Concrete collapse forces Mass. firefighters to evacuate fire station
Firefighters and a pump truck were evacuated from Station 7 when chunks of the concrete floor in the bay showered into the basement
By Emily Clark
The Patriot Ledger
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Within the space of 24 days, firefighters have been evacuated from two of the town's seven stations, highlighting growing concerns about the safety of living quarters for those who put themselves in harm's way to save others.
In the latest setback for the fire department, firefighters and a pump truck were evacuated from Station 7 on Thursday when chunks of the concrete floor in the bay showered into the basement, exposing a disintegrating length of reinforcing steel beneath. Fire Chief Ed Bradley called the situation "unacceptable" and said he is responsible for the public's safety and feels helpless.
The town is in the process of replacing Station 7, located on Spooner Street and built in 1908, with a new building on Hedge Road. Firefighters and Engine 7 will be stationed at a Kingston firehouse in the interim.
"This will undoubtedly lead to longer response times, jeopardizing everyone that resides, or works in North Plymouth, including the firefighters," Bradley said on the department's Facebook page. "Years of ignored problems have gotten us to where we find ourselves today. Two out of the seven fire stations, as of right now, are uninhabitable."
On Oct. 14, firefighters at Station 1, also known as the Center Fire Station and department headquarters at 114 Sandwich St., were evacuated when debris from the ceilings rained into office and living space while work was being done on the building's roof. Calling it the worst week in his 45-year career, Bradley complained that the town's firefighters had been living in squalor, with flooding, roof leaks, inadequate space and facilities to protect them from chemicals.
Bradley said he warned the town of the roof issues and other problems with the building 10 years earlier, but they were not addressed.
After the collapse of concrete in the basement of Station 7, the public works department determined that a pump truck housed in the station had to be removed because the floor could not support its weight. Bradley estimated the truck to weigh approximately 48,000 pounds.
Bradley spent the rest of the day scrambling to find an indoor location for the pump truck, which needed to be kept inside because freezing temperatures Thursday night threatened to freeze water in the truck it was left out in the cold. First he came up with a plan to relocate the crew and truck temporarily to the Holtec-owned building on Armstrong Road, but that plan fell through and eventually the Kingston Fire Department offered a temporary solution.
While the living quarters of the Station 7 building are apparently safe, obvious signs of white, furry mold are visible along cracks that travel along paint that has bubbled in large patches from what appear to be leaks in the ceiling. It's not clear why the mold issue has not been rectified. Firefighters confirmed that it has been there some time after repeatedly informing the town of the issue.
Assistant Town Manager Marlene McCollem wrote in an email that the relocation of Engine 7 is temporary until the situation is remedied.
"A contractor will be secured to shore up the apparatus bay floor to ensure everyone's safety at the station," she wrote.
Town Manager Melissa Arrighi, who was in Boston at a meeting all day, said Facilities Manager Wayne Walkden has identified these and two other fire stations as priorities for repairs and maintenance. But money for maintenance and repairs are needed, she added, because there is not enough in the budget to cover them. As it is, when repairs are approved by town meeting, the money typically come from unanticipated money left over at the end of the year, or from borrowing. This doesn't solve the problem, she said.
Station 7 dates to 1908, when horses were pulling trucks to fire scenes. Arrighi said the mold in the station and the floor issues would need to be addressed prior to firefighters reentering the building, but noted that, with the new station's completion on the horizon, the town has to determine if there are alternatives to costly repairs to the station that is currently uninhabitable and destined to be sold.
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