Safety Concerns Surround Decision to Cut UConn Health Center FD

After the announcement that UConn Health Center was shutting down its fire department, some are raising concerns about whether the Town of Farmington’s fire department can pick up the slack.

In a press release, Town Manager Kathleen Eagen stated the town did not initiate nor does it encourage the idea of shutting UConn’s department down, though she said the town is committed to providing the same high level of service to the UConn Health Center as it does to the rest of the town.

A retired UCHC Fire Department chief tells NBC Connecticut the eight full time Farmington firefighters and 140 volunteer firefighters aren't equipped to handle the UCHC.

"They're good people but right now they don't have the training or equipment in order to effectively respond," retired Chief Carmine Centrella said.

According to a letter from the UCONN Health Center CEO, the Fire Dept. is shutting down June 1st due to "ongoing fiscal pressure."

"There's always been this belief of people wanting to save money off the backs of public safety," Centrella added.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters dug up old public safety reports from 2002 and 2013.

In one, Kathy Eagen told investigators if this department were eliminated it'd be impossible for the volunteer fire department to handle every emergency at the Health Center.

The campus is complex, Carmine explained, with anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people here at any given time, the campus should remain 24/7 with first responders.

"Unless you have certain skills and training you're waiting for a crew to show up and then you have to make the drive and get into the building. That's not something a volunteer. We're on duty 10 hours a day - 14 at night."

In another public safety report, Farmington's Director of Fire and Rescue Services Mary Ellen Harper stated "we are in no way capable of handling the health center the way it needs to be handled."

Another in a different report it said the fire companies that service Farmington “ill prepared to provide primary fire services to the campus."

Despite being named in the CEO's letter, West Hartford fire, which provides mutual aid to Farmington and UCONN Health, their Chief had not seen a copy of the letter and also voiced concerns.

"We've had no discussions or meetings of what this means. I haven't received a copy of the letter," West Hartford Fire Chief Gary Allyn told NBC Connecticut.

Allyn added, "the people there are trained to be in that particular environment and how they chose to address that going forward there's got to be a plan, and I don’t know what that is or when being released."

UCHC firefighters said they are just hoping for the best regarding their future.

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