SENTINEL HEIGHTS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– In a very rare move, the Town of Onondaga has announced its plans to dissolve the Sentinel Heights Volunteer Fire Department after 76 years of service. 

The decision is not final just yet as the Board discussed in a special meeting Wednesday night a public hearing must be held before a final vote is made. However, Town Supervisor John Mahar said a lot would need to happen between now and the public hearing to change the board’s decision.

This decision has been in the works for over a year since the Town of Onondaga started monitoring the department’s call responses. 

“They’re abysmal, and no fault of their own it’s just the sheer numbers of volunteers they’re able to have participate and calls and what time the calls might be.”

John Mahar, Town of Onondaga Supervisor

According to the Town Supervisor, the department wasn’t able to respond to 81% of their calls this year, only making it to four calls within their district since January. 

Sentinel Heights Fire Chief Melissa Abend said the town’s decision is bittersweet as her grandfather was one of the founding members of the department 76 years ago. 

She said over the years it’s become more and more difficult to respond to calls with only nine active volunteer firefighters currently and calls often coming in during business hours when they are all at their day jobs. 

It’s an issue that many neighboring volunteer departments are also experiencing as fewer people step up to the plate. 

If dissolved the neighboring districts of Nedrow and Southwood would divide the Sentinel Heights district between the two however, Abend and her team of volunteers think there could have been a better solution.

“We should have worked together and maybe got the three departments to combine into one and then we wouldn’t have lost anybody we still could have given the coverage that’s needed working together.”

Melissa Abend, Sentinel Heights Fire Chief

Mahar said the residents of Sentinel Heights won’t see a change in their call times as Nedrow and Southwood have been providing mutual aid to the area for quite some time. As for the district’s taxes, those will decrease slightly. 

The Town Board plans to make a final decision on October 17 following a public hearing at 5:30pm.