Our team has put a tremendous amount of time and effort into developing an efficient and affordable plan for the Litchfield Fire Station. We understand that you may have some questions about the project and how it impacts you as a Litchfield resident. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the project. Please email Chief Fraitzl if you have other questions that we can answer for you.
Q: Will the new fire station be staffed with full-time personnel?
A: The department currently has two full-time personnel who work Monday thru Friday from 8am – 4 pm. The remainder of the department is comprised of on-call personnel who respond from home, work, or wherever they are in Town when an emergency arises. On-call staff respond to all incidents outside of these hours as well as assist the full-time staff during weekday incidents. On average, seven personnel respond to each call for service/incident.
Based on the historical call volume, and activity levels of our call department, there is no current plan to add full-time staff. The cost to add each additional full-time firefighter is roughly $150,000 with salary, benefits, uniforms, equipment and refresher training requirements. To provide 24/7/365 full-time coverage with two firefighters on duty would cost approximately $978,342 per year in addition to the current budgeted amounts for the existing full-time staff.
Q: What is the difference between 24 hour coverage and an on-call department?
A: 24 hour coverage, or manning, is not as simple as it appears to be. Aside from the cost associated with adding two full-time firefighter /EMT’s per shift (approximately $978,342 per year) in addition to the current existing full-time staff for 24/7/365, there are several other factors that must be considered. With the exception of Nashua, surrounding towns do not have dedicated staffing for all of their fire apparatus. Dedicated staffing is enough on duty firefighters to adequately staff each truck. This is important because if a station has (4) fire trucks assigned to it, they only have enough manpower to put one of those trucks on the road. Typically there are (3) firefighters on shift who cross-man between a fire truck and an ambulance or fire truck and ladder truck. Depending on the type of emergency they will respond appropriately with the correct vehicle needed for that call. If a second emergency call comes in, there is no one there to take another truck. They can only respond to one call at a time with a three person crew. Litchfield’s on-call force on average has (7) firefighter’s respond for a call. “We” have on one call almost the same amount of firefighters as three staffed stations combined in either Hudson or Londonderry.
In the event of a second call they must rely on another fire station in their community or mutual aid from an outside town to go to the second emergency. On a simple call such a fire alarms going off in a building, all three staffed stations may be routinely dispatched leaving no one available for the next call until a truck becomes available. Because most Full-Time departments have no residency requirements for employment, it is common to not get off duty guys coming back for calls and almost none of the towns around us have on-call forces any longer.
Q: Why is this important?
A: Litchfield’s on-call force allows us to provide for (2) medical calls to be done simultaneously with 30 other responders available if a third or fourth call comes in. In 2017, out of 653 emergencies we had 42 occurrences of multiple calls at the same time. These numbers do not reflect storm responses. Most of our first responders live in the dense area where the proposed station needs to go. Put the station closer to the people responding and the emergency calls they have to get to, makes for a faster response time. This provides 100% better service to the citizens of Litchfield.
Q: How would the proposed new station benefit the firefighters and result in faster response times to the community?
A: As previously stated, most of our first responders live in the densely populated area of town where the proposed station needs to go. From the current fire station located on Charles Bancroft Hwy there are (7) Firefighter/EMT’s within a 2-4 minute travel time from their homes. If the proposed fire station on Liberty Way is approved by voters, the number doubles to (14) Firefighter/EMT’s within 2-4 minutes and (18) within 5 minutes travel time of the station.
This proposed station in the geographical center of town allows a greater number of firefighters to get to the station quicker and gives the fire apparatus faster response times to the majority of homes in the community.
Q: What is Automatic Response and Mutual Aid?
A: Residents may see Hudson or Londonderry respond for fires in town and may have a belief that Litchfield isn’t capable of putting out our own fires. This confusing misconception is because of a fairly new proactive approach that most fire departments are now embracing. It is called “automatic response,” a prearranged agreement between towns that provides automatic aid for significant events. When a fire is reported in Litchfield, Litchfield fire equipment and a Londonderry Ladder are automatically dispatched for the fire. Londonderry and Hudson, because they are staffed 24/7, are able to leave immediately from their stations. In most cases because the equipment is dispatched at the same time, it all arrives on scene faster to throw more resources at a fire much quicker to attempt to extinguish or control a fire before it grows too large. Early notification through the 911 system is a major factor to be able to accomplish this task.
Litchfield is not alone in receiving mutual aid from a community. Most departments do not have enough resources or personnel to fight a fire on their own and still have adequate staffing to be ready for the next emergency that gets called in. National standards recommend a minimum of 15 firefighters to safely and effectively perform all the different functions required to extinguish a structural fire. All the towns and cities in Southern NH belong to Border Area Mutual Aid which is a written agreement signed by all 32 communities in Southern NH and Northern MA to provide help to one another for mutual benefit in an emergency. Londonderry and Hudson, along with every other fire department, relies heavily on surrounding communities for any serious fire or incident that occurs in within their borders.
In 2017, Litchfield received mutual aid from Londonderry and Hudson (6 times), Litchfield responded (11 times) to Londonderry and (1 time) to Hudson.
