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West Falmouth Fire Station Closure Announced 

In a public meeting on October 17, 2019, residents gathered at West Falmouth Library to hear the results of a Town-sponsored study on the proposed location for a proposed Combined North-West Fire Station.

Attendees were surprised to learn that the West Falmouth Fire Station would be closed permanently on July 1, 2020.

West Falmouth Fire Station

Letter to the Falmouth Select Board

You may cringe when you see my name as once again I comment on the lack of consistent fire/EMS coverage in West Falmouth.

If you have taken the time to review my comments, both written and in person at Board meetings, you should have a good understanding of the points that I have tried to bring forward during the last 2 1/2 years. I had hoped that my 50+ years holding high level positions in the MA Fire Service would have a bearing on decision making by the Board. I freely admit that this has not happened.

With a supportive policy statement by the Board, close to a million dollar override, the hiring of 8 firefighters that are now assigned to a shift and the clear and definitive statements of the former town manager and fire chief last October during a Board meeting, “that come April or May of 2022 the use of voluntary overtime would not be needed and the station would be staffed 24/7”.

With those facts before us, the clear and direct question is: WHY IS THE STATION CLOSED FOR WEEK-ENDS DURING THE HEART OF THE SUMMER - when the beaches in West Falmouth are full, 50 young people are housed at College Light Opera facility and most seasonal homes are full of family and visitors.

Is there an answer that the Board can provide? What happened to the commitment of Suso and Chief Smith gave last October?

I am actually lost to provide anything further, I truthfully don’t know who or what to believe. However, I leave you with this thought, a 10 million dollar station in Hatchville and the residents have never been told the true cost of staffing when completed. At one Board meeting Suso said that we would have to hire 6 firefighters. This is far from the truth. This will be the next shock and I sure hope that it is not at the further expense of the West Falmouth community.

- Stephen Coan

Update on the West Falmouth Fire Station

March 29, 2022
WFVA Treasurer, Oliver Egleston

At their meeting on March 28th, the Select Board adopted a policy that is intended to address the staffing needs of the fire department including staff for the West Falmouth station. The policy anticipates that, with the addition of a station in Hatchville, there will be period when the town will be operating six-stations. The policy directs town staff to prioritize hiring of sufficient personnel to operate a six-station model, and acknowledges that this will require the commitment of substantial funds for new employees. To follow this policy, the board discussed using their annual update of the strategic plan to set more specific hiring goals for a given year and to direct town staff to budget accordingly. At its previous meeting, the board had adopted a modification of its strategic plan to clarify its intention to keep the West Falmouth Station open until it is replaced or until a combined north and west station is built.

For more than two years, several West Falmouth residents have actively campaigned to keep the West Falmouth station open following the fire department’s announcement that it would close the station because of a reorganization of its staffing model. Following closure of the station in July 2020, the town administration insisted that the station was not closed even though it was clearly not staffed and the doors were locked. In response to push-back, the town has attempted to keep the station open using voluntary overtime starting in late 2020, a practice that has opened the station sporadically when volunteer firefighters could be found.

In recent weeks, the West Falmouth station has been open more consistently as additional firefighters have gone through the hiring and training process following the override. But the town has not revised its contract with the union to increase to sixteen the minimum number of firefighters required at each shift, apparently because the department doesn’t have enough firefighters. So, the West Falmouth station continues to depend on some voluntary overtime and continues to be closed at times.

Apart from its staffing shortage, the fire department has been without a spare engine for some months. As a result, the engine in West Falmouth has been used a spare thus taking it to another station when needed and closing West Falmouth. The town has recently bought a used engine to fill its need for a spare. This should relieve the use of the West Falmouth engine as a spare and the associated closings.

Letters to the Editor – Falmouth Enterprise

Letter: 7/29/22 Daniel Shearer, West Falmouth Resident
"Time To Act On Fire Station"

Letter: 7/29/22 Dr. Kenneth and Janice Yelland, West Falmouth Residents
"Fire Station Staffing"

Letter: 3/4/22 Todd Taylor, West Falmouth Resident and retired Falmouth Fire Fighter
"Time to Fix the Staffing Problem"

Letter: 2/25/22 Joseph A. Netto III, East Falmouth Resident
"Vote on West Falmouth Fire Station"

Letter: 2/25/22 Leslie R. Lichtenstein, Hatchville Resident
“Forgone Grant Money”

Letter: 2/25/22 Daniel H. Shearer, West Falmouth Resident
"Comprehensive Plan Needed
Letter: 2/18/22 Maureen Harlow-Hawkes, West Falmouth Resident
"Fiscal Irresponsibility

