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Join us

“Serving as a volunteer firefighter is easier than you think… drop by the station most Tuesdays to learn more or to apply.”

– Arlington Fire Chief Michael King, 2021 Arlington Town Report

If you haven’t read the 2021 Arlington Town Report, or if you missed the pages detailing Fire Department operations, it is worth a read. We will see you at the high school on Monday night for the town meeting, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting our budget on Tuesday.

The numbers you’ll find in our budget in that town report reflect the actual cost to taxpayers in the three towns that we serve. You should know they don’t reflect the actual cost of providing those services. Each year, we count on the generosity of donors who contribute to our nonprofit 501(c)3 Arlington Fire Protection, Inc. to pay for a great deal.

Our annual Fireman’s Carnival (July 15 and 16 this year) brings in a lot of that support. We are really hoping for better luck this year with public health and weather conditions.

Your dollars all mean a lot, yet your dollars can only do so much. We also need your time.

We need a few more people willing to dash out the door, to leave loved ones behind, day or night, in any weather, to face any of a host of problems and situations with courage, skill, and pride.

Join us to serve your neighbors

What really gets us out of bed when that pager goes off at 3 a.m. is knowing neighbors need us.

Actual fires are thankfully rare, usually no more than a handful in the course of a year. You all do a pretty good job of keeping your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in good working order—please keep it up!

There are many other reasons why people call 911, and we always do our best to respond as quickly as possible, with as many of us as we need, to every call.

As Chief King mentioned in the Town Report, every volunteer fire department in the state of Vermont—and across the country—has struggled for decades to recruit people selfless enough to do sometimes risky work at inconvenient hours for low (or no) pay. In 2021, 57 percent of our responses to 161 calls were handled by four to eight firefighters.

Think about that.

Four people can do a lot, but fighting a fire with so few is likely to be either dangerous, or extremely dangerous, to the firefighters involved. We rely on mutual aid from surrounding towns to help us when we need them.

Join us to keep town taxes low

Communities across the country have for years been converting from an all-volunteer fire department to paid services, often combining fire and EMS.

Assistant Chief Randall W. Hanifen of West Chester (Ohio) Fire-Rescue gave a presentation on that during a fire service conference held virtually in 2020, describing the reasons why this is happening nationwide.

“The overall trend is that volunteerism is continuing to decline as you have dual-income families, children in sports, and just lack of an understanding and desire to do blue collar work,”

Assistant Chief Randall W. Hanifen of West Chester (Ohio) Fire-Rescue

We are doing our best to maintain the status quo, an all-volunteer fire department, in part for the good of our town taxpayers (ourselves included).

There is no way to convert from volunteers to paid staff without very significant added cost.

On page 33 of the Town Report, you will find our 2022 proposed budget (subject to approval by town voters on March 1). Revenue includes $164,485 from Arlington taxpayers. Another $66,208 comes from Sunderland taxpayers, and $24,251 from Sandgate taxpayers.

On page 34 you will see what we currently spend it on. Personnel costs are 5 percent of the total. This $13,050 line item represents the sum of all stipends paid to our officers to offset the cost of responding in their personal vehicles. The rest of the municipally funded part of our budget goes to pay for diesel fuel, equipment, and consumables. (Oh, and $6,000 for phone service and making sure we have enough pagers to go around. Which we do.)

What you will not find on those pages is the cost of payroll or benefits for any full-time staff. Personnel costs for paid fire departments are nearly always significantly higher than what those departments spend on maintenance and fuel, not the other way around. Personnel costs are usually the largest single line item (or at least high among them).

If we are ever forced to go down this road, you can count on a very significant expense to stand up and then maintain a paid fire department. That has proved to be the case even for towns that convert to a mixed-staffing model with both paid firefighters and volunteers.

Join us for the satisfaction of helping

This might be last on this list, but it is by no means the least of the reasons to join your local fire department: Helping people is its own reward.

We have all kinds of jobs to do, each contributing to successful resolution of problems. You do not have to be in top physical shape to play a supporting role on our cast of dozens.

We do need people who are truly interested in helping others. Volunteer firefighters are motivated in some part (hopefully a large part) by the pride we take in doing important work on behalf of our neighbors.

We are looking for people who agree that helping other people who need it feels good. We want people who are also willing to do hard work (even if at a radio desk). People who are willing to train to be ready for whatever, and eager to participate.

There are also (always) additional openings for cadets (junior firefighters ages 14 to 18). Our cades train with us, and respond to calls with us, though they are not allowed to perform hazardous duties. We are very happy that our cadet corps has grown to a healthy handful in the past year. We are thrilled to watch these teenagers grow into adults before our eyes, and to help teach them skills that prepare them to serve as full-fledged firefighters.

