Volunteer firefighters will stay in village of Owego

By Jillian Marshall

April 29, 2014 Updated Apr 30, 2014 at 1:15 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Despite threats issued over the weekend that firefighters in Owego would walk off the job if they didn't get their way at a meeting Tuesday night, the department remains whole and any plans to quit are stalled.

More than 80 people lined the auditorium in the Tioga County Office Building to voice their opinions about proposed training and safety guidelines for the department.

Nearly two dozen Owego volunteer firefighters threatened to drop their equipment and quit if the Village of Owego Board failed to approve new rules, known as Standard Operating Guidelines.

The rules weren't approved, but firefighters didn't walk out either.

The S.O.G covers everything from safety, to training, to the department's leadership structure.

"The real question is, is whether we should as a department elect one chief and have that chief appoint the rest of the positions of authority," said Herbert McDowell, a member of the Owego Fire Department.

Members of the village board, who were presented the 377-page document last week, said they need more time to comb through it. After Tuesday's meeting they will have more time -- nearly two months.

All of this was prompted by the on-duty death of firefighter Matthew Porcari and six citations issued by the New York State Department of Labor that followed.

Some firefighters at Tuesday's meeting said they were disappointed over the threats. But they were relieved those threats didn't materialize.

"Politics, policies and those things can be worked out. Being a true volunteer is serving your community and not wanting anything back," said 25-year volunteer firefighter and member of the fire board, John Loftus.

The village board said it will work together with the fire board to have any outstanding problems regarding those citations figured out by May 19, well before the June 1 deadline.

This will give them nearly a month to finish the rest of the S.O.G, and come to an agreement on these new operating guidelines.

"I feel like we're moving forward. It's never going to be over, but we got somewhere that we can work together I think a little bit better now," said firefighter Andy McDowell.