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Letter writer challenges Weymouth mayor’s assertion about Fire Department staffing

In the recent article on firefighter staffing in Weymouth (“SouthField’s growth taxes safety fabric,” Dec. 6), Mayor Susan Kay is quoted saying, “Is this town unsafe? Absolutely not. Are we in excess? Absolutely not. We are below the levels that we had in comfy times. I would love to be back to that. I would like to see more on our force.”

I would like to take the opportunity to challenge this claim.

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Mayor Kay’s analysis seems to be based on her personal opinion, which in regards to fire safety is highly questionable. I would like to show some reasonable comparisons with the staffing of the Weymouth Fire Department.

According to the International City/County Management Association, for cities with 25,000 to 50,000 population, the number of firefighters per 1,000 people averages 2.09. The ICMA averages for all fire departments in New England is 1.86. Weymouth’s current staffing of 87 firefighters gives it a 1.62 rate, and when Southfield is fully developed with 2,855 households, it could end up being 1.43.

If Weymouth’s staffing were similar to other New England communities (which is a conservative comparison), it would have 13 to 26 extra firefighters, which would allow for at least one extra piece of fire equipment and extra firefighters per shift.

According to a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, faster response times and better staffing has a dramatic impact on a department’s ability to prevent the loss of life in a fire.

Jay Fleming

Norwell

(The writer is a deputy chief on the Boston Fire Department)

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