How, where, when to join us

To protect your personal information and privacy, we do not accept membership applications online. We will provide printed applications in person. You may opt to view and download a copy to print on your own. You can bring completed applications to our headquarters (East Station on Old Mill Road). You will find us there most reliably on any of the first four Tuesdays of the month.

Our application asks you to acknowledge that you have read and agree to abide by our Standard Operating Guidelines. We also require new members to read and agree to our Articles of Membership and the Bylaws of Arlington Fire Protection, Inc. No tour of our new member induction packet would be complete without a gander at our Cell Phone and Social Media Policy.

We will be happy to provide printed copies of all of these if you drop by.

Generally, our officers meet on the first Tuesday each month (7 p.m.); we drill on the second Tuesday (6:30 p.m.); our Board meets on the third Tuesday (7 p.m.); and on the fourth Tuesday we alternate each month between a second drill, or a meeting of the full membership.

If you have questions beyond what we have covered here, you can reach out to us on Facebook. Or, swing by East Station on a Tuesday evening.

Act before we are critically understaffed

As Chief King noted in the Town Report, our 161 calls for service in 2021 were the highest total in at least a decade. We are starting off on a similar pace in 2022.

We are determined to continue doing our best. We will keep training, we will keep responding, for as long as we can. We will do our best to be enough.

Our staffing situation is not an emergency, yet. But we are thin enough to make the point to ask: Can you help us? Will you join us?

Thanks in advance.

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Dispatches

The good news

This is good news: It was still daylight when we got back to town after a visit to Dorset this afternoon, where our brothers and sisters had their hands full with a barn fire. That was not even the only fire in the region today. We are grateful that we have not heard of anyone being hurt.

The good news is it is February 6, and the robins have started to return. No matter how much ice clings to our trees, spring is coming, marching our way with the dogged resolve of a Vermont lineman.

That ice did keep us busy this weekend, if not quite as busy as a Vermont lineman. Your Arlington Fire Department responded to 13 calls between February 3 and February 6, roughly a typical month’s worth of work in four days. Not that we wore ourselves out: Many of these calls were simple fire alarms (that tend to activate when the power comes back on) with no fire found. (Others have not been so lucky lately.) Our pagers sang the “wires down” song somewhat repetitively.

The ice on the trees is still bringing down limbs, in some cases ruining good work just done by the hard-working crews of Green Mountain Power. A tip of the cap to them, and a word to the wise for you: Be careful under trees full of ice. Give those some space.

The good news is, NASCAR is back to racing.

Our neighbors (and some of us firefighters) had a truly tiresome weekend, with these lengthy and tediously repetitive power outages. Some among us spent nights bundled up under as many blankets as we could get our hands on.

Our towns of Arlington, Sandgate, and Sunderland collectively crushed the statewide power outage competition. It wasn’t even close. (It might help to think of this as a “win” so we at least get some grim satisfaction out of it.)

Our friends (some of them also neighbors) working to restore power or internet (or both) worked themselves ragged. We had Green Mountain Power crews roll in from all over Vermont. They did yeoman’s work, and hung in there as long as it took. Their searchlights lit the darkness, convoys of trucks crisscrossing the town in the small hours. Hopefully, a few of them got to see how pretty our town can be in daylight.

The good news is, they will finally get a chance to sleep, well, soon. We hope. It’s looking good.

February is off to a rough start, but here’s some more good news: February is the shortest month, and every day is a little longer than the last. The good news is we will get through it, whatever the groundhog said.

It’ll be time for the Arlington Fireman’s Carnival before you know it, on July 15 and July 16 at the same town recreation park where we recently had to divert a few cars to avoid burning wires.

The sugar houses will be boiling soon.

The ice-coated trees are beautiful in a way that can make you stop your car. Our Green Mountains have been showered in diamonds.

And the sky today was as blue as you could want.

The good news is this Green Mountain Power truck appeared to be running out of things to repair in Sandgate on February 6.
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Dispatches

Structure fire

Interior attack became untenable when the roof collapsed shortly after this photo was taken.

Arlington Fire Department personnel responded to a structure fire just after 5 a.m. in a residence just off of Old West Road in the southern part of town. The occupants were out of the building by the time the first units arrived, and Engine-Tanker 75 engaged the primary attack.

Assistant Chief Vince Thompson, who was preparing to go to work and lives nearby, heard a voice calling for help. Thompson arrived to find the building well-involved with fire.

