October 21, 2003

Community Salutes Cayuga's Finest, Bravest

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The area’s Finest and Bravest were on display Saturday at the Cayuga Heights Fire Department open house. This event is held annually to promote fire prevention awareness and community development. The Cayuga Heights Fire Department, the New York State Police, Tompkins County Sheriff, Ithaca Police including a DARE unit, and the Ithaca SWAT team, complete with mobile unit vehicle, were present at the event.

This was a success and most of the people that came out were excited to see the department equipment and demonstrations. Assistant Chief Marshall Stocker said, “This is one of our most successful years. It is great to have the community here to see what we do.”

Numerous events were planned throughout the four hour open house, beginning with a rousing demonstration of the Jaws of Life, a machine used to rip apart metal and extracting injured people from a desperately wrecked car. A stove fire demonstration was included in connection with Fire Prevention Week. There was also an Emergency Medical Services Demonstration. All were performed flawlessly leaving local Ithaca resident, Kathy Owens, to note, “I feel safe if these guys are out there every night to protect us should something go wrong.”

Periodically, the State Police ran their vehicle tumbler, a truck cabin that spins on an axis to simulate an accident involving a rolling car. Seatbelt-less adult and child stuffed mannequins were placed inside the cabin at the start of the demonstration; after several minutes of spinning the small child was outside mangled on the pavement and the adult was wedged under the dashboard. The NYSP conveyed their lesson well: Wear your seatbelt.

Fire truck rides were offered during the day for younger children. Local resident Billy Stuart said, “That was a lot of fun. Fire trucks are awesome!” His mother Karen agreed.

The Ithaca SWAT team present was established in 1998. A unit designed to knock down doors and run in with weapons ready to take down any uncooperative villain in a city the size of Ithaca, where the most dangerous door might be a hippie commune, may be hard to comprehend. However, after the tragic death of Investigator Michael Padula in 1996, the first Ithacan police officer killed by a mentally ill local while on duty, the unit was formed.

Police Officer Brotherton explained several weapons on display from an arsenal of tactical shotguns, MP5s, and Remington .203 sniper rifles. Brotherton, a sniper and entry officer said, “There is a lot of training to maintain an effective unit.”

Officer Ducey, responsible for the Mobile Unit truck, explained, “there are 18 officers on the team all men, with numerous others for negotiation and support services. They are on call 24 hours a day seven days a week and ready for anything.”

“There are about 25-40 calls per year ranging from barricaded individuals and drug raids to hostage situations,” he added.

Seven year-old John Dolan, with a sparkle in his eye and a sticker pronouncing him a ‘Tompkins County Junior Deputy,’ “liked the guns and cool uniforms that the S.W.A.T. cops had on.”

His father Kevin Dolan “sees a future in law enforcement for him.”

Spectators were impressed by the professionalism of the Cayuga Heights Fire Department which was established in 1955 and has a membership of over 50 volunteers. They respond to nearly 500 calls every year, half of which are EMS calls. Assistant Chief Marshall Stocker commented that, “nearly half the volunteer department is made up of Cornell residents; we always welcome more.”

The CHFD recruitment process is ongoing. Classes are held twice a year with the next coming up in early 2004. The CHFD is always looking for volunteers to serve the community by joining and are always ecstatic to receive Cornellians.

Community members of all ages had a wonderful time learning about fire prevention at this successful event. All residents of Cayuga Heights and Ithaca are pleased to have such solid support in their heroic law enforcement and fire fighting services, ready to go a moment’s notice to serve and protect.

Archived article by Kris Reichardt