Sanbornton seeks firefighting assistance from Belmont


BELMONT — The town of Sanbornton is looking for some firefighting assistance, and on Monday night they came to Belmont as part of their ongoing efforts to find it.

The committee of eight from Sanbornton, led by David DeVoy, asked Belmont selectmen if and at what price they would be willing to offer some assistance in the area near Lake Winnisquam.

"We've been meeting since August to see if we can reach out to our neighboring communities," said DeVoy who, though he is a Belknap County Commissioner, was acting solely on behalf of his hometown.

Sanbornton faces a complex firefighting dilemma. With a population of just under 3,000 people, a largely residential tax base, and 49.77 square miles of territory, the fire department has but one full-time employee, Chief Paul Dexter.

With Dexter and an array of per diem firefighters, the town is able to provide fire and emergency services during the day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The times when Sanbornton could use some assistance is from 5 to 8 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.

Because people are getting out and about in the morning and returning home in the evening, coupled with a lack of manpower at the Sanbornton Fire Station, those six hours present a "hurdle to get a truck on the road," said Dexter. He added those times represent about 8 percent of Sanbornton's total call volume.

The question presented to the Belmont selectmen is whether they are willing and able to assist during those hours, primarily with medical calls.

"What I hear," said selectmen's Chairman Ruth Mooney, "is that we have a full-time fire department and you don't."

Mooney went on to say that it makes her a little nervous and she would not agree to any commitment without Sanbornton having a full-time department.

"What if we pay you?" asked DeVoy.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said he didn't think that Belmont is necessarily the best town to assist Sanbornton because of the location of the Belmont Fire Station.

"It's a 20-minute response time," said Erickson, who noted that Laconia or Tilton-Northfield is probably better located physically than was Belmont for that area of Sanbornton.

When someone mentioned "mutual aid," Dexter was quick to say that this is not a mutual aid concern.

Mutual aid is called when one community needs another community's assistance, however, each individual community must be able to put the first piece of equipment on the road. In other words, if there is an accident in Sanbornton, the first piece of equipment like an ambulance or a fire truck must come from Sanbornton. Should there be a need for a second piece of equipment or manpower, a nearby community will be called.

Sanbornton needs someone who can get the first piece of equipment on the road during those certain times of day.

Erickson suggested that Sanbornton needs to define for itself what risk level they are willing to accept.

"It's a complicated issue," Erickson said. "You have to decide what you want and what you're willing to pay for."

Erickson also reminded the Sanbornton delegation that this is a political discussion.

"Fire chiefs can't change anything," he said. "It requires the politicians to get involved."

Erickson said that, in his opinion, regionalization is the way to go, but local people in New England would have to be willing to shed 400 years of history to make it happen.

"Historically, we were all villages and that's where all our fire stations are," he said.

Belmont Selectman Ron Cormier said that no one has ever come up with a county-wide plan, saying everyone always worries about who's getting the better end of a deal. He said he'd be interested in seeing someone come up with a map of what regionalizing fire services would look like for Belknap County.

Dexter and Erickson both told him that the conversations and cooperation between chiefs are much more frequent and beneficial now than they were even 10 to 15 years ago, especially for large equipment purchases.

So while it appears that Sanbornton may have left Belmont empty-handed for the moment, the meetings its committee has scheduled with government bodies in its surrounding communities may soon start a discussion about regionalizing some services that many in the room Monday night felt should have begun years ago.

Firefighter Keyes joins PET Officer Adams in fight against drug addiction


LACONIA — During his two years as the Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment Officer with the Laconia Police Department, Eric Adams has met with 154 people wrestling with substance abuse. Of those, 61 are now recovering from their addiction and half of them are helping others follow in their footsteps.

With the assignment of Firefighter/Paramedic Brian Keyes as the recovery coordinator at the Fire Department, the city has doubled its capacity to encourage those bedeviled by addiction to seek treatment and to lend them a hand along the road to recovery. Keyes, a 14-year veteran of the fire service and a recovery coach trainer, proposed adding the program to the department's repertoire when a so-called "safe stations" initiative like that pioneered by the Manchester Fire Department proved beyond the department's resources.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Keyes said that substance abuse has "undermined our community" and he wants to contribute to reversing the trend. All firefighters will carry his business card with two phone numbers where he can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He said he will contact everyone who overdoses, explaining that the critical time falls between the moment addicts choose to seek treatment and the time they can enroll in a program. "We will attempt to bridge the gaps between acceptance into a treatment center and the days or weeks it may take to actually enter treatment," he explained.

