After reading the American Journal article “Fire Dept. Divisions Combined,” I feel compelled to respond.
I admit that when I saw Westbrook’s Engine 2 call company personnel/truck being used for traffic control, my first thought was, “That’s not what they’re here for.” But now that your article has shed some much needed light on the subject, I am furious. Westbrook Fire Dept. Call Company personnel are trained firefighters just as the career firefighters are. The fact that Call Company members are willing to do what is asked of them is very commendable. However, they did not commit to years of fire training and many years of being an important part of the Westbrook Fire Dept. to now be standing on the corner directing traffic.
Back in August after several Fire/Police members resigned, Chief Turcotte was quoted in your paper as saying, “The department won’t feel a major impact,” and “My stance is that if people are going to resign over not having their own building, they might not be in this for the right reasons.” I take offense to both statements. To question the heart and commitment of the Westbrook Fire/Police members who have been part of this department way longer than the chief has is wrong in so many ways.
So please let me fill you all in on the true value of the “missing” Fire/Police members. While it has been made to look like the only thing they did was traffic control at fire and accident scenes, I can tell you otherwise. Here’s the list: They dealt with the public by issuing the fireworks permits at the Public Safety building for New Year’s and Independence Day; did street closures for the Memorial Day and Westbrook Together Days parades and fireworks, and for the Westbrook Strong road race; assisted Cape Elizabeth with road closures for the Beach to Beacon race; assisted with the Public Safety Day at Hannaford; did road closures for Halloween on Main Street; assisted Gorham Fire/Police with their annual Parade of Lights; did traffic control for the Wreaths Across America event at the Westbrook Middle School each year; and also have been involved with the Tough Mudder and Muderella events and the Pro Bike Competition.
I’m sure I’ve missed much more, but this gives you an idea of the valuable resource that our Fire/Police unit was. They made sure that Westbrook residents could safely attend events without giving a second thought to safety issues. I believe many of us took their commitment to Westbrook for granted and we owe them a debt of gratitude instead of questioning their reasons for being here. Now we are apparently asking Call Company firefighters to “step up” and replace the Fire/Police members. That’s not what they were hired to do. They’re firefighters. So if we have ample personnel to allow us to use qualified firefighters for other purposes, why are we hiring eight new career firefighters? This is all very confusing, are we shorthanded or overstaffed? I’m not sure.
My suggestion is this. Offer a sincere apology to both our Fire/Police and our Call Company personnel. And instead of downplaying their importance to the city of Westbrook, thank them for their many years of dedicated service. These are valuable employees, most of whom reside in Westbrook, and they obviously care about the safety of Westbrook families. Bring back our Fire/Police so that the Call Company personnel can do their jobs. It would be a win/win situation all the way around for the city of Westbrook.