Bensalem fire company suspended

BENSALEM, Pa. - July 11, 2012

Still, it was an unusual sight at the Union Fire Company Tuesday night.

The lawn chairs were spread out, volunteer firefighters were out of uniform and there wasn't one call for service because the township suspended operations at the firehouse.

"We have a lot of firehouses, but these guys strive to do their job every day," Rob Belinski of Bensalem said.

The township says the suspension was the result of numerous incidents and issues over the past 30 months and the leadership has failed to follow both administrative and operational directions from the township.

Tonight, Steve Carmichael, the president of the fire company, would only read a statement to Action News as his firefighters stood behind him.

"Today's action by the public safety director comes as a surprise to the officers of the Union Fire Company," Carmichael said.

This is the second time in a little more than a year Bensalem has suspended operations at Union Fire.

Last June, the township claimed the company failed to send the proper number of firefighters to fires and tried to beat the township's paid firefighters to scenes.

"We believed we were making progress in improving our relationship with the township and the neighboring fire companies. At this time, we have not been given a copy of the oversight committee's report nor have we received specific details that caused the director to take this action," Carmichael said.

While Bensalem officials say they've lost confidence in Union Fire, nearby residents like Kim Kline, whose brother is a volunteer firefighter at the company, are worried about public safety.

"I just feel like there's more going on and we're not being informed too well about what's really going on in the township," Kline said.

Bensalem says other fire companies are providing coverage to the area.

But union fire says while it has confidence in those fellow firehouses, response times will be delayed.

The township hasn't said how long the suspension will last.

On Wednesday, Bensalem Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran told Action News how long the suspension will last is up to the fire company, but at least three things have to be completed: decommission a $1-million boat paid for with federal grant money and township taxpayers dollars, long range plan of how it plans to fix numerous issues involving the fire company, and new leadership.

A community meeting was scheduled Wednesday night for the township to speak to residents on public safety.

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