public safety

Are There Too Many Fire Departments in Connecticut?

One legislator is proposing a study on the consolidation of fire departments to see if a system for sharing resources can be developed.

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How much is too much, when it comes to the number of fire departments in Connecticut?

A state legislator has proposed studying that, and how to eliminate current roadblocks to combining departments.

Right now our state has more than 300 fire departments serving 169 towns and cities.

Over the years NBC Connecticut Investigates has documented how this has become an issue in some places, whether it’s overlapping services, a lack of volunteers, or a lack of community oversight.

State Rep. Tom Arnone of Enfield said one of the biggest issues with combining departments or consolidating services is that it often requires a vote by the legislature to make any changes to who oversees fire departments, which communities they serve, and how they get their operating funds.

He said he wants to study ways to eliminate those barriers.

“It's a very arduous task it needs to be streamlined it needs to be easier for these small departments to go through that process maybe it just needs to go through a commission for the state of Connecticut, instead of the whole entire legislature,” Arnone said.

Arnone wants to make clear though, he does not believe a majority of our fire departments need to merge. Rather, he thinks there are opportunities to share expensive equipment and other items that cannot be done currently.

“They give us a great service for a great price and I don't think the issue right now is taxes, the issue is manpower and the amount of equipment,” Arnone said.

Bob Duval with the Connecticut Fire Chief’s Association said his organization does not oppose combining resources - his members just want chiefs, firefighters, and the public to have a seat at the table.

“There's formal consolidation and mergers and then there's informal handshakes that we're going to help each other out fire service has been doing that for 200 plus years.  It's reasonable to ask that everyone involved has some say in the matter it may be difficult if one of the parties involved is limited or has their hands tied,” Duval said.

The fire department study bill received unanimous support as it made its way out of the legislature’s planning and development committee. 

The next step would be for the full legislature to take it up for a vote.

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