hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 20, 2014

Station repairs good, but city faces other Fire Department concerns

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — It’s good news that the city’s 16th Avenue fire station is open again.

After $115,000 in renovations, the station once again houses a company of firefighters in the northeastern section of Haverhill. (See story, Page 1.)

It’s a part of the city that has many homes and needs the kind of fire protection a neighborhood station provides.

If a blaze breaks out near the New Hampshire line, firefighters from 16th Avenue can be there quickly. If there’s an emergency in the thickly settled Acre neighborhood, they can be there in a flash.

The bad news is that renovations to the 16th Avenue station are only the first of several concerns that Haverhill must address in its Fire Department. The others are far more expensive.

Start with the department’s fleet. Firefighters have long complained that each of their eight pumper trucks is in bad shape, needing major repairs or replacement.

Mayor James Fiorentini says he hopes to buy one new truck in the next few months. It will cost an estimated $420,000. That’s a start, but only a start. The city must find a way to buy at least one or two more new trucks and place them strategically around Haverhill.

Then there’s the issue of how to best protect the northwestern part of the city. The area around Route 97 north of Interstate 495 is still growing, adding new homes and businesses.

For years, city leaders talked about the possibility of building a fire station in that section of Haverhill to put fire protection close by. Then the talk died down.

It’s time to revisit the issue of a new station. Perhaps the city can seek money from the state to pay part of the cost, just as Haverhill has successfully done as it plans a new school to replace the deteriorated Hunking School. With local state Rep. Brian Dempsey at the helm of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, this is the time to explore that possibility.

It might not get done immediately, but a push in that direction could pay off a year or two down the road.

To start the process is a better choice than not trying at all.