East Providence Fire Department station renovations near end, academy graduates new class

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EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence Fire Department formally graduates a sizable group of recruits from its most recent training academy during a ceremony Friday, May 16, at Martin Middle School. The commencement begins at 6 p.m.

EPFD Chief Oscar Elmasian invites the community to attend the event where 16 of the original class of 18 recruits, including one female firefighter, will become probationary members of the department. The new firefighters will be on probation for a period of at least one year. Of note, the latest female "proby" will be the third woman to serve the EPFD and second active. The last female hired was in 1994.

The latest class joins 94 current East Providence Firefighters, bringing their ranks to 110 total, just two short of a full roster. Chief Elmasian noted, however, that total could drop by as many as six over the next few months due to impending or expected retirements.

With that in mind, the chief said the department will once again seek out interested candidates through an employment search, which is likely to begin sometime this summer, either July or August. The intent is to open a new training academy at the start of 2015.

Station updates

Chief Elmasian gave a brief update on the status of the now long-delayed renovations taking place at two of the department's four buildings, Station 1 on South Broadway and Station 4 on Wampanoag Trail.

The $6-plus million projects, originally slated for completion late in 2013, are edging ever-so closer to completion, though each are still at least several weeks away from being finish, according to the chief.

The new ramp/driveway at Station 4 was poured within the last two weeks. More concrete needs to be poured in the rear of the building. The chief said a new radio system is about to be installed. The facility, the existing building having been basically gutted with a new structure built around it, must then go through a series of final tests and inspections before its crew can take up active residence.

While not committing to a specific date, Chief Elmasian said of Station 4, "Hopefully we'll be able to move in soon."

Station 1, where the department's administration is headquartered, has also made progress towards completion. The addition of new administrative offices on the north side of the building has been finished and is currently where the crew is quartered with construction taking place on the main portion of the building.

There, the bay doors are being expanded and reinforcing steel is either being added or older portions are being replaced. The bays will also sport a new brick facade when done, which is expected to be around the end of May. Station 1 recently had a new ramp/driveway poured as well.

Chief Elmasian said the aim is for the administrative staff to move back into the Station 1 location by the middle to the end of June from its temporary home in the Sweetland House on the Senior Center grounds off Waterman Avenue.

New rescues

The chief also noted a new Emergency Medical Services (EMS) rescue unit was recently put into service. The vehicle, built by PL Custom of Manasquan, New Jersey, was approved by the East Providence Budget Commission after the department received federal grant money last year. The city needed to pay only a 10-percent match ($31,000) towards the vehicle's $310,000 cost.

Likewise, the City Council at its April 15 meeting approved appropriation for the purchase of two more EMS rescue units. The new vehicles come with a total price tag of $620,000 and PL Custom will once again build both rescues.

"The new rescues will replace one in service with over 240,000 miles on it and another with over 195,000 miles. We've more than got our money's worth out of the two," Chief Elmasian added. "The $620,000 will pay for the new vehicles and the replacement equipment we need because a lot of what we have is either past warranty or doesn't meet the latest industry standards."

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