Thompson circled the outside of the building, banging on walls and windows in case people were still inside, and noticed a hissing sound that turned out to be propane outgassing from a 20-pound tank. Concerned it might explode, he made a tactical retreat to his vehicle, though he was quickly able to confirm with the resident that nobody was still inside in need of rescue.

Firefighters from our mutual aid partners in Shaftsbury, North Bennington, Manchester, and Shushan, N.Y., responded to the scene or provided coverage for the town while we worked to bring the fire under control, which took about an hour. Arlington Rescue Squad also responded to the scene in case any firefighters were hurt, but we (thankfully) did not require their medical expertise.

The firefighting effort shifted to exterior attack when the roof collapsed.

The state will investigate the cause of the fire.

Arlington Fire Department personnel remained on scene for several hours conducting salvage and overhaul operations (making sure the fire was completely extinguished by dismantling portions of the remaining structure). Those operations concluded just after 9 a.m.

Structure fire off of Old West Road.
Investigating possible extension in the basement.

While it was pretty cold (about -6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the predawn hours, and icing created a bit of a hazard, the fireground operations were not significantly impacted by weather.

Assistant Chief Vince Thompson, right, was the first firefighter on scene. He lives nearby, and was summoned by a voice calling for help.

We always prefer to save structures, but our focus is protecting people. Property can be replaced, people cannot.

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Dispatches

Knights of Malta

“The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his/her life for you, just as Crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so may years ago.”

Novato Fire District (California)
Our parade banner hangs on the wall in East Station when not on parade.

We’ve been noodling around with images for a couple of days (January being a good time for doing indoor things in Vermont), working on creating a digital version of our emblem, or logo. Also known as the round thing in the middle of the banner you see above.

We’ve had a few different versions over the years, but the main elements have carried from one generation to the next.

There are several icons in our emblem, and they all have a particular meaning.

Muster Truck at East Station.
Our Muster Truck at East Station, circa 1984.

One place you’ll find our emblem is on the outside of East Station. If you look closely, you will notice that there’s a blue cross against a gold background, with a few more symbols in the middle, including a firefighter’s helmet.

You can see those bits a little more clearly on the side of Engine-Tanker 76 today:

Emblem on ET 76
Our emblem (logo) on the side of Engine-Tanker 76

At the center of the emblem above, you can more clearly see what is called, in the world of firefighting symbols, a “scramble,” consisting of several icons.

Starting from the vertical red ladder, the tools of our “trade” (in quotations here because we are volunteers, though we are pretty well-trained and professional about what we do) are arrayed at the heart, or center of the emblem. The ladder, pike pole, ax, helmet, and nozzle are all very useful when things are burning.

The bugle is a traditional symbol of leadership in the fire service, harkening back to the days before radios and electronic loudspeakers, when officers amplified their big, booming voices through simple horns (bugles) to direct fireground operations, or just get our attention.

In this particular rendition of our most important symbol, the gold and blue are a little darker, though still present, along with green, which is entirely fitting and appropriate for Green Mountain firefighters, don’t you think?

Bit of a guess on this one, but the blue probably represents water, which we also use from time to time. It has been featured in Arlington Fire Department patches and banners for many years.

The green, gold, and red (ladder) are also present on our current patch, a version of the emblem on our banner that we are all really fond of. You can see a smaller version at the top of this webpage.

You can also see here what happens to the scramble when we have it embroidered. It loses a little… clarity. There is an ax and a helmet in there for sure, and probably a pike pole… and a second ladder, in black. But no bugle, though we do use a lot more ladders than bugles these days.

And somewhere along the line, the five-pointed stars seen on our banner (at the top of this page) became six-pointed asterisks. (We suspect that the fact asterisks are on every computer keyboard and five-pointed stars can be difficult to create in some software may have had something to do with this.)

But a five-pointed “barn star” has a history in our region that harkens back to early European settlers (particularly but not exclusively German) who decorated barns, homes, and other buildings with five-pointed stars to bring good luck and to ward off evil. Such as, for example, fire.

You can also find 50 five-pointed stars on another of our favorite symbols, the American flag.

Modern treatments

Those asterisks also made it onto the emblem used on our letterhead above. You may have seen this (or a black-and-white version of it) on one of our fundraising letters. You may not have had the same reaction to it as our new public information officer, who found the colors to be a little… off. The red and yellow are awfully bright in this one. There is also no blue in sight, though this was probably done to save a few dollars printing stationary, since every color has a cost when you go to print something.

