This project is to address serious safety issues and the extreme lack of adequate space for both vehicles and for personal gear for the firemen and ambulance members.
Posted March 15, 2013
Editor’s Note: The planning has reached its final stages and fundraising has begun to move the home base of the Fire Hall from its site on Main Street to its new home on the Northeast corner of New England. Following is Part One of a series explaining the need and process submitted by Stuart Nielsen.
We plan on doing this by replacing our existing building with a new building. This project is a cooperative effort between the New England Rural Fire Protection District, the New England Ambulance Service, and the City of New England. The three entities will share in the local funds needed to complete this project. All three counties that we serve areas of have shown support through donations and zero interest loans. Additional funds have been acquired through a grant from the MDU Foundation for $20,000 and a Community Block Development Grant administered by Roosevelt Custer Regional Council in the amount of $110,774.00, but we only have this year remaining before we lose that grant, and we need additional funding to complete the project. This project is headed by the New England Rural Fire Protection District who will be the controlling party during the construction phase and after completion.
At the present time, we are not able to get all of the emergency vehicles into the existing building with the city fire truck parked elsewhere and the older rural fire truck ending up in storage during the colder months in a farm building twelve miles away. Even with that, the vehicles are packed in like sardines with the rescue truck and one skid unit backed in between bays. In order to get one emergency vehicle out, often most all of the vehicles have to be started and driven out. The two ambulances are placed in one single bay back to back, wall to wall, and bumper to bumper, leaving no room to adequately service them. Cots cannot be taken out and the ambulance unit’s interior cleaned unless at least one of the ambulances is driven out of the building. The situation creates a serious problem when either the front ambulance or one of the front fire vehicles fails to start. At minimum, it means a possible disastrous delay which could mean the loss of lives or property which would have been avoided by our otherwise prompt response. Both of our ambulances are getting old and worn out from use, creating a need to replace one of our ambulances with a new one. The type of ambulance that we require is now built on a pickup chassis rather than a van chassis which means they are at least two feet longer. Because our bay already is barely able to handle the present length of the two current ambulances, we would not be able to house both if even one of our ambulances is replaced. We desperately need additional fire vehicles to handle the fires that we encounter. We cannot obtain these needed vehicles when we cannot house what we presently have.
When it comes to personal protective gear storage, there are also major issues to be addressed with many of the firemen’s gear stored in lockers that are blocked by the vehicles so that they are not accessible until fire vehicles are moved out which also causes delays in response time. The firemen have worked hard in the past year to change things, and although their efforts have made things better, inadequacies still exist that cannot be solved in the present space.
There is no way for the fire or ambulance personnel to clean soiled gear or clothing without taking them home, or to clean up adequately before going home. This leads to the possibility of exposing family members to hazardous materials or infectious diseases. Ambulance cot covers have to be taken home for washing which also causes potential hazards to family members, or they are taken to a local hospital to be washed and sanitized. The latter creates delays in receiving them back and many times they are lost and not recovered in the process.
We are already feeling the results of the oil impact, and each year this has become greater. We see the need to hire paid ambulance personnel on a contract basis to take the strain off of the volunteer members who are also trying to make an adequate living at their own jobs. With lack of housing being a big issue, it is becoming necessary to be able to provide some type of living space in house in our facility.
Our meeting room has had to double as an office in recent years which is not always practical as private papers could be exposed to the public. There is also a need for a command center as it has become more and more necessary as we have seen an increase in multi-casualty incidences.