Nearly 200 people streamed into a public forum Tuesday night at Falmouth Public High School, where town officials explained their decision to shut down the West Falmouth fire station and offered a window into the future of fire protection for the town.
Officials said closing the 90-year-old station is necessary because the West Falmouth Fire station is limited by out-of-date equipment and staffed with only one first responder given current resources.
As of July 1 no fire equipment can be sent out on a call when there are fewer than two firefighters, paramedics, or EMTs on board, according to a newly negotiated contract between the Falmouth firefighters’ union and the town.
“[This plan] eliminates the single-person firefighter responses [which are] incredibly unsafe, incredibly dangerous, and that’s a huge step forward for the town,” said Falmouth Fire Chief, Michael Small.
The Falmouth Fire department responded to more than 8,000 calls in the last year, with only 5 percent of those originating in West Falmouth. Nearly 80 percent of calls come from the north and east sides of town, Small said.
After the town’s presentation, several residents in attendance shared personal stories of how the West Falmouth Fire department saved their lives or the lives of loved ones.
They said they’re afraid that if the West Falmouth Fire station is closed, first responders from North Falmouth will have to cover their village, potentially increasing response time from four minutes to 14 minutes.
That increase is possible, but hard to know for certain, Small noted.
Still, Anne Hart-Cool of West Falmouth told the crowd of nearly 200 that she was revived after an emergency earlier this year by a West Falmouth firefighter, and if the rescue response time increases, she worries people like her might not make it.
“I take a little bit of offense to being part of the gap,” she said. “Seconds counted that day.”
“Nobody--nobody appreciates that gap more than I do,” Small said. “If I had more people, they would be filling that gap in the northwest area."
The town hopes to build a new station to serve the north and west sections of Falmouth in the next five years. It will then decide whether to continue to use five fire stations or close the North Falmouth station, keeping the number of fire stations at four.