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Mingo Junction fire chief praises council action

MINGO JUNCTION — As many municipalities did, the village of Mingo Junction focused a portion of its C.A.R.E.S. Act dollars on its fire department.

The impact of that new equipment has gone far beyond COVID, too, as fire Chief Brandon Montgomery told council on Tuesday night that equipment purchased for the department with the funds helped save the lives of two firefighters during a structure fire on Clifton Avenue last week after a room they were in exploded.

“The room flashed over,” he said. “Maydays were activated, it knocked my personnel to the ground, they got disoriented and we had to send crews in to get them out.”

Montgomery displayed several items to council, including new radios that were purchased to allow for each firefighter to have their own so that radios did not have to be shared during the pandemic.

The radios, he said, helped the two firefighters to be rescued following the harrowing situation fighting the blaze.

“Using this, I knew they were upstairs, I knew where they were at,” he said. “One of things we got through the C.A.R.E.S. Act money that I put a request for was for everybody to have a radio. That was one thing we did not have. Everybody that was in that fire had a radio so they could call for help.

“These things are life saving. Those two people could have been killed very easily the other day. This is definitely worth the money that we spent.”

Another item he displayed for council was a tool the firefighters had with them when the blast knocked them down, noting how the blaze had burned off a handle and damaged the tool.

“This was a brand new tool, there was two inch padding all the way across,” he said. “One of them had this inside.

“I want to thank (council) for allowing us to use C.A.R.E.S. Act money for a lot of things. The radios were a life saver. Without that we could be sitting at a funeral. It got really bad.”

He told council he has “repaired” the department’s relationship with several surrounding departments, many of whom assisted at the Clifton Avenue fire, since taking over as chief last year.

He also noted to council that the firefighters “want to work.”

He told council that 17 firefighters from his department responded to the blaze, which is a number not seen in a long time, stating that another fire this past year only had three respond.

“This fire on Clifton Avenue, I had 17 Mingo firemen on scene, and I am glad I did,” he said, noting it’s sometimes hard to get the needed help from neighboring volunteer departments. “(Having) 17 people (on scene) hasn’t happened since (current councilman) Jack Brettell was the chief.”

He also noted that an accountability tag system he put in place also helped at the scene.

He told council that, though early still, 2021 is on pace to be a record year for calls. He said the department has had more than 80 so far in January. The department, he said, responded to more than 1,000 calls in 2020.

“If we continue the way we are right now with our call volume, this will be the busiest year we’ve probably ever had,” he said. “The calls are not stopping, they are continuous.”

Another topic of discussion between Montgomery and council was cracking down on people keeping junk on their property.

Montgomery said the department, who by law has jurisdiction over things like junk cars on private property, will be cracking down on junk items beginning on Monday.

During the report from village Administrator Bob Smith while he was updating council on road salt usage and supply remaining for the rest of the winter, council president Michael Herrick praised Smith and the village’s service department for its work clearing the roadways in recent snow storms.

“I would like to say on behalf of me and the council that this year, the times that it snowed, they did a fantastic job,” Herrick said. “Any time of the day, the roads were good.”

Smith, in turn, praised the village staff.

“I always tell people they are second to none,” he said.

Smith also noted to council that the village water department will be cracking down on unpaid bills and shutoffs in the near future.

Smith and council continued to discuss a COVID policy for the village with the absence of any new federal funding leaving the village’s employees in limbo.

Council held an executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss their options further.

During his report, acting police Chief Willie McKenzie told council that so far in January his department has made three physical arrests – all felonies, during two of which firearms were seized – and five citation traffic arrests.

Council will hold a finance meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday.

Council meets again on Feb. 9.

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