Fire, ambulance services to merge in Mass. town
The merger will start in July and be complete with all paperwork by Jan. 1, 2020
Ken Cleveland Item Correspondent
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.
BOLTON, Mass. — The merger of the Bolton Fire Department and the Ambulance Department may happen with little fanfare.
"People probably won't notice much of a change," Ambulance Squad Director Margy Diaz said. "I think it's going to go really smoothly."
"It streamlines the delivery of the system," Fire Chief Jeffrey Legendre said. "As residents, I don't believe they'll see any real change."
And there may be little practical change for members of the two departments.
"We've been working together for years," Diaz said. "The biggest change is who I'll be reporting to."
Many members are now cross trained, Legendre said, being both firefighters and EMTs.
He said 13 are crosstrained, two were just certified last week and up to three more will be attending EMT school, making about three-quarters of the firefighters cross trained.
"We will probably be able to provide more services outside of the emergency side with people during the day," Diaz said. "It's the direction we've been going," noting the first full-time firefighter/EMT was hired about 12 years ago.
"It does make a difference. It's hard to do this while working a day job," Diaz said, a factor many towns have been wrestling with. "That's why we started the cadet program 31 years ago," Diaz added of the Nashoba program she will continue to oversee.
"It's been a positive and rewarding experience for everybody," she said. "As we talked about it, we realized it's not as overwhelming as we thought."
Reflecting on the mission, Diaz said, "It's a fun place to be. It's very rewarding on our part. Some calls are so rewarding – it makes everything else worth it."
Legendre, who has been a paramedic for 22 years, said one positive is that it is now one organization, with a more structured central management. It includes the fire chief and officers in a structure that includes officers of the ambulance squad. Diaz will be director of operations and continue oversight of the cadet program; the assistant director will be an EMT captain and the training officer will be an EMS lieutenant, he said.
Noting that the departments are "two very proud organizations that like to maintain their history," Legendre said the biggest challenge may be consolidating the patches. Both patches look similar, he said, with the meetinghouse, but one with a quickstep and one a star of life. He said he anticipates a fall program to allow members to submit their best ideas for a new patch.
That history was noticeable, he said, when the new command vehicle arrived. It was red, a change from the fire department's white vehicles, but a color he said most people associate with the fire department. He said the fire department has had both white and red vehicles historically.
The change will start July 1, the timing triggered by hospital affiliation agreements coming due. Although they are the same, it was a good opportunity to change at that time, he said.
Legendre said he anticipates a full merger about Jan. 1, 2020, with the paperwork all set.
"Everyone is comfortable with each other," he said. "It's a good working environment."
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