, Derry, New Hampshire

September 6, 2012

Londonderry Fire Department scrambles for funding

By James Niedzinski

---- — LONDONDERRY — With the budget season warming up, the Londonderry Fire Department may be feeling some of the heat from budget cuts and grant denials.

The fire department recently was denied a grant that would have increased the staff

Sponsored by FEMA, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants allow fire departments to hire additional staff for up to two years, or four years if the new recruit is a veteran. After those two years, the staffing costs are transferred to the town.

The Manchester and Rye Fire Departments were the only two departments in the state to receive the grants last year.

“The biggest stumbling block for the town is always the automated section,” Battalion Chief James Rodger said. “They look at the bond rating and average income, and that is always the biggest hurdle because only low bond ratings and low average income levels will get you a SAFER grant.”

The staffing costs of the four new firefighters that were requested would have cost FEMA about $380,000.

The department now has 10 firefighters per shift; the grant would have allowed an additional firefighter per shift.

”A lot of people don’t think just one firefighter per shift would make a difference, but it will allow us to do so much more,” Rodger said, “whether it is the team on the engines or fire and rescue.”

The fire department is trying to get new equipment, new vehicles and renovate the central fire station.

But during a recent Town Council meeting, the fire department had its requests to accomplish that reduced. Of the $425,000 requested for new vehicles, the Town Council agreed to about $330,000.

The capital improvement fund request was cut by about $250,000. That will affect the renovations of the central station on Mammoth Road, as well as new vehicles and tools.

“The station was built in the 1970s and it’s under constant repair,” fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said. “We do not have adequate space.”

The fire department has a fleet of 21 vehicles housed in three different stations.

In addition to the need for renovations, new vehicles are also on the list for the fire department.

Usually, a new fire engine is replaced after about 12 years of service. However, one of the current fire engines is more than 20 years old.

Department officials also are looking to purchase an additional ambulance, defribulators and other equipment.

Currently, the fire department is in the process of meeting with the town’s finance department in order to lease new fire engines and ambulances.

“Nothing is a safety hazard right now, but it is costing more to repair vehicles than it would be buy new ones,” Battalion Chief Douglas Cardwell said.

Cardwell hopes said he hopes to present a revised budget for the fire department by the end of the month. The results from this year’s SAFER grant applications will be announced in October.