PLYMOUTH – The town’s small local fire department is growing, while others across the state are struggling.
Plymouth Fire and Rescue Department has recently received two grants and added members while volunteer departments across the state and nation are reporting money problems and losing firefighters at an alarming rate.
One of the grants came from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.
“I think it’s awesome to be honest with ya,” said Ron Latham, Third Selectmen for Plymouth, talking about the department’s new six-person Polaris fire and rescue utility vehicle. “I give a lot of credit to the guy that wrote the grant.”
“It can go where we can’t go with our trucks,” said Fire Chief Gerry Sawtelle. “And pretty much that is what it is for. We’re using it for snowmobile accidents, four wheeler accidents, forest fires we can’t get to.”
Volunteer firefighter Chris Roberts wrote eight grants and six were denied. Then, the town was awarded a $175,000 Assistance to Firefighters grant last year and recently received the $50,000 King grant.
In addition to the new side-by-side, they now have new turnout gear and gear washing equipment, air packs, extrication equipment, a rapid intervention pack, and thermal imaging camera.
“It’s not just one person here saying this is what we are going to do. We base everything on the members here,” Sawtelle said. “This thing here wasn’t picked out by just one person, it was the whole fire department members that designed this piece of equipment.”
The struggle to keep and attract firefighters is something all volunteer departments face.
“We have a roster of 22 right now so we’re pretty good,” Sawtelle said. “During the day it’s a little tough. It’s tough no matter what town you go to, during the day, everybody has jobs. Everybody is working. That is why you have mutual-aid towns.”
The fire chief provided two pieces of advice for other towns.
“Find a person who can write a grant. It’s all about the wording for grants,” Sawtelle said.
And provide training for anyone interested.
“We try not to turn anybody away,” the fire chief said. “If they have no experience, that is what our training is for. In the past couple of months, we’ve hired four people.”
Building a new fire department and municipal building is the next plan under consideration.