AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – College students are back on campus in Amherst, putting an additional strain on the resources of first responders.
For the month of September, the Amherst Fire Department received about 50 to 60 more calls than this time last year. Assistant Chief Donald McKay said last weekend alone, they took about 20 students to the hospital.
September is one of their busy months. “Just from UMass we probably have close to 30,000 more people in the area. So I can understand them having their own police force and I think they probably put the whole community under more pressure,” said Sara Vitello, a UMass Senior.
The Amherst Fire Department has slots for 44 union firefighters, but right now, they’re under 40. Assistant Chief Donald McKay told 22News he considers the department at a critical staffing level considering the size of the community they serve. He says it puts a strain on their resources, especially on weekends.
“Were bringing back a lot of our off-duty folks to staff up on the weekend to meet the demand. So we are drawing from a limited pool of resources every single weekend of the fall semester,” said Assistant Chief McKay.
During big emergencies, like during an apartment fire in August, McKay says they call in help from surrounding towns. He says there’s been talk about expanding the department, but says it boils down to a money concern for town Management.
22News asked Carlyn Perry if she’d like to see more firefighters in town. “Of course I would. Amherst is a very busy town with a lot of people and I believe that the Amherst Fire Department should have ample staff to help the citizens of the town.”