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Danby Fire Co. serves breakfast to better serve community

Volunteers from Danby Volunteer Fire Company cooking breakfast and preparing plates for community members. Emma Kersting/Ithaca Week

Since December 2022, the Danby Volunteer Fire Company has hosted monthly Pancake Breakfast fundraisers, with the most recent of the bunch taking place Nov. 12, to continue to raise funds toward their goal of updating the extrication tools on their fire trucks.

Fundraising through community building

The company’s current set of extrication tools are powered by hydraulics, meaning that pressurized fluid adds strength to the tools to move or cut through dense metal on vehicles. The tools are colloquially referred to as the Jaws of Life. The new tools will be battery powered and can be moved farther from the truck, as opposed to the hydraulic counterparts that are connected to the truck through a hose.

The current set of hydraulic tools on the firetruck at Danby Volunteer Fire Company. Emma Kersting/Ithaca Week

Chief John Gaden from Danby Volunteer Fire Company said the fundraising efforts have so far been successful in making progress toward their goal. The fire department has been holding these pancake breakfasts, as well as pasta dinners and barbecues in the summer for almost a full year.

“We’re about three-quarters of the way [to our goal] right now, we’re hoping by the time we finish with our breakfasts in March, we should have enough money to buy all the extrication equipment,” Gaden said.

The equipment needed for both the Danby Fire Department and the West Danby Fire Department totals to about $56,000, with the tools for Gaden’s fire company costing about $27,000.

“We’re doing the breakfasts once a month from now until the end of March and then we’ll plan on some more, maybe throw in some spaghetti dinners,” Gaden said. “The breakfast is our main fundraiser, that’s what draws the most people.”

Support from Tompkins County

Fire departments and other emergency services in Tompkins County have recently seen increased response times in the past few years. In an effort to improve services, the Tompkins County Council of Governments established an Emergency Response and Planning subcommittee in 2020, now led by Joe Milliman, to strategize a more effective emergency response system.

Gaden said one of the reasons his company has struggled with response times is because they lack staff. The Danby Volunteer Fire Company has a staff of 45, with 25 of them active members.

Danby’s fire company is on a rescue squad with Bangs Ambulance, but can’t send out their own trucks unless they know a certified EMT will be responding to the call. Gaden said the fire company is low on EMTs because Tompkins County had not been offering certification courses.

“We had one EMT who finished up [training] just a while back, he had to go to Seneca Falls to get [certified],” Gaden said. “Now the county’s actually got back into doing it, so I have five people right now, which will give me 10 EMTs, giving us a better response time because our truck doesn’t roll out unless it’s got an EMT.”

Gaden said there have been Ithaca College students who volunteer at the fire company, as first responders or otherwise. These students are able to take the training courses offered by the county and support the local community through volunteering.

“If there are students at IC that want some place to come and volunteer their time, we’re always looking for members,” Gaden said. “If there’s somebody that just wants to come and join, whether they’re here for four years or not, they can get trained.”

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