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Tense meeting leads to update in volunteer firefighter testing process in Rensselaer

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RENSSELAER, N.Y. (WRGB) - In a contentious meeting Wednesday night, volunteer firefighters voiced their concerns about not getting up to date testing that's mandated by the state.

Rensselaer County legislator and volunteer firefighter Michael Stammel says some firefighters had to get their testing in another town.

"Why should we go outside the city to get the training we need for the department in the city that we pay taxes in?" Stammel said.

Stammel says fire chief Bill Hummel told volunteers they couldn't enter a burning building. CBS 6 reached out to the chief, who declined to comment on this story. Volunteer firefighters like Gene Hilstro were concerned that this hinders his ability to do his job.

"It's disgusting. You can't do what you know you can do,” Hilstro said.

Hilstro says it's been years since he's taken these tests. CBS 6 brought his concerns to city hall.

City officials say they didn't know about these testing lapses until Wednesday’s meeting. They say that caught them off guard.

"We thought it was minor, but then we found out it was not minor,” said Dominic Tagliento, the city’s Public Works commissioner. "We thought they were getting trained but you can't keep up with everything."

City officials say they have hired someone who is certified to give these tests, and have pledged to pay for any physicals. They also say nothing is stopping them from fighting a fire from the inside.

"They can go in and fight interior firefighters. They're firefighters yesterday and they're firefighters today," Tagliento said.

City officials say the firefighters should be up to speed with the tests and physicals in close to two weeks.

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