A village Fire Station is more than just a town building. It’s more than a place to house our first responders and their equipment. A village Fire Station is part of the fabric of the community. At the head of Davisville Road, on the northwest corner where the gas station and convenience store is today, there used to be a fire station. The building still stands. It was moved down the road a piece and now hosts a couple of apartments rather than the shiny red engine that used to fill that venerable old building along with soot, stories, and the satisfaction of those who served.
When the building went out of service, a new, larger, and more modern station had already been built in its place. That new Station 5 still stands today, just a few steps away from the final resting place of its older cousin, and acts as the hub of fire and rescue response for the entire eastern section of town.
That changing of the guard for those who guard our safety was more than 25 years ago, but our local leaders understood then that the new station was an imperative before closing and moving the old one – to satisfy good public policy, good public safety practice, and plain old good sense.
Not too long after the East Falmouth station was built, a similar proposal to modernize our fire and rescue response emerged. That plan sought to have a new, modern station built on Thomas Landers Road, perfectly situated pretty darn near the geographic center of town, where our firefighters could fan out like the spokes on a wheel, and respond more rapidly to Hatchville, North, and West Falmouth locations and improve response within the all-important six-minute time-frame, identified by the National Fire Prevention Association, the American Heart Association, and others as a critical point of demarcation for emergency response. The plan was to close the North and West Falmouth stations, but like the earlier plan, only when the new station was built, ensuring response times and the public safety would remain intact. At the time, our elected and appointed decision makers listened, debated, listened some more and then concurred, and the plan was deferred until the day when a Hatchville station was built.
We fast forward to today – where the plan has been altered and the common sense is gone. The current plan under consideration by the Board of Selectmen to simply close the West Falmouth station and hope for a new Hatchville station down the road reverses the previous trend of a thoughtful and inclusive approach. It endangers both public confidence and public safety, both precious commodities that should be paramount to our decision makers. By some accounts provided at a recent Selectmen’s meeting, response times to some sections of West Falmouth would balloon up to more than ten minutes – perhaps as many as eleven, nearly double the optimum time to respond to a Falmouthite in need. While I understand that the first responder from West Falmouth is an engine and not an ambulance, it is still a first response by a trained and skilled professional – most often a paramedic – that can offer lifesaving assistance.
The people of West Falmouth are rightfully troubled and concerned, and have mobilized to convince the policymakers – our elected leaders – that their voices must be heard. At that same meeting on this important topic, hundreds of signatures from Falmouthites were presented, offering an emphatic and unified plea to protect their village – our village.
Selectmen promised a robust and engaging discussion on the topic. “When we do make that decision,” said Board Chair Kevin Murphy, “we will make that decision as an entire community.”
That’s good, because the community will surely be impacted.
Here’s hoping our decision makers take a cue from their counterparts of yesterday and listen.