By Matthew Reitz
A recent stretch of heavy snowfall and unrelenting cold temperatures is creating challenges for local emergency workers.
Fire crews across the area are dealing with longer response times as road conditions are slowing them down on their way to emergency scenes. They say, in addition to what they’re responding to, freezing temperatures and snow on the ground can create major issues at the scene.
Acting Fulton Fire Chief Paul Foster cited narrow roads, high snow banks and buried fire hydrants as some of the biggest challenges facing the department due to recent weather.
“If (residents) can make a path to a hydrant, that makes it that much easier on us,” Foster said.
In January, frozen hydrants “caused a substantial delay in combating a fire,” on Murray Street in Oswego, according to assistant chief Jon Chawgo of the Oswego Fire Department. Firefighters had to connect to six hydrants to find two that functioned properly. Luckily, the first hydrant they connected to worked, but the fireman had to run 1,000 feet of hose down to West 1st Street to find a second hydrant.
Scriba Volunteer Fire Deparment Chief Kurt Wehrmann named hydrants as one of their biggest issue, as well.
“We can’t possibly get to (shoveling out) every hydrant in the area,” Wehrmann said.
Scriba has not seen an increase in call volume, but narrow driveways and poor road conditions have created challenges for them, Wehrmann said.
As snow banks grow and road widths narrow, side streets can be especially difficult for emergency vehicles to traverse.
“The (Oswego) DPW is doing the best job they can,” Chawgo said. “Emergency parking bans enacted in Oswego in recent days should allow the DPW to clear more streets and improve the situation in the city.”
The Fulton Police Department is dealing with the “same challenges everyone else is,” according to Deputy Chief Thomas Abelgore. Enforcing the overnight parking ban and keeping vehicles off the street is a pressing issue with current snow deposits, he said.
There have been “a lot of accidents caused by high snow banks,” according to Abelgore. He urged people to “use a little more caution, and take their time,” when entering the roadways. Abelgore also urged residents to be patient and stressed that the DPW is working with its limited resources to take the banks down.
Abelgore also called on residents “not to put snow in the roadway,” as it “creates hazards for cars passing through.” On its Facebook page, the Fulton Police Department said, “there is a Fulton City Code that prohibits the placing of unsafe substances in the roadway, which includes snow.” Residents can be ticketed for this offense, police say.
Foster also noted that the “wind chill has just been brutal.” The cold temperatures sometimes drive people to seek auxiliary heat sources that can become a hazard if people aren’t careful. Foster stressed that people need to use caution with plug-in heaters and be sure not to “forget it’s there or stack stuff on it.”
Foster has called on residents to “cooperate and help” as much as possible.