As the second largest city in Chautauqua County, The City of Dunkirk has a fire department that is meeting the challenges of today with a mostly “paid” department with a volunteer presence. Chief Mike Edwards is the leader of the Dunkirk Fire Department. Now being a career firefighter Chief Edwards started on the volunteer side of the department. He served as Volunteer Fire Chief and after his appointment as a City of Dunkirk firefighter, he rose to the rank of Chief. In Chief Edwards’ own words he actually grew up in the fire service. Living behind the fire station he was a presence at the station even before he was old enough to join. Then as part of the volunteer “Bunker Program” the fire station became his home. Today he has the top office.

The Dunkirk Fire Department has 24 career firefighters along with Chief Edwards. All members of the Dunkirk Fire Department have New York State EMT certification. New recruits attend the New York State Fire Academy in Montour Falls, New York for weeks of training. If possible, all recruits start with approximately 5 weeks of duty prior to attending the Montour Falls training. The department is divided into 4 platoons under the direction of Chief Edwards and Captain Gary Katta. Each of the platoons is led by a Lieutenant. Shifts are a common two 9 hour days followed by two 15 hour night shifts. Manpower on a shift consists of 4 firefighters plus a Lieutenant. Dunkirk also works an automatic call back of “off shift” personnel for every fire alarm. With a residency requirement for new recruits along with a 5 year residency requirement continuing after appointment, this auto call back results in an average of 8 off shift firefighters responding to alarms of fire from within the city.

The volunteer fire service in the City of Dunkirk is directed by the Dunkirk Volunteer Fireman’s Association. The Association is made up from the 5 historic volunteer companies in the City of Dunkirk. Dunkirk Hose No. 1, Citizens Hose No. 2, Daniel F Anson Hose Company No. 3, Murray Hose Company No. 4 and Pioneer Hook & Ladder. With proud histories and traditions of volunteer dedication in the City of Dunkirk, these companies have experienced decline in participation due to age along with population changes and are challenged to respond with only a limited number of active volunteer firefighters.

The Dunkirk Fire Department is currently working out of 3 fire stations. “Headquarters Station” at 311 Eagle Street is the largest station. With a history dating back to its construction in 1911 it houses Ladder 1, Rescue 1, Rescue 2, Car 1 & Car 2. Chief Edwards office is also located at the Headquarters Station. Daniel F Anson Station 3, built in 1953, is located at 11 Middle Road. Named for fallen firefighter Daniel F. Anson who was lost in a line of duty death in 1979; this station houses Engine 3. Murray Hose Station 4, which was placed into service in 1968 and is located at 104 West Doughty Street, houses Engine 4 and Engine 1. Murray Hose Company No. 4 has their meeting room at this station and to visit is a step back in time. The trophies, pictures and awards surround the meeting room allowing a review of the history of the fire service in the City of Dunkirk. The three engines are always ready for service and are rotated to insure equal service. The engine in reserve is manned by responding “off shift” firefighters in the event of an alarm of fire.

A Zodiac Rescue Boat is housed in Daniel F Anson Station 3 in the winter months and is docked at Chadwick Bay Marina in the warm weather months. The City of Dunkirk is located on the shores of Lake Erie and as an active International body of water it has its own different types of events for the Dunkirk Fire Department. To respond to these events the Dunkirk Fire Department is part of a City of Dunkirk Water Emergency Team (WET) which is made up of both Dunkirk Fire Department and City of Dunkirk Police Department personnel. A unique resource that is available to the WET is a pair of jet skis which are donated for each years’ use to the City of Dunkirk by Appolson’s Performance Center located at 5820 Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg. This program is a joint project involving the City of Dunkirk Police Department, Appolson’s Performance Center and Yamaha Powersports.

In 2015 Dunkirk Fire Department responded to a total of 2043 calls. These are broken down to 1571 EMS calls with 606 transports, 234 Still Alarms, 186 Full Assignments and 58 Mutual Aid Calls. The Dunkirk Fire Department does Basic Life Support (BLS) transports for which it does bill to patient’s insurance company. It also is an active part of the Chautauqua County Mutual Aid system both giving and receiving mutual aid.

Chief Mike Edwards listed his main challenge to be the financial restraints of today. To work to maintain modern equipment standards with limited funding is always a consideration. Examples of this are the changing of the radio system along with replacing older equipment. It was stated that the number one priority has always been and will remain to be safety of the firefighters and the citizens of the City of Dunkirk.

An asset that the City of Dunkirk and the County of Chautauqua have teamed together to preserve and grow is the Turk Murphy Training Center. Located on Brigham road this facility has in recent years witnessed a revival and is back to being a state of the art training facility. Through joint cooperation between the City and the County the buildings have been renewed and expanded. That cooperation in 2015 included the addition of the modern live burn trailer for firefighter training. A testament to inter-agencies working together the Turk Murphy Training Center is a true success story for both the City of Dunkirk and Chautauqua County.

In an ever changing City such at Dunkirk, the duties and functions of the First Responders will continue to evolve. Economic factors that are out of the control of the Dunkirk Fire Department will be always affecting the operations of the Fire Department. However the mission to protect and preserve the citizens and property of the City of Dunkirk and the County of Chautauqua will continue.