So, we have at least three different logos (emblems) in current use, and maybe 18 different colors between them if you count all the shades and lines, and threads, and that’s a little less consistent than it could be. We’d love for everyone to know exactly who we are and what we are about when they see our emblem, our most important symbol, whether it is on a patch on our jacket, or on one of our trucks, or on our website. Or on those fundraising letters that will inspire you to give generously to support the cause of protecting everyone in our town.

Let’s start with the scramble:

The “scramble” is a set of firefighting icons arranged around a point.

This is a tricky part to get “right,” and since it is the most “artistic” element, and we’re protecting the town that Norman Rockwell called home for so many years, that seems important.

The scramble you see here has a bit of a hand-drawn quality because it is. We built an image that is very close to the scramble on our parade banner (at the top of this post), with a bugle in the vertical position, and a firefighter’s helmet set in the center and forward of (above) all the other tools. (It is arguably our most important tool; we do love our brain-buckets.) You can also see a ladder, an ax, and a pike pole, rendered a bit more clearly.

The red came from the logo of Arlington Memorial High School, quite literally. (We used computer software to sample it, basically stole it right off their website.) Instead of just using this color to create the ladder, as before, we made it more prominent. Putting this particular shade of red at the heart of our shield connects us to our local schools, and more broadly to our children, and to the town we protect.

Expanding out from the scramble, our Maltese Cross is rendered here in the (somewhat) traditional water-blue, with gold lettering, and accented in green because we are, in a metaphorical or actual sense, the children of (and living in) the Green Mountains of Vermont.

The story behind the Maltese Cross and its connection to the fire service is linked at the top of this page, so we’ll condense it here: The cross is a symbol used by the Knights of the Order of St. John, who were Christian warrior-monks who lived and died, and helped people, during the Crusades. They built and ran a hospital in Jerusalem, and thus also became known as the “Hospitallers.” They organized themselves, much like modern firefighters, as a military force, with a chain of command and discipline. They fought fiercely for their beliefs, and were also known for performing countless acts of charity, such as feeding the poor, and caring for the sick and injured.

The Knights of the Order of St. John chose the Cross of Calvary, a relatively simple silver cross, as their symbol, and wore it on their armor to help each knight of the order to differentiate friend from foe on the battlefield. They wore quite a lot of armor, in part because their enemies used fire as a weapon, throwing bombs (sometimes containing naphtha, a medieval version of napalm) that burned people alive.

The order moved to the island of Malta in 1187 after Jerusalem fell, and continued to build their reputation for courage and bravery. They are credited as the first firefighters, selflessly risking all to save their comrades from agonizing death.

Every firefighter today carries that legacy in their heart. We will not hesitate to face any fire and save our neighbors. We wear this symbol with deep pride and resolve that we will never turn away from danger when people need our help. Not ever.

That leaves just a couple more symbols and elements to consider:

We proudly serve three towns – Arlington, Sandgate, and Sunderland – and we are the latest in a long line of Arlington Fire Department personnel. Naturally, our emblem needs to visually connect to our home, and our history, so the rest of the logo we have been working on is not really new at all.

Around the outermost edge, we plucked the color of the embroidered edge of our current patch to set the new emblem off from dark backgrounds, allowing us to set the next-outermost circle in green.

This is the same green, by the way, that you fill find on another local logo, that of the Arlington Rescue Squad. (Swiped that one, too, with the same color picker tool, while they were asleep.) The common use of the same shade of green connects our organizations to our community and is also a visual nod to the pine tree on Vermont’s state seal, a very special tree that also happens to be right here in our town.

When you put all of that together, you get an emblem made with past, present, and future in mind, one that will soon be presented to our company officers and the board of Arlington Fire Protection, Inc., the administrative organization that handles the business of your Arlington Fire Department.

You get this:

The officers, the board, and the rest of your local firefighters may still want to tweak this a bit before we put it on stationary and such, but your faithful public information officer sure hopes they like it.

And now you know the story behind it.

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Dispatches

Getting chilly

With frigid air and snow coming in, we’ve got chains on the trucks and we are ready for whatever, as always, which, if you have not heard, includes a bit of snow Sunday into Monday. Maybe a little bit, maybe a lotta bit.

But first, the National Weather Service advises that the wind chill could get dangerous tonight, and stay that way into Saturday, so your Christmas mittens and sweaters will come in handy, especially if they are made of something like Merino wool. (Turnout gear is pretty warm, too, but we’d just as soon you didn’t make us put it on.)

The Weather Service reminds us that with the temperatures dropping as they are about to do, “The dangerously cold wind chills could cause
frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.” Yikes, right?

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Useful view

Click the photo to view a 360-degree panorama in a new window.

