Amherst firefighters concerned about staffing

22News spoke with the Amherst Fire Chief about staffing levels.

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP)- Some Amherst firefighters say the department is understaffed with increased demand for services.

The Amherst Fire Department provides EMS and firefighters services not just to residents in their own town but also Shutesbury, Pelham, Hadley, and Leverett.

The Amherst Firefighters 1764 Union says the increased demand from more people attending the five local colleges is putting a strain on their response times.

The Amherst Fire Department has 42 staff members that cover 125 square miles in five communities with 80,000 people

Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson says it’s an issue many fire departments have, but they are trying to negotiate with the town and UMass to get more funding to add more staff.  “Four shifts, two shifts of 10, two shifts of 11 and generally we have about 8 on duty.”

Amherst firefighter union president Joseph Lagasse says they are 200 calls above where they were last year, and expect to go well over 6,000 calls by January. Lagasse said there should be around 10 more people added to deal with the increased calls.

John Wilcox, a Junior at UMass said, “I know I go to UMass Amherst and 30,000 kids is a lot in itself. I can’t imagine that they only have 42 or 44 firefighters for this whole area.”
UMass pays the town of Amherst about $300,000 a year to fund the town fire department.

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