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High comp costs end 80-year tradition for firefighters in small town

Posted On: Sep. 28, 2018 12:30 PM CST

High comp costs end 80-year tradition for firefighters in small town

Copenhagen, New York, is now the little village that couldn’t keep its firefighting competition team after high workers compensation costs weighed the program down, according to a WWNY-TV report that aired Friday. 

Firefighting Drill Association of New York says fire competitions “are geared towards honing basic firefighting proficiencies, developing and fostering teamwork, character-building, commitment, discipline, physical fitness and conditioning.”

Yet the Village of Copenhagen’s Board of Trustees classified them as too expensive.

"It's an unfortunate day, we knew it was coming at some point," Trustee Mark Souva said, according to the media report. "The burden on the taxpayers was getting too great, so unfortunately the village made the call to call it quits for it."

The drill team had been racing for 80 years, in competitions where team members participate in potentially dangerous firefighting events, according to the news report.

In just the last year, two drill team members have gotten hurt and the fire department has a total of three workers compensation claims, all stemming from drill team injuries, according to the report. The village pays $13,000 in workers comp premiums — a figure trustees said they expect will go up.

"I really have a hard time sitting here looking at taxpayers and saying, 'Oh, it's OK that they race.' I can't say that," Trustee Kim Vogt said, according to the report. "It's not. It's dangerous and we all know it. And they're getting hurt. These are not small bills."

The fire chief, a 44-year member of the team, walked out of the meeting after the decision, according to the report.