Keyes said that nine of 10 addicts never seek help on their own because of the stigma attached to addiction.

"My aim will to reduce the stigma," he said, adding that this often called "the boots on the ground" approach to recovery, "a true starting point to meet people where they're at."  As first responders, he noted, firefighter/paramedics often see what others seldom or never do, which provides "a critical first-hand insight into the lives of those who still suffer."

Keyes said he will be working with Adams, whose success provided the model for his program,as well as with LRGHealthcare, the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Stand Up Laconia, Navigating Recovery and other partners in the city and region. Adams said that he and Keyes "have worked together many times before" and urged "if you're in need of help, please contact one of us."

Police Chief Chris Adams noted that the PET program began as what he called a "reactive response to overdoses." But, he continued, as Adams became known throughout the community he began receiving calls from others who had not flirted with death and his work took on a more pro-active dimension. He predicted Keyes's work would take the same course as hie established his presence in the community.

Keyes can be reached at either at the Fire Department, at 603-524-6881, or at his cell phone, 603-581-0437.

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Firefighter/Paramedic Brian Keyes, newly named Recovery Coordinator at the Fire Department, right, and Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment Officer Eric Adams of the Police Department have joined forces to assist those escaping from substance abuse find treatment and pursue recovery. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Remembering Pearl Harbor: 75 years later, memories of attack still vivid

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Pearl Harbor survivor Walter Borchert holds a scrapbook with a map which shows the location of American warships during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)



BELMONT — Walter Borchert is one of the last remaining survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What he saw that day is still vividly alive in his memory, even though it took place 75 years ago.
"You never forget something like that," said Borchert. "I can still see the battleship Arizona lifting partly out of the water after it got hit by a bomb that ended up going into its powder magazine. Over 1,100 sailors died when that happened. It didn't come completely out of the water, but lifted up and then sank back into the water," he said, motioning with his hands as he described the scene.
Borchert, now a resident of the New Hampshire Soldiers Home in Tilton, said Dec. 7, 1941, was a bright, sunny Sunday morning and there was a lot traffic around his ship, the 341-foot long USS Worden, one of four destroyers anchored near a destroyer tender at the entrance to Pearl Harbor.

USSWordenDD352The USS Worden
Boatswain Borchert, then 21, who had grown up in Brooklyn and signed up for a six-year tour of duty with the U.S. Navy in 1939, recalls that sailors were going ashore for chapel services while others were coming back to the ship from shore leave, or "liberty" as it was then known.
"I was just sitting down with a big egg sandwich and a big mug of coffee around eight o'clock when a guy named Yvonovich came running down the landing yelling 'The Japs are attacking!' I ran up onto the top deck and looked down the harbor to Battleship Row. The first thing I saw was the Arizona get hit," Borchert said.
Soon his ship would come under fire.

"We were constantly under bombing and strafing and had to keep ducking for cover," he said, recalling that although no bombs were dropped on the destroyers, the low-flying Japanese aircraft strafed them as each wave passed by. "They had virtually wiped us out in the first wave. We thought it was over then, but they hit us with a second wave. It went on for well over two hours. We had some .50-caliber machine guns, but couldn't use them to defend ourselves because the destroyers were so close together that you'd have shot the smokestacks off the other ships if you'd try to shoot at the airplanes."
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes viewOne of the bombs hit 50 yards behind the Worden, exploding with such force that Borchert was slammed into the ship's torpedo racks.

