Fire Station Shakeup Causes Controversy in Waterford

Two fire districts in Waterford will lose their only full-time firefighters starting March 1, and the chiefs sent a town-wide letter warning that the move "may delay daytime response during the week."

The Goshen and Quaker Hill fire districts will be left with only volunteer and part-time firefighters starting next month. Each district currently has one full-time firefighter, both of whom are moving to districts closer to the town center.

In the letter, Goshen Fire Chief Todd Patton and Quaker Hill Fire Chief Matthew Carson encouraged residents to call the first selectman and director of fire services and "ask them why the safety of life and property for the residents of the Quaker Hill and Goshen Fire districts is not as important as that of residents in the other fire districts."

First Selectman Dan Steward said letter came as a shock.

"It was very disappointing to me that the chiefs would not share this concern with us prior to sending a letter of this magnitude," he said. "That's inflammatory, and that's inappropriate in my world, because this is the safety people we depend on to keep us safe, and they're suggesting they wouldn't be able to respond."

Steward said the move, which comes as part of the negotiation process with the firefighters' union, will provide better service since the majority of calls come from the center of town.

He added that the full-time firefighters from the two districts will be replaced with part-time fire personnel, though the letter calls that into question, saying, "In the event that a part-time fire fighter [sic] is not available then the town will leave the fire station vacant."

According to Steward, all shifts have been filled for the month of March. He said the town will continue to keep a close eye on the situation and does not expect response time to be affected by the shift.

Bruce Miller, director of fire services, in a statement Wednesday that "the intention of the realignment is to improve the existing deficiencies that we experience in today's system."

Steward said he has not had any contact with either fire chief since the letter was released.

"I had asked for a meeting with the chiefs. They refused to meet with me," said Steward.

Both fire chiefs declined interviews Wednesday night. Patton said he and his counterpart in Quaker Hill had no further comment other than what was stated in the letter.

Both chiefs will address the change during a public meeting at their respective stations Saturday morning.

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