GROTON -- Blending with the rural Farmer's Row field setting on which it stands, the new Groton Center Fire Station is impressive.
Housing both the Fire and EMS departments, as well as the affiliated administration, the two-story building incorporates offices, conference rooms, extensive training spaces, a kitchen, bunk rooms, locker rooms and four double bays that open front and back for fire trucks, ambulances and other public-safety vehicles.
Sitting at his desk on his last day of service as fire chief for the town of Groton, Joe Bosselait smiles after being honored with a special breakfast and being treated with an enormous bag of his favorite trail mix.
Bosselait served as Groton's fire chief for 14 years, beginning his job as Groton's only official full-time Fire Department personnel, managing an all on-call staff.
In 2002, Bosselait participated in an evaluation of the town's three fire stations, located on Station Avenue in the center of Groton, at Lost Lake and in West Groton. Results indicated that significant improvements were needed for the growing east Groton/Lost Lake area, and plans were put in place for a new Lost Lake Fire Station, which was completed in 2006.
During Bosselait's tenure, the Fire and EMS departments were merged, an administrative assistant was hired, and eventually, five full-time members were staffed, including Capt. Susan Daly, Lt.
Four or five years ago, when the department's focus transitioned to the Center Fire Station's evident deficiencies, the Sacred Heart Church property was suggested as a possible new location for an improved station. A needs assessment was completed, a relocation committee was appointed and various parcels of land in the center of town were added as options to consider. Eventually, 45 Farmer's Row was selected as the best location, just down the street from the Groton Police Station, and providing safe, centralized access.
The Center Fire Station Building Committee was appointed and the vision of a new Fire Station, intended to serve the town of Groton for the next 50 years, was put into motion. Current Building Committee members appointed by Town Manager Mark Haddad include Jeremy Januskiewcz (chairman), Susan Daly (vice chairwoman), Michael Bouchard (clerk), and members Don Black, Halsey Platt, Val Prest and Steve Webber. The members chose an architect and hired a contractor to begin construction. With a 12-month construction plan underway, ground was broken in April of 2013, as bulldozers began by removing the lingering winter's snow that still sat on the site.
Construction was temporarily delayed when troubles arose with the contractor, but the town had an OPM (owner's project manager) in place, who assisted Haddad in getting a new general contractor as well as getting subcontractors paid, thus, with minimal impact, construction resumed one month later.
In mid-June of 2014, over one weekend, the Station Avenue Fire Station was retired, the firefighters moved their belongings out, the EMS department moved out of the Groton Police Station, and collectively, they moved into the new Center Fire and EMS home on Farmer's Row.
Some of the key features of the Center Fire Station include various training areas, locker rooms, an EMS equipment room, bunk rooms for staff members to be more immediately available during storms and emergencies, a kitchen, a workout room with equipment that was donated by Groton School, where Lawrence Academy Strength and Conditioning Instructor Michael Poulin volunteers his time to train firefighters and EMTs, conference rooms and administrative offices.
"Heart attacks are the number one killer of firefighters," Chief Bosselait pointed out.
"A very important component of the new station that will be up and running soon is a Safe Haven that will be located through the front door of the building," Chief Bosselait said. "Part of a National Alliance, it will allow anyone to drop off a baby, no questions asked, and the baby will be taken care of immediately. It will also provide quick access to shelter and protection if anyone is scared, being followed or needs to get away from another person," Bosselait continued. A person will be able to come through the front door, lock it behind them and speak to dispatch through a combination camera/sound system to get help.
Daly, who served as a representative for the Fire Department on both the Center Fire Station Relocation Committee and the Building Committee, highlighted the extensive training features of the new firehouse.
"We are able to use the training areas for ladder evolutions, rescues from windows, moving charged hand lines, flowing water (in the training stairwell), rescuing a lost or disoriented firefighter, search and rescue of a civilian, bailouts, dealing with confined spaces, rope rescues, aerial operations with the ladder truck and pump evolutions," she said.
Daly expressed her excitement over the benefits created, saying, "Now, we are able to host Massachusetts Fire Academy trainings and firefighters from other towns can be trained here as well, allowing our staff to stay in town for training. This also warrants a better response time if a call comes in while training is in progress.
"With all of our apparatus under one roof, we no longer have to go to different stations depending on the type of call," she said. "We have adequate space in the bays for apparatus, and we now have more than 2 inches of clearance to back in and no longer have to pull side mirrors in to get the trucks in."
"The new bunk rooms will provide a significant benefit," Daly said. "Department members can choose to stay at the station when they are on call. This will be particularly helpful if there is a major storm or emergency. And in the future, should the town decide to have staffing around the clock, the bunk rooms will accommodate those working at the station 24/7."
Focusing on other features, Daly said, "The fitness room, available to all department members, makes it easier to train for the physical demands of the job. The gear is now kept in a separate room -- no longer in the bay where it can be exposed to toxins from the exhaust from trucks and the sun (both of which are harmful to gear). And we also now have adequate office space, which is much more efficient for getting the administrative work done. Both the day room and the fitness room encourage department members to spend time at the station, which means a faster response when the tones go off."
Both Bosselait and Daly shared the same opinion, that the impact on morale has been tremendous.
Bosselait indicated that the largest recruiting class in years just finished up, and he believes, "...the vision of the new station is enticing."
On the anniversary of Sept. 11, a 9/11 Memorial and First Responder's Recognition Luncheon will take place at 11:30 a.m. A unique World Trade Center sculpture will be dedicated .
There will be an open house at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13.