Much anticipated fire study due

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
How efficient is the current call system of firefighting in Bridgton? Is the cost of equipping four district stations — central, north, west and south — the best use of limited funds, or would it be wiser to pay for professional firefighters?
Those questions and others concerning the Bridgton Fire Department have long been debated in Bridgton, but — lacking a study — no answers were in sight. So it is with keen anticipation that Bridgton Selectmen are awaiting the results of an in-depth Fire Department Review and Strategies Report that will shape the face of firefighting in town in the years to come.
Fire Chief Glen Garland is anxiously awaiting the study as well. Equipment Garland needs for the West Bridgton Station has been put on hold by selectmen until they have a chance to review the study, begun in May by a Massachusetts consulting firm, the Public Safety Strategies Group. The firm promised to submit a final report by Dec. 31 but, as of Monday, it still was unclear when the report would be ready.
The consultants evaluated every aspect of fire department operations, including the command structure, deployment strategies, training levels, equipment needs and number of stations. Recommendations are expected to be made on whether to switch to a paid, professional department, and/or whether to require fitness testing and a wellness program for firefighters.
The decision to fund the $13,000 study resulted in part from selectmen’s questioning the need for equipment and more space at the West Bridgton Station. Another factor was the decision two years ago to eliminate the position of assistant fire chief following the resignation of Tim Cook, who carried many responsibilities in the department for many years in the tradition of informal small-town firefighting.
The study consultants were charged with factoring in future growth trends in town and the increase in recent years in the numbers of large approved subdivisions.
Bridgton’s Fire Department boasts a 50-member roster, but on any given call, only five or so members are available to respond immediately. The study will weigh the town’s heavy reliance on mutual aid from other towns, and the increased stress and injuries such reliance places on Bridgton’s firefighters.

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