To The Daily Sun,
Why does the Tilton-Northfield Fire District need a new main fire station? Some answers are quite obvious if you tour the Center Street Station in Tilton. As you tour, please keep in mind the important services preformed by firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics — each minute matters when responding to emergencies. The safety of these professionals is essential. Their involvement in the community increases safety awareness and practices. The station should meet their needs in order to meet the needs of these communities.
At the beginning of your tour you will notice that Center Street, parallel to Main Street, appears to be an alley/parking area. It actually is a narrow town street. When the fire truck or ambulance pulls out of the station, it blocks Center Street. The only way the vehicles can get to Main Street is to cautiously drive straight down a narrow alley between to buildings and peer out onto the often busy sidewalk and street for pedestrians and vehicles.
Next you will notice the three steep steps up to the door. Once inside, you will see the long, steep staircase — the only access to the second floor. Anyone needing to go to the administrative offices or the living area must climb those 17 steps. The firefighters certainly can manage the staircase (if the taller ones duck their heads when approaching the landing), but many people can't make that climb or descent.
For the firefighter and EMS staff, the route from their second floor living area to their safety gear and then to the emergency vehicles is extremely cumbersome, adding to the response time. The staircase is only part of the inefficient route. When you tour the garage area, you will see the protective gear is hanging in-ready between the two vehicles — not in a direct path between the stairs and the vehicles.
You will notice a few other things while in the bay area. There is space for only two vehicles in this station — all other vehicles used for emergency responses are either parked outside or at the Park Street Station in Northfield (requiring transport the 0.8 mile to get appropriate apparatus). In the ambulance supply closet you will see a washer and drier. (The lack of adequate space for proper storage of equipment and supplies is obvious. There is also no proper storage of clean uniforms and gear.) The washer and drier are used to decontaminate the firefighters' protective gear after each fire. The chemically contaminated uniforms must be shed directly upon returning to the station to prevent spreading the hazardous chemicals to other areas of the station. There should be a shower immediately available for personal decontamination. However, to get to the shower, the returning firefighters must go through the public/administrative/living/cooking areas on the second floor, thus risk spreading contamination.
You probably won't even notice that the bay doors are smaller than on other stations because the engine and ambulance housed within were custom-made to fit this 120-plus year-old building. The doors and the bays of the new main fire station certainly will be large enough to accommodate standard modern firefighting apparatus. The new station for Tilton and Northfield will be designed and built in a financially responsible way for modern equipment and methods and expectations.
Vice chair, TNFD Facilities Committee