Over 50% Longer Fire Response Time in Tobyhanna Twp After TTVFC Banned

APR 6 2023

TOBYHANNA TOWNSHIP– An analysis of fire response logs show a nearly 55% increase in the time needed to put a firefighting vehicle on the scene after the supervisors enacted their sweeping new fire ordinance on August 15, 2022.
To conduct the review, The Boro & Towne News obtained copies of the Tobyhanna Township Fire Response Logs from the Monroe County Control Center (“MCCC”), which handles 911 calls here.
We reviewed the logs for an equal period of time prior to and after the effective date of the fire ordinance.
That ordinance, which dramatically altered the nature of the relationship between the township and the fire companies serving it, was unanimously passed by the township supervisors on August 15, and went into effect as of August 23, 2022.
Three days prior,  the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company’s (TTVFC) lawyer sent an email notifying the township that if they passed the ordinance as drafted, the company would remove itself as a ‘primary’ fire company for the town.
At the time, the township recognized two fire companies as “primary” for the purposes of 911 dispatching into the municipality: the TTVFC and the Pocono Summit Volunteer Fire Company. Other area companies have mutual aid or other arrangements to help as and when needed and also can be dispatched into the town.
The TTVFC declined to continue as a ‘primary’ under the new fire code because it said the code threatened to hamper their ability to provide effective fire protection services to the township.
They objected to a number of the new provisions, including especially the provision forcing ‘primary’ companies to turn over ownership of their vehicles and equipment to the township. Most are traditionally held in the name of the volunteer companies, which are formally organized as independent corporations under Pennsylvania law.
They also objected to the provisions granting the supervisors wide latitude in deciding if the town needed to take over control of a fire company.
Those provisions applied only to primary fire companies, but not to secondary ones. The TTVFC asked the supervisors to delay passage so that they could continue to work out a compromise, but failing that, told the supervisors that they were willing to continue to operate as secondary responders in the township until everything was worked out, even if it meant no financial support from the town.
The supervisors rejected both options and banned the company.
On August 22, they sent an email to the MCCC instructing the county 911 center “as of 0001 hours on August 23, 2022 [to] no longer dispatch the TTVFC to incidents within Tobyhanna Township.”
The TTVFC urged the township to reconsider, pointing out they had more vehicles and equipment and were closer to many areas of the township than the Pocono Summit crew.  They told the supervisors that response times would go up.
The supervisors denied that fire response times would go up and promised residents that “nothing will change.”
To evaluate how the events of August impacted fire coverage in the town, we looked at the county call logs for March 15 through June 30, 2022 – when the TTVFC was still a primary responder. We then compared that data to data for September 15 through December 31, 2022. Each being 107 days.
We followed the definitions used by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the international non-profit fire prevention and safety organization. For over 125 years, the NFPA has been the industry touchstone for codes and standards.First, we looked only at actual fire incidents – calls for  which fire-fighting apparatus were needed.  We measured the time between the 911 dispatch and the arrival of the first first firefighting vehicle on the scene.
According to the NFPA, this period is so critical that they measure it in seconds.
For the period March 15 through June 30, the average time we found was 829 seconds (almost 14 minutes). For the later time frame, when the TTVFC was forced to stand down, the response times were much longer – an average of 1,204 seconds (over 20 minutes).
According to the time logs provided to us by the MCCC, township residents had to wait an average 53.8% longer for fire equipment to arrive at their homes or businesses after August 23.
Ironically, TTVFC is being dispatched to other areas to assist as needed – but are excluded from their home territory.
According to TTVFC officials, they remain fully certified, equipment, and capable of responding to fires in the township, and elsewhere.