"I banged up a knee, but I didn't know it because I didn't feel any pain until the adrenaline wore off'' he recalled.
He remembers going to a small arms locker on the port side of the ship where he pulled out a long-barreled .32-caliber pistol and the sailor beside him grabbed a .44-caliber pistol that they fired at the attacking aircraft.
"I don't think we hit any of them,'' said Borchert, who especially remembers one Japanese pilot who was flying so low that the sailors could see his face with each pass he made.
"He was grinning at us and firing his guns. There was an officer's locker on the ship's fantail that was filled with potatoes and onions. Some guys opened it up and started throwing them at him when he came by us," Borchert remembers.
The destroyers were eventually able to build up a head of steam and find enough separation so that they could fire back at the attackers. One of Borchert's shipmates, Quartermaster 3d Class Raymond H. Brubaker, trained a .50-caliber Browning machine gun on a low-flying dive bomber and sent it splashing into the water nearby.
"I just hope it was that guy who kept smiling at us. It was nice to know that we got at least one of them after all the damage they'd done to us. It was horrible. So many guys died that day," he said.
He says that within two hours of the start of the attack, the Worden was underway and headed out to sea.
"We spotted a sub shortly after noon and dropped seven depth charges. They were sitting out there trying to pick off ships as they came out of the harbor,'' he recalled.
Over the next 13 months, the Worden was involved in six other major naval operations in the South Pacific, including Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal, frequently serving as part of the screening force for aircraft carriers like the Lexington, Saratoga and Yorktown.
"We were there ready to take a torpedo if we saw one headed toward a carrier and as the outer defense against Japanese airplanes. I spent a lot of time in what we called a gun tub, strapped in a harness and firing 20- and 40-millimeter guns when we were a screening ship for the Saratoga," Borchert recalled.
In October, the Worden returned to the West Coast of the United States, where it underwent some repairs and two days after Christmas 1942, sailed from San Francisco to support the occupation of Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, where disaster struck on Jan. 12, 1943.
The destroyer was guarding the transport Arthur Middleton as that ship put the preliminary Army security unit on the shores of Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island. As they headed out, a strong current swept the Worden onto a rocky pinnacle that tore into her hull beneath her engine room and caused a complete loss of power.
An effort by the destroyer Dewey to tow the ship free failed when the cable broke and heavy seas started to push Worden toward the rocky shore. The ship broached and began breaking up and the crew was ordered to abandon ship.
"The water was 36 degrees. I didn't know if I was going to make it," said Borchert, who was finally pulled into one of the rescue boats of the Middleton.
"I got wet twice that day, because the Middleton ran aground, too,'' said Borchert.
He was later taken by a British gunboat to Papua, New Guinea, and got a ride on an Army transport ship which took him back to the states. He recalls that while on the British ship he would receive a daily ration of rum and was frequently pestered by the British sailors, who said that they'd be glad drink his rum if he didn't want it.

"But I always drank it!" he said.
When he returned stateside, he was assigned to Long Island City in New York, not far from his boyhood home in Brooklyn. Borchert worked as a security guard for the remainder of the war and met for the first time his future wife, a woman from New York who had been sending him letters through her church group while he was stationed in Hawaii.
He and Gloria, a school teacher, enjoyed their free time at places like Coney Island and at a Queens bar and restaurant, where the proprietor, Karl Vollmerding, always gave Borchert free drinks.
Vollmerding would later move to New Hampshire and build Karl's Steakhouse and Hofbrau Lounge near the Weirs Beach bridge, which Borchert and his wife would frequent after they moved to New Hampshire.
When the war ended, Borchert worked briefly for the Red Cross and for a company servicing vending machines before becoming a short-haul truck driver
"I remember driving through Brooklyn and honking my horn every time I saw Roy Campanella (Brooklyn Dodgers catcher) in front of his liquor store," said Borchert, who later became a New York City building inspector. A lifelong Dodger fan, Borchert said he gave up on them and his heart was broken after the team moved to California in 1958.
He and his wife bought a summer camp on Sachem Cove in Meredith in 1954 and spent many summers in the Lakes Region before moving to Meredith after they retired in 1977.
They most recently lived at Briarcrest Estates in Belmont, before Gloria moved into Golden View Health Care in Meredith and Walter moved to the Veterans Home.


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Pearl Harbor survivor Walter Borchert describes what it looked like when the Arizona exploded after its powder magazine was hit by a Japanese bomb. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)