Williamstown Votes in Favor of New Fire Station

On February 28th, citizens at a town meeting voted in favor of a new $22.5 million fire station in Williamstown. The final tally was 509-32 after a meeting with speakers about all aspects of this new project. The discussion of a new fire station in Williamstown has been going on for the past two years, and with the arrival of the new year, the plans are public and the process has begun.

  The current fire station in Williamstown was built 73 years ago, but since then, the town and its needs have changed. According to the Williamstown Fire Department website, the number of calls per year has increased from 63 to 240, requiring more materials and space for the fire station. The training to become a firefighter has also evolved. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other guidelines, the current Williamstown station needs more space for daily tasks and storage.

The station needed a two-thirds majority on this vote in order to build the new station. It is anticipated that construction will begin in the spring of 2024, and it will take 12-14 months to complete construction. 

  The fire station will be built at 560 Main Street, next to Aubuchon Hardware in Williamstown. Currently in that space are building materials being used for the bridge work on Main Street.

  As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Each employer shall furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Currently, according to the Fire Department’s website, there are multiple places at the fire station, such as small, tight areas between fire trucks and space in other rooms, that could cause detrimental damage to people or materials.

  The room for breathing air at the station is currently not meeting the standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and as per their rule, “SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) shall be stored in their original carrying or storage cases, or in a wall or apparatus rack designed for quick removal and protection of the SCBA.” On the Fire Department’s website, they have shown the current fire station’s breathing room, where SCBAs are stuck behind other materials and objects and are not on racks or designed for quick and easy access.

  Currently, the technology necessary to operate the building is small and inefficient, according to the NFPA. The Fire Department has also shown on its website that there is a small box on the wall containing all of the technology necessary to operate the building. In the new station, the technology will be much more accessible.

  Mission Control is a department where workers collaborate with law enforcement, EMS, and other affiliates by responding to calls and dispatching messages to other departments. The current mission control room, which can be seen on the Fire Department’s website, is similar in size to a walk-in closet—one-third the size of a regulation room. It can only fit up to two people and is not as technologically advanced and up to standards as it should be, according to NFPA.

  “Operationally, the new station would, among other things, provide the space needed to service vehicles inside, and the room needed to do much more training on-site,” said Fire Building Committee member, Jim Kolesar, in a public Q&A. Currently, most training for the Williamstown firefighters is done in Springfield, Massachusetts. For someone to become a fully licensed firefighter, they must complete 300 hours of training—this commute can be difficult for people living in Berkshire County.

“The more training that can be done on-site, the less of a deterrent it is to becoming and remaining a volunteer firefighter. Also, the more convenient the training facilities are, the more district members will train, and the more they train, the safer they’ll be, and the safer we’ll be when they respond to an alarm at our home or workplace or to our motor vehicle accident,” said Kolesar.

  The station is planned to have a carbon-zero certification from the International Future Living Institute. Unless there is a required emergency that uses carbon and other fossil fuels, the station will have solar panels and will power itself. 

  On January 25th, the Prudential Committee set a maximum cost of $22.5 million, lower than the original $25 million. The size of the station is planned to be approximately 24,000 square feet. Using databases from the Fire District site, it is shown that the cost per square foot and the size of the station are similar to other facilities that have been built in the area over the past few years.

  “There will be a continued pursuit of cost savings and alternative funding sources, like grants and gifts. In ongoing stages, the committee will work to decrease the price and size. The original design comprised 28,000 square feet. It’s now projected to be around 24,000,” said Kolesar.