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Letter: OT Costs Versus Resident Safety

An open letter to the residents of the town of Easton:

When it comes to fire protection, the town of Easton is served by a combination department, consisting of both career and volunteer firefighters. The Easton Fire Department, represented by the International Association of Firefighters Local 1426, comprises eight dedicated career firefighters who are at the firehouse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. Emergencies do not just happen during the week or during daylight hours.

We work two men on a shift and are responsible to respond immediately from the firehouse for every call at any time of the day or night. We are also responsible for ensuring that all equipment and apparatus are in top condition. We work harmoniously alongside the members of the Easton Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 and have been doing so since 1947. As a matter of fact, seven of the eight firefighters are originally from the ranks of the volunteer company. Five of us are also residents and taxpayers in Easton.

In July 2009, the Easton Fire Department’s contract with the town expired. Negotiations continued until a new contract was ratified in December 2011. During negotiations, the first selectman took it upon himself to leverage the Easton Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 against the members of the Easton Fire Department. The first selectman proposed to eliminate staff at the firehouse on Saturdays and Sundays, insisting that the volunteers would be able to respond to any emergency from their homes, an unprecedented move, unsupported by the volunteer fire chief and his two assistant chiefs. To counter the threat of reduced protection on the weekends and to keep the firehouse staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, the Fire Department Negotiating Team proposed to reduce the overtime costs as an alternate solution to maintain the current level of protection for all residents.

Nationally, volunteer fire companies are having a difficult time recruiting and maintaining their membership. Easton is no different. Active volunteer numbers in the town are decreasing, but the demands on their time are increasing. By not staffing the firehouse on weekends, Easton families would benefit a cost savings of approximately 14 cents per day. Emergency response times would increase and lives would be placed in greater danger. Time is of the essence when it comes to fire, which doubles in size every two minutes, or during motor vehicle accidents, when victims need to be extricated from the vehicle immediately.

Public safety in Easton has been cut to the bone and any further cuts will seriously impact you as a resident. Think of how long it would take for you to drop what you are doing, drive to the firehouse, put on your protective gear, check the address against the log, strap yourself in for the drive and finally arrive at the scene of an emergency. We do it in an average of seven minutes.

Respectfully,

The members of the Easton Fire Department

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