As a longtime resident of West Falmouth, I am concerned with the implications of the scheduled closure of the West Falmouth fire station. This station has served the community and town for decades, providing citizens the EMS coverage they have needed and deserve. Our fire chief recently announced to the community that he will be closing the West Falmouth station in July 2020, with the objective of ultimately serving the north and west sections of the town by a single new facility. Even if this objective made sense, and it does not, it would take at the very least three to five years to locate, plan, design and build such a facility, and prematurely closing the existing facility and exposing West Falmouth residents to risk in the meantime is illogical at best. This premature closure is leaving residents exposed and will dramatically increase EMS response times.
When an alarm is sounded in Falmouth, it is not just the local station that responds, but also the adjacent stations. Because of this procedure, the West Falmouth fire station is one of the most active of the five stations in town, responding to calls in every district. Without an active station in West Falmouth, North Falmouth would then respond to those calls in the other parts of town, leaving the entire northwest section of town exposed in the event of additional calls.
Closing the West Falmouth station would defy the long-standing policy of the town to provide at least approximately equal access to fire and emergency services to all of the town’s residents, regardless of their location. It is the responsibility of the fire department to carry out that policy. If the chief does not have sufficient financial resources to carry out this policy, the appropriate response is not to unilaterally rescind the policy.
When you think about heart attacks, strokes, overdoses and drowning, time is of the essence. Timely response saves lives. All lives in Falmouth are valuable; districts should not be pitted against one another. To close a station without any plan or replacement is a dereliction of duty. Public safety should be at the top of the pyramid without regard to cost. As the demographics throughout Falmouth shift to an older, more mature population, having dependable, reliable emergency response time only gets more important and valuable for everyone. Dealing with certainty is always better than facing uncertainty.
The chief’s decision to close the West Falmouth fire station is not in the interest of public safety. If we need more emergency responders, he should increase the budget and sell his case to the town for consideration. Personnel considerations and staffing should be a large part of his job so all parts of Falmouth are protected when tragedy strikes. The town has changed over the years, both demographically and geographically, for home ownership. The West Falmouth fire station was built and staffed to serve a population far smaller than it is today. Closing that station in the face of that change, particularly without an alternative satisfactory service plan, will create real risk. The answer is easy: Leave it in place. If a new station is to be built, it probably makes sense to build it in Hatchville, which needs the coverage.
John F. Austin III