219 Amity Street this morning
While many of us townies were enjoying the Rotary sponsored Community Fair, which lit up the night sky like a giant Christmas tree, AFD was busy battling a blaze on a large rental two blocks away that most folks mistake for a rooming house at the corner of Amity and Lincoln Avenue.
Amherst Community Fair Town Common last night
In addition to this home turf battle AFD also assisted via mutual aid their brothers and sisters in Northampton for a potentially catastrophic fire at a senior care facility and a structure in Leverett that was "fully engulfed" when our Quint (Engine 2) arrived to assist.
The Quint on scene Shutesbury Road, Leverett last night
Plus AFD was pretty much flat out earlier in the day with ambulance runs and an unattended death.
The timing of the fire was both good and bad. Since the house is pretty much a student rental and UMass is no longer in session the number of potential victims was lowered.
But for the same reason AFD no longer has the "Impact Shift" operational, which is funded by $80K from UMass to assure four extra firefighters are on duty (bringing shift total to 13) during the busy weekend evenings when ambulance runs for substance abuse are all too usual.
Although, even is this had been one of those weekends the Impact Shift does not report for duty until 9:00 PM and the fire broke out about 45 minutes earlier than that.
I asked Chief Nelson about all this Saturday morning quarterbacking on my part about staffing and a proposal he mentioned a while back at the initial DPW/Fire Station Advisory Committee about the town hiring a consultant to do a (badly needed) staffing level study and he responded:
"Our minimum was eight last night. It goes to seven on June 1st. We go back to eight in the fall.
At the time of the fire last night, one ambulance was at the hospital with another one returning to town. That meant we had 4 personnel in town at the time of the fire; 3 at North Station, 1 at Central Station.
The returning ambulance was backing in as E-1 was pulling out of the bay and an off duty AFD FF ran across the street to join the response. That gave us 4 Firefighters arriving initially with 3 Firefighters coming from North Station.
If this had been September we would have been at nine minimum from 5pm to 9pm. At 9pm the impact personnel come on duty.
When we first began the impact shifts I convinced John Musante that it was a good idea to go to nine from eight personnel in order to keep an odd number which allows us to staff 4 ambulances and keep 1 Captain in town for command & control.
Once we instituted the Paramedic Firetruck we changed that posture to staffing 3 ambulances and staffing the Paramedic Firetruck with 3 personnel. ALS care in addition to Fire/Rescue coverage that doesn't leave the town potentially without protection.
Luck played a part last night but the main reason we were successful was because of the people I'm fortunate to work with on this department.
The RFP submittal period closed on Thursday. Now the submittals will be reviewed and consultant chosen."
I can't count the number of time I've heard informed sources say AFD is a victim of their own success: A talented, dedicated group of professionals who do so much for so many with so few.