Rensselaer fire chief resigns amid tensions with volunteers

Rensselaer Fire Chief Bill Hummel. Rensselaer Fire Chief Bill Hummel. | Photo: File / WNYT.

September 19, 2018 05:03 PM

Rensselaer Fire Chief Bill Hummel resigned Wednesday just hours before volunteer firfighters are set to bring concerns about training and proper equipment to city officials.

City volunteer firefighters and county officials say both the chief and an assistant chief have stepped down.

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While the mayor and the chief have not returned calls for comment, the volunteers believe the resignations are a direct response to growing tensions between volunteers and career firefighters within the city.

Michael Stammel is the chairman of the county legislature and a volunteer firefighter for many years. He and others say flaws within the system have recently come to light that show a huge breakdown in communication between Hummel, the volunteers, and paid firefighters.

Stammel also says volunteers have not been given necessary training or proper equipment to respond to emergencies.

The city has closed multiple volunteer fire stations in recent years.

Stammel says volunteers do not receive any emails or other notices involving procedures, events or calls. He says most volunteers don't even have pagers.

Stammel says last week Hummel told volunteers they can no longer go inside buildings to fight fires, but says another city employee quickly reversed that.

He says the growing tensions and lack of leadership are putting public safety at risk.

"The career guys, and they do an excellent job doing what they have to do, is they operate the trucks. That means the engines and the ladders and things of that nature. Get the truck to the scene and then the volunteers are the ones who would fight the fire," Stammel said.

"We do it because we love it. There's nothing there. There's no pension. There's no salary, a lot of times there's not even a good 'atta boy,'" he said.

Volunteers say a disgruntled career firefighter told the state about the lack of proper training for volunteers and that is what prompted the chief to order them not to enter burning buildings.


Jacquie Slater

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