More letters regarding this issue:

  • From Jay Austin and Paul Sellers
  • From Amy C. Sellers
  • From Martha H. Gilbert
  • From Oliver W. Egleston
  • From Daniel H. Shearer
  • From Milton E. Williamson
  • Editorial regarding Prop 2-1/2

Letter from West Falmouth Residents Jay Austin and Paul Sellers

A number of us are concerned with the implications of Article 9 in the upcoming town meeting and the impact it would have on EMS coverage in Falmouth. While the article addresses the need to identify and propose a new fire station to replace the aging West and North Falmouth locations, the Chief has used this opportunity to announce the closing of the West Falmouth Station in July 2020, three to five years before a new facility can be built to properly serve the northwest section of town. This premature closure is leaving residents exposed and dramatically increases EMS response times.

When an alarm is sounded in Falmouth, it is not just the local station that responds, but also the adjacent stations. Because of this procedure, the West Falmouth Fire Station is one of the most active of the five stations in town, responding to calls in every district. Without an active station in West Falmouth, North Falmouth would then respond to those calls in the other parts of town, leaving the entire northwest section of town exposed in the event of additional calls.

When you think about heart attacks, strokes, overdoses and drowning, time is of the essence. Timely response can save lives. All lives in Falmouth are valuable; districts should not be pitted against one another. To close a station without a plan or replacement is a dereliction of duty. Public safety should be at the top of the pyramid without regard to cost. As the demographics throughout Falmouth shift to an older more mature population having dependable reliable emergency response time only gets more important and valuable for everyone. Dealing with certainty is always better than facing uncertainty.

The Chief's decision is not in the interest of public safety, but rather based on personnel considerations. Therefore, we would like to propose an amendment to Article 9 that would add funding for four additional firefighters, enabling adequate coverage at all five stations. We would also direct the Board of Selectmen to incorporate into the 2021 - 2022 budget these additional positions. This is within the scope of the article as it directly addresses the concerns that the Chief and the consultants presented at the community meeting outlined in the explanation of the article.
We would appreciate it if you could review this amendment and consider supporting it on the floor of Town Meeting. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.

- Jay Austin and Paul Sellers

Letter to Falmouth Enterprise from Amy Sellers

As a lifelong resident of West Falmouth, I am upset about the closing of the West Falmouth fire station. Particularly concerning is the cavalier attitude displayed by a number of our senior Town of Falmouth officials. I object to this, particularly when it comes to the safety of Falmouth residents.

I am well aware of the town’s longstanding plan to close the West Falmouth station, but feel that West Falmouth residents have been misled regarding the timing of the closure and the replacement station. Three years ago my village was told the station would close only after the new station was built. The proposed location was Route 151 or Thomas Landers Road. However, at a recent meeting, the town’s consultant presented Sandwich Road as the new site. When questioned on estimated response times during the peak summer season, there were no answers.

It was painfully obvious at the meeting on October 17 that Fire Chief Small and several other officials already had their plan in place. The meeting was not a “community meeting.” There was no public input, no flow or exchange of ideas and make no mistake this “plan” will affect the entire town in the long run.

Perhaps the most egregious oversight is that our senior Town of Falmouth officials and Fire Chief [Michael] Small entered into union negotiations knowing the vulnerability of the West Falmouth station. They negotiated with the local union without a safeguard in place that will protect West Falmouth residents. The fire chief unabashedly states, “It’s not in the budget” and “There’s no going back.”

I challenge Chief Small and Town Manager Julian Suso to go back to the books and figure it out! How about getting creative and not being so inflexible? Here are a few suggestions:

•  Privatize transport and nonemergency calls to area nursing homes, et cetera.
•  Have only an ambulance at the West Falmouth station for local emergencies within a five- to six-mile radius.
•  Build out to the north of the West Falmouth fire station parcel, allowing the ability to house both a fire truck and ambulance.
•   Create an open floor plan/studio sleeping arrangement for the firefighters stationed in West Falmouth. It could be similar to those many of our senior citizens currently live in, or how about bunkbeds?

I close in reminding Chief Small that at a recently completed CPR course at the Falmouth fire station I was told the most important thing to remember is, it takes one person to make a difference in an emergency.

- Amy C. Sellers, Old Dock Road, West Falmouth

Buy A Mini Attack Pumper - Letter to the Falmouth Enterprise
January 8, 2021

I read with interest about the available free cash left over as a result of the Proposition 2½ override. Currently the capital plan includes a line item for the purchase of an $800,000 fire truck. At recent select board meetings it has been discussed that our fleet of firetrucks is aging. The truck they hope to purchase will not fit in the West Falmouth fire station. As Town Manager Julian Suso stated recently, “The West Falmouth fire station will not be closed in the near future.”

