Bridge closure boosts need for mutual aid
March 19, 2009
By Tim Simard
With the Bridge Street Bridge in Richmond under construction and out of commission until June, the Richmond Fire Department is turning to its neighbors for help in emergency response. The Williston Fire Department, along with fire departments from Huntington and Hinesburg, will be the primary first responders to portions of Richmond not easily reached by that town’s fire crews.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Work on the Bridge Street bridge in Richmond has closed the roadway to traffic. As a result, the Williston Fire Department is available as the first responder to certain parts of Richmond.
“That’s why it’s called ‘mutual aid,’” Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton said. “If there’s ever a problem, we help them out and vice versa.”
The Richmond Fire Department’s station is located on the north end of the town, just north of the Bridge Street Bridge at 357 East Main Street, and therefore cut off from many of the southern neighborhoods in Richmond. The closure of the Bridge Street Bridge, which spans the Winooski River, effectively restricts the Richmond Fire Department from easily accessing half of the town. The construction project is scheduled for completion on June 26.
To access southern Richmond, emergency responders must either drive through Williston’s South and East Hill roads or take the Jonesville Bridge several miles east of town, among other routes, said Richmond Fire Chief Tom Levesque.
Levesque said there is a fire engine in the Richmond town garage south of the bridge, but there are a limited number of volunteer firefighters living on that side of the town, which makes quick response unreliable.
Williston Fire Department will be the primary responder to 21 roads and neighborhoods in Richmond, including East Hill, Kenyon and Cochran roads. Hinesburg Fire Department will primarily handle Hinesburg Road, and Huntington Fire Department will cover the areas around Huntington and Hillview roads.
Morton explained that when a fire is called in, Shelburne Dispatch, which dispatches Richmond’s emergency calls, will automatically alert Williston Fire. Before the bridge closed, Richmond Fire had to directly contact Williston for mutual aid.
Morton said with most structural or brush fire incidents in Richmond in the past, Williston has been called to help. The fire department also handled fire calls during the Bridge Street Bridge’s interim closure late last year.
Richmond firefighters will still respond to all fire calls, even if they might not arrive first, Levesque said. With all non-fire emergency calls, the Richmond department will remain the primary responder, he added.
“Richmond will still respond as normal,” Levesque said.
Based on past calls Levesque expects Williston will need to respond perhaps twice this spring and early summer, although Morton believes his department may receive a call once a month.
Morton said his department is happy to help Richmond.
“Certainly every time we have a fire call here, they come and help us, so this is a great opportunity for us to turn around and help them out if there is a need,” Morton said.