Nine Groton firefighters were laid off this morning despite a fire captain's open letter to the mayor asking her to halt the cuts, which he says will pose a "public safety crisis."
The letter, posted on fire news site pipenozzle.com and republished on the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District's Facebook page, says the layoffs will inhibit firefighting efforts and require firefighters to wait up to 10 minutes for mutual aid to arrive before heading into a burning building.
The cuts represent a third of the department, which covers Groton's largest fire district.
"With the exception of a rescue, if we arrive at a structure fire, we would only be able to stretch one hose line and attempt to fight it from the exterior of the building, or protect the exposure buildings UNTIL two more mutual aid firefighters arrive on scene to meet federal law minimum standards for entry into the burning building," Captain Brian Kiely wrote in the letter.
He says the call for mutual aid and subsequent delay in entry "will be normal everyday operation" after the layoffs.
"This is a public safety crisis for the residents of our district," Kiely wrote. "We protect dozens of multistory/multifamily apartments, condos and hotels putting thousands of visitors and residents at high risk of injury or death from fire in these types of occupancies."
He explains that, with four active firefighters on duty at a time, the department will only be able to send out one ladder truck with a 24-foot ladder, "high enough to reach the second floor only."
Kiely also says limited manpower will pose a problem if multiple incients arise at once.
Since the department covers commercial, industrial and municipal properties, he says the town is liable to suffer a financial blow "due to fire and the loss of use and possibly the long term closing of a major property from fire."
Kiely suggests a supplemental tax to fund the positions scheduled to be cut, then seek "legal remedies" against the fire district board if president Alan Ackley doesn't agree.
"Most importantly, this is a manufactured financial crisis orchestrated by Alan Ackley and his fellow board members, and about 150 residents out of roughly 12,000 residents," he wrote. "They have dismantled the department over the last few years, with no regard for public safety."
According to Kiely, ladder trucks have been taken out of service, a fire station has closed and the department staff has been cut by 45 percent.
"The scary part is this happens Friday with no plan in place to make up for the loss of almost half the department," he said.
Kiely closes the letter by asking the mayor to forward his message to town councilors and the town manager.