Donna Liquori Staff writer
Section: LOCAL,  Page: C1

Date: Sunday, April 14, 1991

North Albany residents on Saturday urged the city to postpone closing their neighborhood fire company until a public hearing could be held.

That could take three months, but even as protesters criticized the city's decision, the neighborhood fire station was closed. Members of the group of about 50 people assembled at School 20 on North Pearl Street told 4th Ward Alderman Thomas Rourke that closing the company would endanger the lives of people living in the area.

Rourke, however, urged residents to trust Fire Chief James Larson. The chief did not attend the Saturday afternoon rally.

Larson is closing the Engine 3 Fire Co., which serves the North Albany neighborhoods of the city, and the rescue squad at Clinton Avenue and Ontario Street.

The closings are designed to be part of consolidation to form a citywide unit. That tactical unit is scheduled to begin active duty Monday and will be stationed in the Engine 3 station.

Larson said the tactical unit will serve North Albany at least as well as the fire company has, and possibly better because the tactical unit will be capable of providing more emergency services.

The Albany Permanent Professional Firefighters Association doesn't buy that. Its leaders contend that the unit will be busy at other calls throughout the city.

"Give us 90 days and hear us out," requested Eva Gilmore, vice president of the Parent Teacher Association at School 20.

"If we put a stop on it, there goes progress," replied Rourke. "Don't you trust the chief?"

The crowd's loud response: "No!"

"We're basically talking about human lives," said Henry Isenbergh, a city firefighter, in an interview after the rally. Isenbergh is a North Albany resident and has been stationed at New Scotland Engine 11.

He said the Fire Department is already overburdened and needs fire companies assigned to protect the neighborhoods in which the stations are located.

Darlene Cole, president of the tenants association at Corning Homes in North Albany, is concerned about losing the neighborhood fire company. She said the development has 292 units. "We have a lot of families. A lot of units. There's a potential for a tragedy."

Joe C. McElroy, a member of the North Albany Neighborhood Association, and other members phoned fire companies in the area to find out how many firefighters were in the stations. Engine 3, they learned, was already closed.

The fire chief could not be reached for comment and a message left at the Fire Department went unanswered.