Oriskany, N.Y. - Oriskany Fire Chief Jeff Burkhart says there are many reasons why his department needs a new fire house but he says the biggest reason is safety.
Burkhart says the current fire house on Utica St., which is attached to the Village of Oriskany Municipal Building, is just too small for the newer larger equipment the department now owns. He says when the fire house was built in 1968, firetrucks were much smaller, and the building wasn't built with having a ladder truck in mind.
Burkhart says many people may wonder why the department needs the larger equipment. He says it's simple, the department protects more than just the Village of Oriskany, "We protect almost half of the town of Whitestown, which sends us all the way to Sutliff Rd. and Rt. 33, and that includes the Oneida County Airport, business park, that includes MetLife, Homeland Security, the jail, the 911 Center, Bonide Products, FIS, all those bigger buildings and because of those buildings that's why we have to have the apparatus that we need."
In the current fire house there is barely one foot of space between the fire truck and garage door, which Burkhart says causes challenges as firefighters try to respond quickly to emergencies. He also says the space where firefighters put on their gear is right next to fire trucks, which must leave quickly during calls, causing a safety hazard, "We’re literally this far from where our gear is stored and where the fire truck is and they have to get dressed while the truck is moving behind them. So as a 20 ton truck is my behind them they have to get dressed in emergency gear in a hurry in two minutes to get on the rIg."
Burkhart says space in the fire house is so tight right now, some of the department's apparatus is actually stored at the Oriskany DPW facility on Valley Rd. but he says the department was in the process of moving that equipment to another space more than a year ago.
The Oriskany Fire Dept. leased out space at the former Waterbury and Sons Felt Company building which is adjacent to the current fire house just to store apparatus there instead of storing it at the DPW garage, but Burkhart says that idea was derailed, "We were just in the process of trying to redo the doors when the roof caved in, so that kind of spun up this whole other thing, well if we’re going to have to take stuff down, why not take a bigger chunk then we actually need and plan for future expansion and future growth instead of just what we are."
Burkhart says his department is now working with the owners of the former Waterbury and Sons Felt Company. That entity is now called Waterbury Square, Inc..
He says Waterbury Square, Inc. is going to demolish not only the building that collapsed in February of 2018 but a number of other adjacent structures in order to clear space so the fire department can build a new fire house. Burkhart says Waterbury Square Inc. is going to be redoing their property line and turn the land needed to build the fire house over to the fire department.
An engineering firm is preparing an environmental impact study for the department. Adam Kernan with Kernan Engineering said the following, "Right now we’re just going through some environmental impact studies and going through and making sure that it’s environmentally safe, analyzing the whole area from an environmental standpoint and a transportation standpoint because this will add a lot more transportation flow to the local area here so I want to make sure that whole study is done before we really proceed with this project."
Waterbury Square right now is waiting for the Oriskany Planning Department to approve the demolition of the building. Burkhart says he hopes construction can begin on the new fire house as soon as those buildings are demolished.
Burkhart says the department will raise the money needed to build the new fire house so it wouldn't be a burden on the taxpayers.