$4M to save 90 precious seconds; Report calls for replacing two fire stations.

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Byline: M. Elizabeth Roman

FITCHBURG - According to National Fire Protection Association standards, fire crews should arrive at an emergency in less than four minutes.

"We looked at all the facts and figures. And we have seen our response times get longer and longer," Fire Chief Chief Kevin D. Roy said this week. "The effects are life-threatening."

To improve the situation, the Fitchburg Fire Station Site Committee submitted a report to the City Council Tuesday that recommends the closure and relocation of two aging fire stations. The recommendations would cost about $4 million and shave an average of 1.5 minutes off travel time to outlying areas of the city.

According to the national standards, a small fire in a room will "flash over," or engulf the room, and begin to travel outside of the room after the four-minute mark. The survival rate of victims decreases by 10 percent with each additional minute.

The Fire Department has documented a steady increase in fire and EMS responses over the last several years. There were 7,613 calls in 2006 compared to 7,546 calls in 2005. The number of calls is expected to rise with the expected construction of condominium projects in the city.

"The Cleghorn station was built 107 years ago and was meant for a horse and buggy," Chief Roy said. "Our trucks are a lot bigger and heavier now."

Chief Roy said the substations would have identical designs of about 10,000 square feet, each on about an acre. He envisions two bays for storing equipment, a living area, parking and possibly a community room for public use.

"This is the first step," he said. "We are hoping to keep moving it forward."

The Central Fire Station at 32 North St. was completed in 1999 and cost about $7.3 million.

The two stations proposed...

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