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Rising Flames, New Frontiers: Inside Hornell’s Fire Department Challenges and Triumphs

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An interview with the Chief on challenges, accomplishments, and mission of the HPD

By: Johanna Elattar, pictured is HPD with local students

In a recent interview with Hornell Fire Department Chief Frank Brozozowski, a glimpse into the multifaceted challenges faced by the department emerged, highlighting a community grappling with the opioid epidemic, an aging population, mental health issues, and the evolving landscape of emergency services.

Chief Brozozowski

One of the most pressing issues Chief Brozozowski disclosed was the surge in drug overdoses, particularly fueled by the pervasive opioid epidemic. Over the past few months, Hornell has witnessed an alarming increase in overdoses involving substances like Fentanyl and other hard drugs. The Chief explained that the city used to have the capability to detain drug addicts for 24 hours, during which time they were provided with essential care – food, a place to sleep, medical attention, and necessary medications. However, recent changes in policy have eliminated this provision, resulting in a spike in overdoses and an unfortunate increase in homelessness.

The challenges don’t end there. The Fire Department has experienced a growing number of calls related to the elderly. With many seniors living alone and in need of care, the shortage of available services has become apparent. The aftermath of the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, leading to a decline in the number of health aides and nurses available to tend to the elderly population.

Mental health is another area where Hornell is feeling the strain. Chief Brozozowski pointed out that mental illness is on the rise, yet there is a stark shortage of facilities and services to address the growing needs. Many individuals with mental health issues resort to self-medication through drugs and alcohol, often culminating in homelessness.

Despite these challenges, the Hornell Fire Department has embraced new technology to enhance their efficiency and capabilities. Both the Fire and EMS departments now boast advanced equipment, including life-sustaining tools. Chief Brozozowski highlighted the use of advanced air packs that provide firefighters with breathable air under pressure, allowing them to operate safely in hazardous environments. Thermal imaging cameras have also proven invaluable in locating individuals in fires more swiftly.

A significant boost came in the form of a FEMA grant, which facilitated the replacement of outdated gear and rescue equipment. Monitors and life-sustaining equipment for transporting stroke and heart attack victims to hospitals have further improved emergency response capabilities. Chief Brozozowski, a trained paramedic himself, takes pride in training other paramedics to enhance the overall proficiency of the department.

Community outreach is an integral part of the Hornell Fire Department’s mission. Chief Brozozowski emphasized their involvement with the local school system, participating in Fire Prevention Month activities in October and providing CPR training. The department is also engaged with disabled students from BOCES, offering them the opportunity to work at the fire station, fostering confidence and a sense of inclusion.

The NY Landquest team salute all first responders!

In addition to their routine duties, the Hornell Fire Department extends its services to the Amish communities, recognizing the challenges they face during emergencies, particularly concerning children.

When discussing preventive measures, Chief Brozozowski highlighted the city’s proactive stance on wild fires. With a robust water supply and strict regulations on burning leaves or garbage, the chances of wildfires are significantly reduced. Collaborating closely with the Codes Department, investigative teams conduct home inspections, identifying potential hazards and educating residents on safety.

Reflecting on memorable rescues, Chief Brozozowski shared instances ranging from pulling people out of fires and car accidents to more lighthearted calls, including the rescue of a mixed breed dog with its head stuck in a banister. The Chief noted that not all calls are life-threatening; some are humorous, like the stereotypical cat stuck in a tree scenario, which he assured can often be resolved simply by placing food at the base of the tree.

In the face of evolving challenges, the Hornell Fire Department remains dedicated to its mission, leveraging technology, community engagement, and a commitment to public safety to navigate the complexities of emergency response in the modern era.

Johanna Elattar is a Hornell based writer with focus on community news and human interest stories. She can be reached at hauntedhill@yandex.com

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