Mass. unions: Poor conditions plague fire stations throughout the state
Firefighter unions are sounding the alarm about station houses they say receive little attention, saying poor conditions raise safety fears and hurt morale
By Brooks Sutherland
BOSTON — Citing rats, broken plumbing, leaky ceilings, poor ventilation and run-down equipment, firefighter unions across the state are sounding the alarm about station houses they say receive little attention, saying poor conditions raise safety fears and hurt morale.
“There’s concerns statewide,” said Richard MacKinnon Jr., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.
A state law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last year that enforces standards created in the Occupational Safety and Health Act for all state and local government workers, took affect Feb. 1, forcing municipalities to address the issues, according to MacKinnon. Some stations, where firefighters both live and work, have real safety concerns, he said.
A fire engine breakdown in Woburn recently forced firefighters to respond to calls in a station pickup truck. The station has been criticized for having rat infestations, jammed windows and floor damage during storms. Woburn has taken initial steps toward building two new stations, appropriating $600,000 for a feasibility study. Woburn Fire Chief Stephen Adgate told the Herald Monday his station has endured some problems, but says it has a “very efficient DPW crew” to addresses those issues.
“I’m going to tell you right now, this station, despite what anyone thinks around here, is probably in better shape than I’ve ever seen it,” Adgate said.
When asked if his station has problems with morale, Adgate said “If there is, I’m not aware of it.”
In Medford, Local 1032 President Ed Buckley said the city’s department is worried about its headquarters, at 120 Main St., which is shared with police and has broken windows, issues with heat, air conditioning, rats and bad plumbing.
“It’s crazy,” Buckley said. “Living in those conditions for so long, you get used to it, it’s sad.”
Buckley criticized the city and Mayor Stephanie M. Burke for what he says has been a lack of attention to the fire department, after plans to move the police station into a new headquarters were released.
“Morale is at an all-time low since she’s been mayor,” Buckley added, referring to Burke.
Burke countered in a statement that her administration is “working diligently with the state along with our Board of Health Director and the Department of Public Health to assess all fire stations.”
“We have one police headquarters in the City of Medford, while there are 6 fire stations throughout the community,” Burke’s statement read. “Due to the poor conditions of the police headquarters, there was an immediate need for repairs. In order to allow for the least disruption to the officers, we are building the headquarters adjacent to the current facility and then will relocate them. … The safety and well-being of our public safety personnel is a priority and we will continue to do what we can to secure funds for a future fire headquarters.”
Cambridge made an emergency $2 million appropriation last year after Mayor Marc McGovern toured some stations.
“They’re doing stuff, but seven of our eight houses need work,” said Cambridge Local 30 President Chris Haynes. “They’re equivalent to homeless shelters. It’s a problem across the state.”
In Everett, $3 million was recently spent on renovating its Hancock Street fire station. But Union President Craig Hardy says its Central Station on Broadway street needs work and has “a million problems.”
“It’s currently a disaster,” Hardy said. “Have to give our city some credit. They’re saying Central is on the forecast next. … It’s easy to fix police stations, there’s only one of them. But oftentimes our buildings get left in the dust.”
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