A Letter From the Brewster Fire Department
Since 2002 the Town of Brewster has been researching and studying options to replace its Fire & Rescue facility originally constructed in 1974 as a dual purpose Police/Fire headquarters with a modern complex capable of supporting its current and future operational needs. Feasibility studies were completed and presented to the Town in 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2015. During these studies all options regarding the current 1974 facility were analyzed including the renovation/expansion of the existing station, demolition of the existing station and construction of a new facility, and in the most recent 2015 study constructing a new facility and salvaging the current station for future use.
Each of these analyses has confirmed the current facility lacks sufficient space, creates and supports inefficient response to emergencies, contains a hazardous work environment, does not meet national fire service safety standards, and does not support the current and future resources required to adequately provide life safety services to the community. The studies also established that if a renovation/addition project were to be undertaken it would create serious disruptions to daily fire department operations and be a more costly and less practical solution for the community to pursue.
The Brewster Fire Department is an all-hazards combination type (career/call ) fire department that provides a variety of emergency services critical to our community’s life safety including our core missions of emergency medical, fire suppression, and fire prevention services. It encompasses the largest and most diverse employee group of any Town department. In 2014 the department responded to 2,780 emergency medical and fire related incidents which translates to an annual increase of approximately 2,565 emergency responses since 1970. It is also critically important for residents to acknowledge and understand that today’s fire department and response needs of the community are not the same as they were thirty years ago and that operating under compromised and inefficient systems with an identical infrastructure is no longer feasible.
In addition, as planned medical facility, residential housing, and assisted living construction projects are completed annual fire department response numbers are destined to increase which will place additional burdens on a workforce that currently responds to requests for emergency services out of an aging and substandard facility.
In attempting to gain community support for the project during the most recent studies the Board of Selectmen, Fire Department, Design Team, and Building and Needs Committee listened to the opinions of key community stakeholders as to the reasons for past project failures and embraced a process that advocated complete project transparency and broad opportunities for community participation providing all residents of Brewster the opportunity to become engaged in the project.
These efforts were highlighted by the hosting of five public forums from January to April of 2015 during which Town residents, members of the Board of Selectmen, Fire Department, Building and Needs Committee, Finance Committee, and the Design team publicly dissected each proposed program space which lead to the development and implementation of a number of operational and design solutions resulting in a significant 18% reduction in overall square footage including decreases in office and living space, training areas, storage areas, bunk rooms, and department apparatus inventory. Indisputably the most significant outcome of this process was meeting the goal of re-purposing the current building for use by the Natural Resources Department and other Town departments thus extensively reducing future Town infrastructure costs. The studies have also pointed out what many already know; building public safety facilities is not inexpensive and with regional construction costs continuing to rise on a monthly basis further delay of the project will only lead to substantial increases in cost.
It is an easily recognized and undebatable fact that the life safety services offered by the fire department are the foundation from which our community has been built upon. When residents call 911 we respond immediately and provide professional and expert services with empathy and care. Whether assisting someone off the floor after a fall, transporting a patient to the hospital, investigating strange odors, or extinguishing a fire our staff shows commitment and concern for our customers.
The unofficial debates and informal power struggles that have alienated relationships, divided community groups, and prevented this project from moving forward for the past 13 years should now end. Each of the four studies conducted by the Town point to the same conclusion; build new and provide the fire department with an appropriate facility from which it can serve our residents. In this moment we must think about what is right for the Town in both the present and future when many of our own family members may want to call Brewster home. It is time for us to step-up and unite as a community in support of constructing a facility that safely supports the operations of the organization that provides us with our most critical and identifiable life-saving service.