One week into the transition of a new Bellows Falls Fire Department and already two fires have happened and been successfully suppressed.
On Friday morning, at 2:15 a.m, Southwestern N.H. Fire Mutual Aid got a call about a visible fire at 15 Lockwood St. The agency immediately notified Bellows Falls Firefighters, none of whom were at the firehouse.
The fire is the first that Bellows Falls’s new on-call department responded to by itself. Earlier this year, after Bellows Falls residents voted to cut $241,290 from the village budget, trustees cut all four full-time firefighter positions. Shaun McGinnis was hired Dec. 4 to lead the new on-call fire department.
He estimated that it took about four minutes for the first firefighter on the scene to make it from his house to the fire station. The firefighter manned the fire truck by himself and 17 other Bellows Falls firefighters met him at the house. One of the firefighters, McGinnis said, was one of the previous full-time firefighters. All of the Bellows Falls full-time firefighters have been placed on furlough until Dec. 31, when they’ll be officially laid off. Full-time firefighters, McGinnis said, can still respond to fires and will get paid by the hour.
Friday’s fire is the second Bellows Falls fire this week. On Sunday, the last day of the full-time Bellows Falls Fire Department, a fire destroyed the home of Deborah and Cass Wright. She is a Bellows Falls trustee and he is a Rockingham Select Board member.
The second-alarm fire on Friday morning was contained to one room, he said, and no one was injured. McGinnis was proud of the way the team dealt with the fire. He admitted that there were some difficulties. “The response time was a little slower,” he said, but he didn’t think there’d be less damages if the department was full-time.
“It was a really good group effort all around,” he said. “I see it as keeping another house on the tax base.”
The causes of the fire are still being investigated, but McGinnis spoke to the residents and they told him they thought the cause was a candle.
Overall, McGinnis just feels grateful. He thanked personnel from Charlestown, Walpole and North Walpole, N.H., and Saxtons River, Westminster, Rockingham, Putney and Springfield for responding to the call and the on-call staff.
“It was obviously a huge transition,” he said of the new fire department, “none of us wanted it, but we’re dealing with it the best we can.”