I would like to suggest that some of that free cash be used to purchase a mini attack pumper.

These vehicles are used in other states quite successfully and have a dual purpose. They can be configured to be a medical unit and also are equipped with water. They can be a first responder to a medical call but also are equipped with water to start firefighting upon arrival. The beauty of this vehicle is that it would fit in the West Falmouth fire station quite nicely and would allow this station, when open, to meet the needs of all residents. Its versatility would allow its use all over our town.

Doug Brown is to be commended as he seems very in tune with the taxpayers of this community who voted for this override for the hiring of firefighters. It would seem wrong, given the staffing crisis and aging vehicles in our fire department, to spend the money on something else.

- Amy C. Sellers, Old Dock Road, West Falmouth

Letter read at Selectmen’s meeting 11/25/19 by Martha H. Gilbert

I understand the West Falmouth Fire Station is to be closed permanently July 1, 2020.

I am here tonight to strongly request the West Falmouth Fire Station stay open with improvements. If this is not possible then it should stay open and staffed at least until a new fire station is operational.

With this closure, I am concerned with the increase of emergency response time from virtually a few minutes to almost 10 minutes at best, as presented by the town at the West Falmouth Library on October 17th. Unfortunately, the response time and call volume data were collected in May and not during our busy summer season. A 10-minute response time is well above the nationally recommended 6-minutes. I am fearful that 10 minutes will be dramatically increased in July and August.

Like many of my neighbors, I have chosen to live in West Falmouth partly because of the close proximity to a fire station. In my 23 years of living in West Falmouth, I have witnessed critical rescues performed by our local station. I value the safety and peace of mind our dedicated rescue workers provide out of Station #4.

However, this is not exclusively a West Falmouth problem. At the meeting stated above, I was told other areas of town would suffer and be left unstaffed when emergency help is required in West Falmouth. I am deeply concerned with the consequences this decision will have on all of Falmouth.

- Martha H. Gilbert

Letter to Falmouth Enterprise from Oliver W. Egleston

The lights will be on, but there may not be anyone home. That would be a reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the front-page article on February 21 quoting Mr. Suso on the future of the West Falmouth fire station. It is hair-splitting to claim that there are no plans to close the station after presenting a staffing plan for the fire department that does not include anyone assigned to West Falmouth after July 1. If there is no staff there, it cannot respond to calls. So, in what way will it not be closed, planned or not?

I do not doubt either the sincerity of the administration or its efforts to staff the station using voluntary overtime. But it looks like wishful thinking when, as reported, using voluntary overtime for one position in Woods Hole has been successful 80 percent of the time. For two positions in West Falmouth, the same success rate would provide staff only 40 percent of the time. In the summer, when vacations in the department require overtime to cover the new staffing plan in other stations, it is even less likely that additional firefighters will be available and willing to volunteer to staff West Falmouth. But summer is also when our population peaks. Having no plan to close the station, as Mr. Suso says, is little comfort when there is obviously no plan to keep it open.

As a friend said, we should not be running a fire department on volunteers and the whim of a firefighter who may, or may not, want an overtime shift. The plan to reassign personnel to headquarters and East Falmouth on July 1 should be delayed until sufficient staffing is hired and trained to allow this redeployment to be implemented without compromising fire protection in West Falmouth.

- Oliver W. Egleston, Katelyn Hills Drive, West Falmouth

Misuse Of Tax Revenue - Letter to the Falmouth Enterprise

January 15, 2021

This is the second time that the Town of Falmouth is attempting to misuse taxpayers’ money acquired with Proposition 2½ overrides. First time was some years ago, when money voted in an override to buy books and supplies for teachers was used instead for school department salaries.

Now this year’s override of $971,507, passed to hire firefighters, is going to “free cash?” Certified free cash comes from unspent budgeted funds, from the budget passed by Town Meeting. Override money is not in the budget but is money authorized by a town-wide vote after being okayed by Town Meeting. This override continues forever and increases 2½ percent yearly. The citizens of Falmouth voted this money for a very specific purpose and if it goes to “free cash,” it can be used for anything the town administration desires. I do not have “free” funds for the town to spend indiscriminately. This vote was to protect the town with enough firefighters to ensure the safety of its residents.

