SOUTHINGTON – The Board of Fire Commissioners is scheduled to vote this week on some major changes to the Fire Department’s operations proposed by new fire chief Richard Butler.
The chief recommends shifting two career firefighters from their assignment at headquarters to Company 5 on River Street. Butler believes the addition bolsters volunteers at the station and helps the department respond faster to emergencies in the north end of town.
Trucks from headquarters have to travel up Queen Street.
“We’re discovering it takes more time than ever,” said fire board chairman Michael Bunko. “We really need to get our manpower a little more spread out.”
Butler also recommends phasing out the department’s fire police, who direct traffic at fire scenes. He prefers to use trucks to block traffic and worries about fire police being hit by cars.
Bunko said the move would save money, but that it was “much more of a safety issue” than a financial one. Fire police could be transferred to the Community Emergency Response Team.
The fire board was scheduled to meet last Thursday but postponed until this Thursday due to the snowstorm.
In a presentation to the Town Council Tuesday, Butler outlined shift changes that he hopes will continue to decrease overtime.
He’s also working on eliminating friction between career and volunteer firefighters. Volunteers are vital since the town can’t afford the career firefighters who would be needed to replace them.
“It’s going to take a little bit of work,” Butler said. “Each side of this equation has strong feelings. My job is to get everybody working together. I’m hoping I’m making progress in that direction.”
Butler said he’s also looking into the department’s response matrix, which determines how many firefighters, engines and other vehicles are sent to calls. He feels too much equipment and firefighters are being sent to some calls.
Bunko said he supports the changes proposed by Butler and praised the new chief’s efforts.
“This man is incredible. He’s identified so many areas of need immediately,” he said.