To the Editor:
I’d like to thank firefighter Don Collins for his thoughtful and insightful letter, and for sharing his concerns with Hopkinton residents. He raises several points that I’d like to address.
In his letter, Mr. Collins states “If you follow the data, you will notice that the majority of calls in town are off of West Main Street.” While this is technically true, the data is heavily skewed because there are assisted living facilities at both ends of Main Street (Golden Pond and Fairview Estates). Between January 1 and today Hopkinton Fire has responded to a combined 213 calls to those areas of town. On the other hand, calls to just one section of the Woodville district are up significantly this year; There were 64 in all of 2022 (averaging 5.3/m), and just four months in to 2023 the fire department has already responded to 39 (averaging 9.7/m).
In all, Hopkinton Fire responded to 2,505 calls last year.
While this speaks to the cyclical nature of fire calls, what is most important is that every resident of Hopkinton receives the best level of service we can possibly provide.
Tonight, residents will be asked at Town Meeting to approve Article 17, which provides $70,000 for an engineering plan to remodel Station 2. This will take the design renderings we have developed and turn them in to reality. And as important of a step as this is, we are still several years away from being able to complete this project. There are multiple hurdles to clear, including bid gathering, vendor selection and necessary approvals.
Still, at last year’s Town Meeting Hopkinton voters generously approved $400,000 to remodel Station 2, and this project is underway. Included in this will be a repair of the roof (which leaks), window replacement (some of which are broken), removal of asbestos and lead paint, and to make a new day room for our firefighters when they are between calls.
Importantly, we still cannot support deploying female firefighters to that station because of the inadequate facilities. There are no separate sleeping quarters and no space for them to change. Part of the vote tonight, and the ultimate remodel, will allow our female firefighters to work in that station.
Our long-term goal is to staff 4-5 firefighters at Station 2 to handle calls in that section of town. Why? Because response times to the Spring Street / North Street side of town today can take up to 15 minutes in ideal weather conditions. The other night we responded to a call on Falcon Ridge Drive. By car it should have taken 11 minutes but the ladder truck weighs a lot more, so it took 14 minutes. Had we departed from the Woodville station the team would have been there in 7 minutes.
In cardiac arrest, after nine minutes, severe and permanent brain damage is likely. After 10 minutes, the chances of survival are low. I don’t say that to scare, but I do want everyone to understand that lives are at stake and every minute counts.
Finally, and perhaps least important, is the economic impact some residents feel because Station 2 is not operational. Insurance companies calculate premiums based on the proximity of a fire station and projected response time. Some homeowners in Hopkinton are paying more for their homeowners insurance than they would be with a functional station in Woodville.
I don’t see this as putting “lipstick on a pig” as Mr. Collins refers to it. This is about renovating an existing building so that we can put firefighters back in it, reducing our response times and saving lives.
I respectfully ask the town to vote to approve Article 17.
William Miller, Chief, Hopkinton Fire Department