An added problem is that our finance committee, appointed by Town Meeting, used to be a stand-alone advisory board. Now, the town manager and finance director attend most meetings without appearing on the agenda. Talk about the fox in the henhouse! The finance committee, if not intimidated, could recommend that the unused override money be put in a separate account for fire protection to be used in the future at the chief’s request with the approval of the finance committee and Town Meeting. This would at least be a use similar to the purpose for which the citizens voted the money. It is not right that the town can acquire money by asking for it, outside of the regular budget, for a special purpose, and then spend it on anything it wants.

Or, the town could return the unused money to the taxpayers.

Daniel H. Shearer, Old Dock Road, West Falmouth

Funding The Fire Stations - Letter to the Falmouth Enterprise

January 15, 2021

The editorial in last week’s Enterprise, January 8, about the surge of million-dollar-plus home sales in Falmouth rekindled some thoughts I have had on this issue.

Take a tour around Falmouth’s beautiful shore roads from Megansett to Penzance Point, around Nobska over to the Heights and through Menauhant with many millions of dollars worth of properties. And not only the mega million sites but even more in the numbers leading up to the million figure.

Now take a close look, particularly during this time of year.

They are all dark and closed up tight until next May or June. This probably applies to over 95 percent of them, which represents maybe as much as 50 percent of residential properties in Falmouth. I don’t have exact figures but approximate from observation.

The point is all of them are paying into the tax base of the town. However, none are burdening the town with more children for the school system. Yet the school system is benefitting greatly from their taxes.

Why can’t some of this “windfall” be directed within the budget to the public safety issues the town is now facing? The time to build two new fire stations is now and not 10 to 20 years from now.

- Milton E. Williamson, West Falmouth Highway, West Falmouth

Credibility In Question - Editorial

Falmouth Enterprise
January 8, 2021

Voters last May approved a Proposition 2½ override to fund firefighter positions. Now it appears that not all that money that was subsequently approved by Town Meeting will be spent on firefighters; they have to hire them first. So at the end of the fiscal year, or a couple of months after, unspent funds will go into free cash, where the money is up for grabs.

There is nothing wrong with that per se; it’s just the way it works. Unspent money from any department budget except for the schools goes into free cash at the end of the fiscal year. And having free cash is helpful when unanticipated needs arise.

Proposed Amendment to Town Meeting Warrant Article #9

Proposed amendment text is highlighted:

ARTICLE 9: To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire an Option to Purchase a parcel of land in the northwest section of the Town suitable for the construction of a new Northwest Fire Station, add an additional 4 firefighter positions to provide adequate coverage for the towns 5 fire stations, to appropriate a sum of money for this purpose, to determine how the same shall be raised and by whom expended. On do or take any other action on the matter. On request of the Board of Selectmen.

RECOMMENDATION (Finance Committee): That the Town vote to transfer $400,000 from Certified Free Cash for the purposes of this Article. To be expended under the jurisdiction of the Town Manager.

EXPLANATION: The Town has engaged a consultant to identify the general locations that would best serve both West Falmouth and North Falmouth. Prior to this Town Meeting, we will have held a community meeting to present preliminary findings and solicit community input. We anticipate completing the location study in the coming months and will then be prepared to identify specific parcels of land that might be purchased for construction of a new station. This article would provide funds for an option to purchase which essentially reserves the property for a potential future sale subject to negotiation of final terms. This article is intended to accelerate the land acquisition process but a second Town Meeting vote would be required to appropriate funds for a specific parcel of land before the Town is able to finalize any purchase of property. Funding will ensure that all 5 stations will remain open until a new station is built to replace the aging structures in the Northwest segment of Falmouth. The four firefighter positions will be incorporated into future annual town budgets.

Notice of Formation of Citizens Advisory Committee on Fire Stations

Town of Falmouth
Citizens Advisory Committee – Future Fire Station(s)

A Citizens Advisory Committee shall be appointed by the Board of Selectmen in accordance with relevant provisions of the Falmouth Home Rule Charter and Town bylaws. The Committee shall consist of nine (9) members who shall serve until the Committee is dissolved. The Board seeks representation from individuals residing in a broad geographic area within the Town.

The mission of the Committee is to evaluate information regarding the location of fire stations provided by a consultant study, and input from the Fire Chief, Town Manager and other staff members, and from citizens. The Committee is directed to collect and review information and submit a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen regarding one/more potential location(s) for a new fire station(s). In formulating a recommendation regarding station locations, the Committee will need to develop a thorough understanding of staffing resources and deployment practices.

Applications must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, December 27, 2019, in the Office of the Board of Selectmen. Applications are available in the Office of the Board of Selectmen, 59 Town Hall Square and on the Board of Selectmen’s page on the Town website at www.falmouthmass.us.

