Published October 31. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - Firefighters will vacate 13 Fort Hill Road - one of the two fire stations in the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District - and move to the Long Hill Road station on Friday.
The fire district board, which has been in financial crisis, will continue to lease the station and maintain the fire marshal's office there. But its firefighting staff and engine will be relocated.
The board voted Oct. 11 to consolidate firefighters to the Long Hill Road station to save money.
"No matter what it saves at this point, you've only got so much money," district board member Ron Yuhas said Wednesday. "There's only so much you can do."
He said relocating is better than the alternative of running out of money and shutting down operations.
Fire Chief Todd Paige said Wednesday that after the move, both engines would be located at Long Hill. The department is looking for a space on town property to store its ladder truck, which is also at Long Hill, but doesn't work properly and can't respond to fire calls.
Once the ladder truck is removed, Paige said both engines would fit at Long Hill. Racks of gear will also be moved from the Fort Hill station.
Paige said part of the plan is to stock a pickup truck with medical equipment and send it to some medical calls instead of an engine to save money. The department has a budget of about $50,000 for repairs of large apparatus, and Paige said those repairs might be less if the engines were used less.
He said the pickup would only be sent under certain circumstances. For example, if both engines were in the station and a medical call came in, the department could pull two firefighters off one engine, send them in the pickup, and still have an engine left to respond to a fire.
He said engines are staffed at varying levels on any given day, but with a minimum of five firefighters, or three on one engine and two on another.
Paige said he didn't want to pull firefighters out of Fort Hill, but it was necessary considering the district could run out of money.
"It's not my decision," Paige said. "The district decided to do this to try to save and I'm trying to do my best to try to make it work."
Firefighters would still be able to reach the most developed areas of the fire district, including Midway Oval, within 5 minutes, he said in an earlier interview. Response times to other locations east of the Fort Hill station could increase by 3 minutes depending on the location, Paige said.
One day after the vote to remove firefighters from Fort Hill, a Facebook page was created called "Save Fort Hill Firehouse." The creator is unknown. The page has close to 250 friends.