EDITORIAL: Response to Lost Lake House Fire
Last Wednesday, in the middle of the afternoon, Groton Fire Department took at least 11 minutes for fire trucks to arrive at a house fire at 206 Lost Lake Drive, a house within shouting distance of the Lost Lake Fire Substation. However, the response did not come from that substation, but instead from the center station.
During presentations to convince us to build a new fire station, voters were repeatedly reminded of the importance of 'response time'. Consultants were called in to study and evaluate whether Site A or Site B's response time was optimal, and evaluating site feasibility based on the difference of a few seconds of 'response time'. Presumably, one of the arguments for building the Lost Lake substation was greater protection for homes in the Lost Lake area due to faster reaction times. Last week's housefire, however, forces us to ask uncomfortable questions about expenditure of large amounts of town funds and how town firefighting assets are deployed across town.
The Lost Lake substation, we were told, was crucial for protection of persons and property in the Lake area. Taxpayers, dutifully agreeing, paid $1,450,000 for the building. Yet, it is no secret that the Lost Lake station is not manned on a regular basis. One member of Groton's firefighting management team even suggested it functions more as a community center than a real fire substation. If true, we are forced to ask whether construction of Lost Lake substation was an intelligent use of taxpayer funds.
At the January 26 Special Town Meeting, the town will vote funding for the Central Fire station, a total expenditure of more than $8M. A sound argument can be made that this expenditure is important to residents' well-being and safety. Yet, reasonable people have the right and responsibility to ask whether the town has a comprehensive management plan to make optimal use of our fire fighting assets, including substations in West Groton and Lost Lake. We think Lost Lake Fire Substation can and should be an important part of Groton's firefighting infrastructure, and a new management plan will be needed to exploit its full potential.
We have spoken with Chief Joe Bosselait and Town Manager Mark Haddad and they are fully aware of the problem of unmanned substations. Haddad said in reference to the recent fire, "We can use every experience as an opportunity to evaluate and improve our delivery of services." The Chief agreed and said that he is always ready to look at better options for serving the people of Groton.
As townspeople prepare to spend considerable amounts of money on a new central fire station, it is essential that we don't stop long-term planning with construction of another new building but continue to investigate and discuss ways to better utilize facilities we have in place in order to improve protection of people and property.