K’hook requires firms to have fire emergency lock box

VALATIE–The Kinderhook Town Board heard from county Director of Emergency Management David Harrison as well as state Park Ranger Chris DiCintio about the issue of fire safety in the town at their regular meeting October 1.

Town Supervisor Pat Grattan said he asked the two men, as well as the deputy director of the county Emergency Management Division, Henry Swartz, to address the meeting after a question from resident Ed Simonsen last summer about the town’s plan to deal with major wildfires, like the ones other parts of the country.

Mr. Simonsen, who was at Monday’s meeting, said he was concerned about reforestation in the town and climate change.

Mr. DiCintio said if there is a really hot, dry summer the county can extend the state’s burn ban. Since 2009, the state has enforced a residential brush burning ban from mid-March through mid-May. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website, “New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires occur. In the seven-year period since the ban was established, the average number of spring fires per year decreased by 35.5 percent, from 2,925 in 2009 to 1,886 in 2016.”

Both Mr. DiCintio and Mr. Harrison talked about how helpful the burn ban has been in keeping fires down. Mr. Harrison said that a couple of years ago, due to a drought in the county, the burn ban was extended into the summer.

Both men said that there were not a lot of large wildfires in the area. “Columbia County is very lush, very green,” Mr. DiCintio said.

Mr. Harrison pointed out that there are 40 fire companies in the county and that “all the fire chiefs in Columbia County are good.” He said the fire chiefs are public officials and residents can contact them if they have any questions about fire safety issues.

As for wildfires, Mr. Harrison said, “I think we are as prepared as anyone else.”

To help with the issue of structure fires, the Town Board passed Local Law #3 at the meeting, which will require commercial buildings to have a lock box that gives the fire companies access to “a safe, secure and dependable method of gaining rapid entry into locked buildings in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the occupants inside any such building, as well as those responding emergency crews.” The box will have a key to the building as well as information about any alarm systems and “keys to important areas within a structure and information that may be vital and necessary.”

Niverville Fire Chief Tim Stever, who was at the meeting, said that this law was modeled after a law in the Town of Schodack. He said town businesses would have three years to comply and there were some exempt businesses in the law, like the bank branches and buildings that have pharmacies, like the CVS store. He said he supported the law so that firefighters would not have to use force to gain access to a building in an emergency.

At the public hearing on the law held before the regular meeting, no one spoke against the law. Board member Phil Bickerton, a volunteer firefighter in Valatie, said of the law, “I’ll be happy with it.”

Councilwoman Patsy Leader also supported the law saying, “I know it works.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the new law.

Also at the meeting:

• The board accepted the bid for work from Plug-In to install an electric car charging station at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building parking lot. The town received a grant from the state for the work

• Mr. Grattan presented the board with a tentative 2019 town budget. The board will hold budget workshops on October 17 and October 29, both at 6:30 p.m. Mr. Grattan said the tentative budget needed work to get it below the state mandated 2% tax cap

• The supervisor said that town Tax Collector Deidra Curtis had handed in a letter of resignation effective immediately. The board went into executive session after Mr. Grattan made the announcement.

The next board meeting will be Monday, November 5 at Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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