.

“The consensus of the body was that we should make it a little bit bigger so we can maybe put two engines down there at some point in time,” said Shufelt. The new firehouse will cost the all-volunteer department about $400,000, Shufelt said, adding that the department had to take out a mortgage of $300,000.

The plan has been in the works for a few years, Shufelt said, but the department first had to pay down the mortgage on its large firehouse in the New Salem hamlet while at the same time saving enough money for a decent down payment on the new building.

The satellite station also had space constraints, Cramer said, in that the department’s oldest truck, which was also its smallest, was the only one that fit into the 800-square-foot building.

Volunteers needed

While having better equipment available for quicker response times is great — the department’s first station on New Salem Road is about three-and-a-half miles from the second station — that equipment still has to staffed.

“We also need membership,” Shufelt said.

The struggle to recruit new volunteer firefighters has been described as a “crisis,” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Since 1983, according to the National Fire Protection Association, the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has decreased by about 23 percent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, there were 11,880 career firefighters in New York State, and, according to the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, there are 110,000 volunteer firefighters.

According to one estimate by FASNY, were New York State municipalities to switch from volunteer to paid departments, it would cost taxpayers statewide an additional $3.35 billion each year.

In 2016, according to the New York State Association of Counties, jurisdictions in the state — not including New York City — distributed $31.5 billion in property taxes; fire districts’ share was $740 million.

More New Scotland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.