RENSSELAER, N.Y. -- Volunteer Michael Stammel has been fighting fires in the city for 45 years. But earlier this week, he says his chief told him and his fellow volunteers they would not be able to fully perform interior firefighting duties.
“He told us we would not be able to enter the fires," Stammel said.
He says that's because of a Public Employee Safety and Health investigation, which found qualifications for city volunteer firefighters were not up to par. He says the city did not budget for the training.
“[Volunteer firefighters] are not going to go out and pay for physicals on their own," Stammel said. "They’re not going to go all over the county or the state to get the training they need. If the city wants the volunteers to participate, the city should be providing that training.”
City Public Works Commissioner Dominic Tagliento calls the situation a misunderstanding. He says nothing is stopping the volunteer firefighters from entering fires.
“There was never a time people were at risk," Tagliento said.
According to Tagliento, once the city was made aware, it's been working to assign volunteer firefighters the proper courses.
“It went on, and we thought it was being taken care of," Tagliento said. "You know what happens when you don’t check.”
Moving forward, Stammel says he wants better communication and support from the city, especially since they're volunteers. He says while they wait for their training, they're still ready to fight and enter fires.
"Anybody that signs up to be a firefighter is not going to pay very much attention to that. If they know there’s somebody that needs our help, we’re going to do everything in our power to help, despite what they chief may say,” Stammel said.
Spectrum News did reach out the Rensselaer fire chief, but he did not return our calls for a comment.