Fire Commissioner's Roles and Responsibilities

Essentially the duty of a Fire Commissioner is to manage the fire district. Fire Commissioners are in charge of all fire district business except during emergency situations, which falls on to the Chief of the district - everything else, is the Board of Fire Commissioner's responsiblity.

Note that this is just a summary of the responsibilities of a Fire Commissioner. For the actual definition of fire commissioners you can refer to the New York State Town Law Section 176.

Why is the Office of Fire Commissioner So Important?

Taken from the NYS Town Law, fire commissioners can do (but aren't limited to) the following:

  1. Make any and all contracts for the purposes of providing fire protection for the given district
  2. Organize, operate, maintain and equip fire companies
  3. Adopt rules and regulations governing all fire companies and fire departments in said district and prescribing the duties of the members thereof and enforce discipline and provide for public drills, parades, funerals, inspections and reviews of the fire district fire department, or any company or unit thereof, within the fire district or at other places within the state, any adjoining state or in Canada.
  4. Adopt a resolution to employ paid firefighters and paid fire officers including but not limited to a paid chief of the fire district department
  5. Contract for a supply of water and for the furnishing, erection, maintenance, care and replacement of fire hydrants, including the erection and maintenance of markers therefor, and removal of snow and ice to provide access thereto, for fire purposes for a period not exceeding five years without any appropriation vote therefor by the qualified voters of such district.
  6. May purchase or lease apparatus and equipment for the extinguishment and the prevention of fires and for the purposes of emergency rescue and first aid and fire police squads.
  7. For the preservation, protection and storing of fire apparatus and equipment and for the social and recreational use of the firemen and residents of the district and for any of the purposes authorized by law, may acquire by purchase, lease, gift, devise or by condemnation, real property and erect, construct, alter, repair and equip suitable buildings

So you can see that the commissioners can actually do alot of things on the tax payers behalf. I left alot of other powers out in the interest of space (but can be found in Town Law), but suffice it to say that the Commissioner are responsible for the fire district and it is their duty to provide fire protection for their district. As such, there really isn't anything the fire commissioners can't do - as long as it is in the interest of providing fire protection for the district.

I left out two of the arguably largest powers of fire commissioners: levy taxes and make decisions that can affect your fire protection.

Each year as part of the budget creation process, the fire commissioners decide what the tax rate will be. They have the power to levy taxes to pay for fire protection. The ability to tax the public is probably the biggest power that a fire commissioner has.

The next runner up in my opinion is their decisioning powers of your fire protection. The ability to equip a fire department with defibrillators, Jaws of Life, Hazardous material tools all begin with the decision being made by the board. The Greenfield Fire District is fortunate enough to have these tools and I know first hand that these tools have helped save numerous lives over the past nine years since I've been there. Its these decisions and many others that the commissioner can make that can drastically affect your safety.