Panoramas: Not just eye candy

We created the Arlington “downtown” panorama view (click the image above to see it) partly for your amusement, and ours, and partly because it could actually become a useful tool at some point.

First responders and residents can both learn a lot from digital “products” like this. For example, in certain natural disasters such as wildfire or flooding, these images can document current conditions and the situation in affected areas in near-real-time. They can potentially be created and shared quickly enough to warn people in the path of fire or flood trouble. They also help document the damage done to help the community access disaster relief. Panoramas can be integrated into geographic information systems (GIS, or “fancy maps containing loads of data”) to help town officials evaluate responses to past incidents and plan to enhance future resilience.

We captured the photos used to create this Arlington downtown panorama view around 3:30 p.m. on January 8. An app called Litchi automated the image capture. We then stitched the files together using another program called PTGui. Then we uploaded the output to a web server, and linked to the panorama from this page.

Check out our customized Google Map to see where this panorama was captured.

What we’re up to

Your local firefighters are investigating ways to leverage technology in cost-effective ways for the benefit of our neighbors. Panoramas made from still photography or video are are just one potential tool that enhances situational awareness in times of need.

What might that look like? CAL FIRE, our wildland firefighting colleagues in California, use a product called ArcGIS from Esri to create maps like this one that offered live views of the Dixie Fire perimeter and structural damage during their response, and remains a resource showing the location of damaged structures.

Some of these tools are pricey, so we will carefully evaluate the cost-benefit before we do more. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more of these panos. They’re pretty interesting, even if we don’t wind up using them in any official capacity. It may well be useful enough to share scenes like this from time to time so our neighbors, and the rest of the world, can tour Arlington from anywhere they might be.

So, enjoy this late-afternoon view from about 250 feet above the ground, and let us know what you think. If you have particular locations that you’d like to see imaged this way, we’re open to suggestions and invitations, too. Feel free to contact us.

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Dispatches

Problematic intersection

Arlington Fire Department and Arlington Rescue Squad were dispatched at 11:23 a.m. to a two-car accident at the intersection of VT 313 and Warm Brook Road.

The Rescue Squad transported one of the drivers to the hospital for evaluation.

Vermont State Police determined that one of the drivers reported not seeing the stop sign or the red flashing light when approaching the intersection on Warm Brook Road. That vehicle collided with another vehicle traveling on VT 313.

This is the first accident at this intersection in 2022. This intersection has a long history of accidents. The state is looking into ways to make this spot a little safer. In the meantime, please take it slow and stay alert.

This (experimental) QR code should take you to the map we’re building of our 2022 responses, and other activities.
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Dispatches

Hello, winter

It’s been a quiet week so far (knock on wood), and speaking of wood we had a chance to get the drone in the air for a winter view of the West Arlington Covered Bridge with a little snow falling on the Battenkill River.

Don’t knock this wooden bridge of ours. Seriously, be careful driving large vehicles through it, and pay attention to the posted weight and clearance limits. From time to time, the town’s carpenters need to (we can’t resist) spruce things up a bit when drivers are not as careful as we’d like.

One of our local tourist attractions, this historic bridge is situated in one of the town’s most scenic spots, with the West Arlington Methodist Church and Rockwell’s Retreat seen here in the background.

If you tell us you like our photography, it will only encourage us to make more, so be advised, and enjoy your weekend!

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Dispatches

Minor mishap

Arlington Fire Department personnel handled traffic control at the scene of a one-car mishap tonight (January 1, shortly after 10 p.m.), our first call of 2022. Thanks to the drivers who took it slow around the lane closure on Route 313 approaching 7A from the west. Nobody was hurt, which is always what we hope for. The vehicle occupants declined an invitation for a ride to the hospital from our friends at the Arlington Rescue Squad.

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Is this thing on?

AFD personnel December 2021
Members voted to extend the tenure of Chief Mike King through December 2022 at the annual meeting December 28, 2021, with First Assistant Chief Vince Thompson and Second Assistant Chief Jay Coonradt also elected.

Happy New Year from your neighbors who are members of the Arlington Fire Department! We just began building this new website, and tied it to our social media accounts (we think) to spread the word about our work for the communities of Arlington, Sandgate, and Sunderland.

As time goes on, we will add more content to this website that tells the story of our volunteer first responders, the history of this fine department, and much more. We plan to use our new digital tools to keep our neighbors up to date, and to help everyone understand what we do to protect our communities.

Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to come by and join us on Tuesday evenings at the East Station. We can always use more hands, and pretty soon we’ll have a fancy online application on this website.