Q: How would the new station accommodate the department’s vehicles and apparatus?
A: Our current fire station has a total of 4 apparatus vehicle doors. The two in front are each double deep holding four fire trucks. A single drive-through bay runs north to south in the rear of the building housing one additional truck. Our current station provides housing for five vehicles leaving another five vehicles, a rescue boat and a trailer outside, exposed to the weather. The proposed station’s apparatus bays provides spaces for all the department’s current fleet.
For more information on the Litchfield Fire-Rescue Department fleet of response vehicles and their roles in emergency and rescue responses, click here.
Q: Why are we not adding an ambulance?
Almost all our personnel are trained at the emergency medical technician basic (EMTB) level or higher. We presently have four certified at the paramedic level (1 FT, 3 On-call) which is the highest level of pre-hospital certification. Currently, LFD responds to all medical calls with a Rescue vehicle equipped with almost all the same equipment as an ambulance. However, it is not capable of transporting patients. This allows our personnel to provide emergency medical care prior to the ambulance arriving.
The Town currently contracts with Hudson Fire Department for ambulance service at the advanced life support level. This is at a cost of approximately $60,000 per year, in addition Hudson in turn bills the patient for services provided which is typically covered by the patient’s insurance. For Litchfield to provide ambulance service it would require the purchase of an ambulance and the necessary equipment to meet NH Bureau of Emergency Medical Services licensure. While some of our current equipment would be able to be utilized, the cost to purchase and equip a new ambulance would be approximately $300,000 – $400,000. These costs do not include annual operating costs for disposable equipment, medications and other supplies. Given our current cost of approximately $60,000 per year, the return on investment is not feasible.
Q: Why is the new station needed?
A: Our station has exceeded its lifespan and functionality by many measures. The current facility, which was built by volunteers nearly 60 years ago, has structural issues, code violations and lacks the space necessary to adequately serve the Town of Litchfield as a whole. Litchfield’s current population is now 12 times what it was when the current station was built nearly 60 years ago. As our town continues to grow, the limitation of this undersized and outdated station impacts our ability to respond to emergencies in our community.
More space in a more centralized location prepares us well to handle recent and future Town growth. The current facility forces us to leave apparatus outside – the new proposed station would provide sufficient space to house our apparatus and vehicles. A new station may also attract new volunteer and professional firefighting personnel. Construction costs also continue to escalate, and bond rates are still relatively low, so building sooner rather than later will likely save the town money in the long run.
Q: Why not add to and renovate the existing station?
A: The 2016 Feasibility Study by Warrenstreet Architects examined the opportunities, challenges, and costs associated with an addition and renovation of the current station. “The existing building will be very difficult to renovate, programmatically does not meet the needs of a state of the art fire department, and will require the fire department to relocate during construction, a hardship that will be difficult to accommodate.”
Our team did explore several building concepts that would encompass adding and renovating to the existing space. An addition to the rear would be most accommodating to new apparatus, but would not have done much for expanded administrative space. Additions to the front or side of the building would have compromised space for parking and storage. Building up was not considered because the current structure is not equipped to support additional loads.
The current site is not considered optimal for providing coverage throughout the town and the site itself presents barriers to expansion. Adding on and losing parking would be particularly difficult to accommodate. Layout and traffic patterns on the parcel for emergency access was also a concern. Furthermore, the property backs up to an existing wetland and the buffer restricts building on the back 50 feet of the lot.
The report concluded that, “Although the existing building could be renovated at great expense, Warrenstreet’s recommendation is to explore more thoroughly new build option.”
Q: What will be done with the current fire station?
A: This will be addressed by Article 13 on the Town Ballot, which is as follows:
Article 13 – Disposal of Fire Station Building
To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to demolish or transfer ownership of the Fire Station Building located at 257 Charles Bancroft Highway. This article is contingent on an affirmative vote on Article 4, which approves the funding for the construction of a new Fire Station Building. Should Article 4 fail, this article shall be null and void.
Q: Why is the fire station more than a garage?
A: There are many factors that go into designing and building a fire station. Here’s an article that looks at the Anatomy of the Apparatus Bay.
Q: How does the station’s location factor into the decision?
A: The existing fire station is not centrally located within the town and only provides immediate access to Route 3A, or Charles Bancroft Highway. A new facility, at the proposed new location, would improve our response times to the areas where we typically see the highest call volumes. The new location would also not bother residential streets and neighboring homes.
Q: How does this project impact response times throughout Litchfield?
A: With the proposed fire station located on Liberty Way, a much more centralized area within Town, response times would be improved for the majority of Litchfield. Take a look at how the current response times compare to the proposed responses times based on the location of the proposed new fire station.
Q: What is this going to cost me?
A: Please refer to the Costs page on this website.
Q: How will fire department operations be impacted during construction?
A: The existing fire station will continue to operate as normal until construction on the new facility is completed. Once complete, the fire department will move its personnel and operations into the new facility.
Q: Where and when can I vote on this project?
A: You can cast your vote during the Town Vote on March 13, 2018. Polling location is Campbell High School.