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Irvington Debates Proposed Second Fire Company

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – A request to form a second fire company within the Irvington Fire Department has village officials wondering whether two factions can overcome their problems and work together.

“I think someone has to address ... how to play nicely in the sandbox here and someone has to tell us how that's going to happen,” Village Administrator Lawrence Schopfer said during a recent village board meeting.

Former Irvington firefighter Nikolai Kabelev resigned from the Irvington Fire Company, a non-profit organization that fundraises and promotes social activities within the village fire department, two years ago because he said he had been harassed. Kabelev, a former Firefighter of the Year, continued to fight fires for the Irvington Fire Department until told state law prohibited him from doing so because he was not a member of the company.

Kabelev wants to form a second non-profit fire company within the department and said it would work to be inclusive and transparent in its fundraising. The second fire company would not offer social events and would only raise money for fire equipment, Kabelev told village trustees.

Firefighters in both companies would train together under the fire department and would also use the same equipment, which is unusual for local fire departments that have more than one company.

Irvington and Ardsley have one fire department and one company, Mayor Brian Smith said. Tarrytown, Elmsford, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings each have one fire department and several companies, but each company is responsible for certain equipment and many have individual firehouses.

Fire Chief James Ruffler told village trustees he was shocked that things could not be worked out within the department and the situation was bringing members down. He said a second fire company could work if it had to, but it would be a difficult situation.

“I really feel we can't have the separate companies riding on the same pieces of equipment,” he said. “It's going to be a lot of hostility.”

Having two companies would not be a problem because there have always been cliques within fire departments, Kabelev said. Firefighters would continue to take orders from department officers on the ground, he said.

“When the call comes in, everyone responds from different cliques on the same fire truck,” he said.

Supporters of the second fire company submitted a petition to the village. Kabelev told village officials he already had two other individuals say they would be willing to leave the existing fire company and join his company.

The question on Irvington trustees' minds, Smith said, was whether a second company would be beneficial for the village. The village currently provides equipment and training to firefighters. Kabelev said the benefit would come from having more volunteers.

“We are hoping to attract the folks who would fall in love with firefighting, would fall in love with serving their community,” he said.

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