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$25,000 study planned to improve Swampscott’s Fire Station

Swampscott Fire Station will see major upgrades after a $25,000 study is undertaken, which will address the low bays in the garage, which can't fit modern ladder trucks. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — A $25,000 study will help identify ways to revamp the town’s fire station, which was built in 1960.

The funding for the study, which is projected to take three to six months, was approved by Town Meeting in May.

The study is to evaluate the fire station on Burrill Street and make recommendations for upgrades to make the building handicap accessible, more gender-friendly because it was not built with female firefighters in mind, and provide for larger bays to accommodate modern fire apparatus, or fire trucks, according to Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen.

Breen said the fire engines fit in the station fine, but the ladder trucks are becoming increasingly higher and more difficult to fit. The town’s fire station has bay doors, or garage doors that are 11 feet 3 inches, while a more modern fire station has bays that are 13 to 14 feet.

Breen said the last time the town purchased a ladder truck was in 2004. But when the town made the purchase, officials were constrained by different designs of trucks that would fit into the building. The existing ladder truck is slated to be replaced in seven to eight years.

He said one option could be to add a ladder truck bay to the side of the fire station next to the old police station and attach it to the fire department’s building, which would add higher garage space, rather than lifting up the existing bay doors.

“The study is to begin the process of evaluating all of those needs and putting a figure on how much it would cost to accomplish that,” Breen said. “At the same time, we will evaluate options to the extent that it’s possible with the funds available (and) will evaluate whether it’s feasible to remain in the station or more cost-effective to go to another location.”

Breen said the fire station hasn’t seen any major renovations since it was built. Last year, there was a cosmetic remodeling project, which included completely revamping the station’s living quarters on the second floor, along with asbestos removal. That work was done with a lot of staff labor.

Also approved at Town Meeting was $100,000 in funding for the purchase of new self-contained breathing apparatus and $22,770 for apron repair.

Breen said he’s hopeful the department receives a $127,000 federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant to offset the cost for the breathing apparatus. The town, rather than allocating the full $100,000, would only be responsible for a partial match to the grant.

The fire chief said the last time self-contained breathing apparatus, which are the compressed air cylinders and face masks firefighters use to go into burning buildings, was purchased was from another Assistance to Firefighters grant in 2005, making the current equipment 13 years old.

The National Firefighter Protection Association ups the standard for breathing apparatus every five to six years, making the current equipment two cycles out of date. It’s still functional, safe and operable, he said, but it’s becoming obsolete.

Sixteen units of breathing apparatus would have to be purchased. If the department receives the grant, also included would be a transponder attached to each breathing unit, a radio tracking technology that can locate a firefighter in a building if he or she gets into trouble, Breen said.

“That’s a very significant advance in safety technology we’re looking forward to getting,” Breen said.

The apron, or ramp, refers to the paved area in front of the garage doors, which needs some repair from fire trucks, or apparatus, constantly compressing the pavement. A ladder truck weighs about 83,000 pounds and a fire engine weighs about 25,000 pounds.

“When (apparatus) drives out onto the pavement, that constant heavy weight of the vehicle compresses the pavement down to the extent where (we) have a dip in the pavement right now,” Breen said. “We have to smooth that ramp back out with reinforced concrete so it spreads that heavy load over a wider area.”

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