On Request of Chairman Megan English Braga
Publication Date: Friday, November 22, 2019 – Falmouth Enterprise, Account #: 2056

Community Action

Saving the W.F. Fire Station and Ensuring Rapid Emergency Response Times in West Falmouth ...and ALL of Falmouth.

"Citizens for Rapid Response" (CR2) A small group of West Falmouth residents including members of WFVA Board, former Fire-Fighter & EMTs, and Town Meeting & Town Board members are working on a plan to prevent the impending closure of West Falmouth Fire Station until such time that a new Fire Station serving the area is built.

Immediate Actions

•  Amend Town Meeting Article 9 *Pending review/approval by TM Moderator*
•  Contact Town Meeting Members and urge them to support rapid emergency response times in all parts of Falmouth.

Continuing Action

WFVA encourages residents to speak up and let town leadership know how important rapid emergency response is to Falmouth.

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Informational handouts:

•  Link to Town Meeting Warrant 4/4/22

•  SAFER Grants
(Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response)

•  Fire Station Staffing - existing and proposed

•  Response time to emergencies in West Falmouth will increase dramatically with closure of Station #4

•  Finance Committee Questions With Responses from Town Administration regarding Fire/Rescue Department FY2021 Operating Budget and Article 14 - Hire Eight Additional Firefighters

Media coverage about the announced closure:

West Falmouth Fire Station Still In Limbo
Falmouth Enterprise, by Noelle Annonen,
Jul. 29, 2022

A Bad Idea That Refuses To Die
Falmouth Enterprise, by Eric T. Turkington
Jul. 22, 2022

Select Board Meeting on Monday, 2/28/22 has a discussion of Hatchville Fire Station and Staffing on agenda.
Update and presentation on total project cost estimate for Sandwich Road Fire Station, Status report on Fire Department staffing” (10 minutes)

Time to Choose a Bucket
Falmouth Enterprise, by Troy Clarkson, Oct. 29, 2021
Hatchville Station design Met with Mixed Reviews
Falmouth Enterprise

Finance Comm. Votes to Recommend Sandwich Road Fire Station
Falmouth Enterprise

West Falmouth Fire Station Faces Temporary Closures
Falmouth Enterprise, by Carrie Gentile, Jul. 3, 2020

Staffing issues curb operations at West Falmouth fire station
Cape Cod Times, by Jessica Hill, Jul. 1, 2020

Committee Affirms At Least Five Fire Stations Needed In Falmouth
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Mar. 10, 2020

Falmouth Finance Committee Supports Proposition 2 1/2 Override
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Mar. 6, 2020

Overtime Approved For West Falmouth Station
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Feb. 25, 2020

Mr. Suso: No Plans To Close West Falmouth Fire Station
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Feb. 21, 2020

Hatchville A Problem Area, According To Fire Station Study
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole Feb. 14, 2020

Selectmen Appoint Nine To Falmouth Fire Station Advisory Committee
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Feb. 11, 2020

Falmouth FinCom Has Questions About Override
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Feb. 7, 2020

Residents Speak Against Closing West Falmouth Fire Station
Falmouth Enterprise, by Brad Cole, Jan. 23, 2020

Staffing, Station Closure Hot Topics at Falmouth Forum
Cape Cod Times, by Jessica Hill, Jan. 22, 2020

Residents Express Fear, Anger Over Plan to Close West Falmouth Fire Station
WCAI, by Eve Zuckoff, Jan. 22, 2020

Video - Community Forum: Fire Protection/New Falmouth Station
FCTV, Jan. 21, 2020

West Falmouth Fire Station To Close In July

Falmouth Enterprise, by Steven Withrow, Oct. 24, 2019

Fire station in West Falmouth to close in July
Cape Cod Times, by Christine Legere, Oct. 18, 2019

View WFVA Newsletter About the Fire Station Closure Annoucement

January 2021
Community Forum– Present / Future Fire Protection Services

View Agenda file >

Read the Falmouth Enterprise article >

Community Action

Saving the W.F. Fire Station and Ensuring Rapid Emergency Response Times in West Falmouth ...and ALL of Falmouth.

"Citizens for Rapid Response" (CR2) A small group of West Falmouth residents including members of WFVA Board, former Fire-Fighter & EMTs, and Town Meeting & Town Board members are working on a plan to prevent the impending closure of West Falmouth Fire Station until such time that a new Fire Station serving the area is built.

Immediate Actions

•  Amend Town Meeting Article 9 *Pending review/approval by TM Moderator*
•  Contact Town Meeting Members and urge them to support rapid emergency response times in all parts of Falmouth.

Continuing Action

WFVA encourages residents to speak up and let town leadership know how important rapid emergency response is to Falmouth.


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