Dear Chairman Spirlet and Board of Selectman members …
This letter is in response to the Westport Taxpayers Association’s most recent attack on the Fire Department.
As you know, the nine members of the WTA adamantly feel that the Fire Department does not need a safe and reliable rescue boat, as this is the second time they have raised an issue with this vessel in the past four months.
As the fire chief of the Town of Westport, it is my responsibility, by statute, to protect all residents and visitors that enter the boundaries of this community. Those boundaries include the 35 miles of coastline that make up Westport.
The Westport Fire Department is constantly called for water-related emergencies throughout the year including the winter months. Once we are dispatched, we have a duty to act to the best of our ability. We have a great working relationship and work side-by-side with the harbormaster but he is not always available during the off-season making any water emergency solely a Fire Department responsibility.
This Navy surplus vessel, aka Marine 1, will be replacing our 18-foot boat that was purchased by the firefighters union in 1989. The boat that is being replaced is not considered safe enough to go out of the river and has several mechanical issues that make it an unreliable rescue boat.
The new boat is larger at 24 feet and has a cabin to shelter rescuers from foul/rough weather. It is large enough to enter the open ocean safely and has the ability to tow out and set up our 1000 feet of oil spill booms and equipment provided to the department from a D.E.P. grant. The new boat also has fire pump capabilities that will be extremely useful during marine and waterfront fires.
Rescue boats with similar capabilities in the towns of Somerset and Dartmouth were purchased in the range of $ 250,000 to $ 275,000.
In closing Marine 1 will be an asset to this department and this community, contrary to what the WTA might think, and was completed at a fraction of the cost of similar area rescue boats. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Brian R. Legendre
Westport fire chief