Published DateBELMONT — A person speaking on behalf of the two families who lost their home in an early morning fire January 20 has requested a meeting between selectmen and members of the families.
A shouting match on the subject of whether or night the fire department's response was adequate punctuated last night's meeting of the Selectboard at the Corner Meeting House.
Marshall Ford, a relative of the Smith and Gilbert families, told selectmen that he was not satisfied with the response of the Fire Department and criticized what he said was an initial a lack of an ambulance at the scene
Ford said three people were hurt in the 2:15 a.m. blaze on Province Road, including a woman who broke her foot jumping from the deck, a girl who hurt her tailbone also while jumping from the deck and a woman who was wearing slippers and got frostbite. He also said one of the people who crawled through the cellar window to safety had cuts and burns on his or her back.
He alleged that it took Belmont firefighters a half-hour to get to the house and it was Laconia and Gilmanton firefighters who put out the fire.
"I didn't see professional firefighting," Ford said.
Ford was said he wanted to know how the Belmont Fire Department can respond more quickly to the Province Road section of town in the future and what other departments should be called for a building fire.
Fire Chief Dave Parenti was there to defend his unit.
He explained that the call came in a 2:16 a.m. and the two firefighters who were on duty that night responded at 2:18 a.m. He said they arrived at the house at 2:27 p.m. Laconia arrived on the scene about 30 seconds later.
Parenti said that a mutual aid building fire in that section of Belmont automatically gets Belmont and Laconia on the road. He said subsequent alarms — the lieutenant on duty called for a first alarm before he got there because he saw the smoke — brings Gilmanton and Tilton-Northfield as well as Gilford.
He also said it was only when the lieutenant arrived that he found one of the injured women in the driveway and Police Chief Mark Lewandowski, who lives nearby, was already attending her. She said she was "shaken up" and Lewandowski carried her to the firetruck where she would be warm and stayed with her.
The other people in the home had taken shelter in a nearby home, said Parenti, and when firefighters went to the home they were initially told everyone was alright.
He also said the fire dispatcher told firefighters everyone was out of the house but the callers didn't say that anyone was injured.
Ford agreed that the fire departments were told everyone was out of the home.
Parenti and Selectman Jon Pike has some initial disagreement about Belmont's choice of a water source for fighting the fire that night. Parenti said that on the way, his lieutenant looked at the pond on Leavitt Road to see if it was frozen.
He said there was also ice on a pond on Province Road and the decision to get water from Rogers Road was made.
Pike said that he owns the property on Province Road and there is a dry hydrant. He said firefighters have practiced on that dry hydrant. Parenti said the pond was frozen and Rogers Road provided the 40,000 to 60,000 gallons needed to save the garage and extinguish the house.
All totaled, there were 45 firefighters including 16 Belmont firefighters who were either full-time but off duty who responded or call firefighters. Parenti said the Belmont firefighters brought two more engines, and tanker and a rescue vehicle. He said the person who drove the rescue vehicle was not licenced to drive an ambulance and was not an EMT.
Parenti said when the incident commander realized there were injuries he called for an ambulance from Laconia. He said Franklin covered the Belmont station ambulance.
He also said that when firefighters were already at the scene, dispatch got a call saying the people from the nearby home called and asked for an ambulance. He said one woman refused ambulance transport and was taken by private car to the hospital. One firefighters was injured.
Parenti also said the lieutenant called for ambulance from Stewarts Ambulance — who automatically respond to a second alarm — and from Loudon but neither could send one.
After the shouting at last nights meeting got out of control, Pike, using his pen as a gavel, said "enough."
He agreed to sit down with the family and Parenti said he would be happy to attend the meeting as well.