NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Firefighters in New Bedford are once again expressing their frustrations regarding Mayor Jon Mitchell’s plan to end blackouts at the cost of permanently closing one of the city’s fire stations.
But instead of picketing outside the station in jeopardy, as members of the firefighters union did last week, they took to New Bedford City Hall to ensure Mitchell heard their message.
The blackout policy, which took one station out of service on a rotating basis, has been a point of contention between the city and the firefighters union.
Under Mitchell’s current plan, the policy will be eliminated beginning in March, which is also when Station 11 is set to close.
It all came to a head after an elderly man died in a fire last December ─ a fire Local 841 argues may have ended differently if the first engine capable of responding wasn’t blacked out.
Mitchell recommended the closure because the city does not have the financial means to support all 11 of its stations. He said it would cost the city an additional $2.7 million to keep Station 11 open ─ money he says the city doesn’t have at their disposal.
But both the union and residents believe the closure of Station 11 would put everyone who lives and works south of Cove Street in danger.
“If he’s saying $2.7 million, that’s what he thinks an average life is worth,” resident Pete Wilde said.
Due to its close proximity to the water, Station 11 also serves as the city’s water rescue station. If the station closes, response times will be delayed.
To ensure adequate coverage, Mitchell’s plan includes shifting the location of Engine 6 and Ladder 3 to the South End Public Safety Center, which is scheduled to be completed in spring 2021.
But until that happens, the city’s southern peninsula will be vulnerable, according to New Bedford City Councilman Ian Abreu.
“When you talk about someone’s life being in danger, not only do minutes count, seconds count,” Abreu said.