HARVARD — They’re well-trained, experienced, motivated and ready to handle any kind of call to service they’re likely to encounter.
The Fire Department, 25 firefighters strong, is “ready to go,” said fire Chief Robert J. Mignard.
In the last year, he said the department has typically been able to get two trucks and eight firefighters to the scene of an emergency call in town in eight minutes. That’s 28 percent better than the National Fire Protection Association’s standard of 11 minutes to get eight firefighters to a scene, he said.
“It’s a point of pride with us, getting rolling as quickly as we do,” said Mignard. “We can roll in six to eight minutes with at least three and typically four people.”
The department typically handles chimney fires, brush fires, automobile accidents, ice rescues, structure fires, alarm checks and hazardous-materials handling, he said.
As well, the department handles mutual-aid calls, generally in Ayer, Boxborough, Devens and Littleton. On occasion, firefighters go farther away, as was the case earlier this year when they provided hazardous-materials handling support in South Hadley.
“Performance-wise I’m happy,” said Mignard. “We’re keeping it up with an aggressive training schedule. We train as frequently as possible. We have an excellent training officer.”
In the last two years, he said six of the town’s firefighters have become certified firefighters under the Massachusetts Fire Academy Firefighter 1 & 2 program.
The program is a rigorous seven-month course requiring 183 hours of class and practical work. Completion rates the participant according to a national standard.
“It puts everybody on common ground,” he said. “We know people will do things a certain way, thinking a certain way.”
Mignard said the course instructors sent him compliments for all six firefighters.
Compensation, though handsome, isn’t his teams primary motivating factor, he said.
“These guys are responsive above and beyond because they love the work,” he said. “They take it seriously. They work many, many hours for which they don’t get paid. They do it for a whole lot more than the money.”
As for equipment, Mignard is more conservative in his assessment.
“Our reel truck is a key piece of equipment,” he said. “Its water supply operation is critical. It’s getting long in the tooth. It was new in 1981, and it’s been refurbished once already. It’s not decrepit, but standards have changed since ’81.”
The reel truck is a modified pumper vehicle.
Mignard also praised his department’s relationship with the community, especially its work educating the public.
“Our men go out and teach people how to take actions on their own to alleviate hazards before they become emergencies,” he said. “That’s the key to good fire prevention. Fire prevention education is one of our most effective tools in preventing fires.”
He cited the Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE) program as a case in point.
“SAFE is one of our education cornerstones,” he said. “We want to begin educating people when they’re young so they’ll develop good habits and awareness.”
The other important measure in preventing fires and other emergencies, Mignard said, is alarm systems.
“Smoke detectors save lives,” he said. “So do carbon monoxide detectors. People should always change their alarms’ batteries at daylight savings time.”