Sharing services not new to fire dept., other depts.
To the editor:
In response to recent developments at the town of Lee Fire Department and in the media, the members of the Lee Fire Department asked me to speak on their behalf, and as their captain, I felt it was my obligation to my crew.
We went to the selectboard and stated that the members would like to be a part of the process of selecting a new chief. They also feel that there is talent within the department that could fill that position. Additionally, there are three assistant chiefs, a deputy chief, a battalion chief (training officer), and a captain who would like to assist with inspections and pre-planning, training, and fire-ground operations, hopefully freeing some time for the chief.
The membership is very excited to move forward and see change in all aspects of the department. Almost as excited as the members must have been when they no longer used hand pumps and horse-drawn apparatus. As excited as they were when they bought their first SCBAs, or thermal imaging cameras.
This department has evolved over the past 160 years. The evolution has continued under leadership that has come from within. Leaders that have proven themselves worthy of trust in a job where fatal mistakes could occur in an instant. The brave men and women of this community provide this labor for free, without prejudice, all day, and all night. The time taken to train, maintain equipment, and to serve their people is immeasurable.
I personally believe that it makes financial sense to combine the upcoming vacancy of the EMS director and the fire chief. Many communities have this arrangement, and it seems to work. I would caution that many of the fire members have no interest in being EMTs. Therefore keeping as much separation between the two groups is important for now. As we evolve, we may find that the agencies actually do work well together. The current paid medic positions could turn into firefighter/EMT positions.
We as taxpayers and community leaders need to consider life safety, preservation of property, and fiscal responsibility as high priorities. While doing so, we must consider what has and what has not worked.
We share resources with all fire departments in the county under a mutual aid agreement. If Becket needs an engine company, it gets one. No questions. If Lee needs to call for an elevated platform for a rescue, or a defensive operation, we can call Great Barrington and they send one. No questions.
Cost sharing is not a new concept to the fire service, nor is it new to many highway departments, water departments or police departments to name a few that depend on their neighbors to help get their jobs done. It is a relatively new term to many that may not realize the efforts already being made by the fine men and women serving their communities.
James Hunt, Lee The writer is captain of the Lee Fire Department.