Letter: Politics won't influence Becket Fire Department
I would like to comment on The Eagle article from June 5 concerning the fire coverage for the town of Washington. As the fire chief for the town of Becket, I can assure all parties there will be no change in the way I am covering the town of Washington as far as fire protection.
I have issued no changes in our response procedures. The Becket Fire Department will respond to fire calls in the town of Washington. Let me further state that at no time was I consulted or advised of any issues concerning the Becket Fire Department and the town of Washington. My opinion was not asked for. No one from either town asked me for any data or anything else concerning how much money Washington was paying or should pay in the future for fire protection. I was not aware of any escalating issues between the two towns.
Also, the public should know that any money received from the town of Washington does not go to the Becket Fire Department. It ends up in the Becket general fund. At no time did I or anyone from the fire department ask for additional funds for fire protection. The Becket Select Board and town administrator do not speak for the fire department. I have also called the nearby fire chief of Hinsdale and informed him that there is no change in our response procedure.
Let me further add that the fire service does not and should not involve itself with financial issues between towns. That is none of our business. Our business is public safety. And in that area time is the only thing we concern ourselves with.
In the fire service, time is of the essence. It is the difference between life and death. Becket Station 1 is only two-tenths of a mile from the Washington line and over 50 percent of the homes in Washington are closer to the Becket line than the Hinsdale line. So fire coverage has to come from Becket Station 1. There should be no excuse for involving politics, budgets, finance or egos in the area of public safety. Doing so is a prime example why all the towns in Berkshire County should give serious consideration to a full-time paid and staffed countywide fire department so issues like this could not come up. No town should hold a neighboring town hostage and use the threat of denied fire coverage as a negotiating tool.
Becket and Washington are neighbors. Our children go to school and play sports together. A large percentage of my department are citizens of Washington. My deputy chief and a lieutenant are from Washington. They respond and risk their lives in Becket and we do the same for them. That, I hope, never changes.
Statements like "Build your own station" and "Buy your own fire truck" are inflammatory, unnecessary and counterproductive. Common ground is found and solutions are offered only after sensible discussion is held. Why don't both towns begin to do this as soon as possible.
Mark A. Hanford,
The writer is the Becket fire chief.
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