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October 21. 2012 8:30PM

Andover fire departments working to join forces

ANDOVER — Since the 1930s, there have been two fire departments in town, the Andover Fire Department and the East Andover Fire Department.

But starting Jan. 1, while the town will still have two precincts, there will just be just one fire department, one chief, and two captains, as the fire departments are in the process of merging with the goal of providing better, faster service to residents.

“We know that by having a unified command, we will have a faster response and there will be no wondering who is in command, which is a problem we have sometimes now,” said Rene Lefebvre, who is currently the East Andover fire chief and has been nominated to become the town’s lone chief when the change is made.

Town planners originally thought two fire departments were needed because Andover is a large town in terms of its land, covering 41 square miles. But it is has a relatively small population of about 2,100.

With two fire departments and two sets of officers and firefighters, residents aren’t served as quickly as they could be, Lefebvre said.

“We’ve had cases where a firefighter would have to go back to the other side of town just to be with the right department,” he said.

The fire departments are combining with the blessing of the town. It’s not going to cost anything to make the change, Lefebvre said, and for the present, there will still be two budgets and two sets of fire commissioners. Those functions could be combined in coming years as well, he said.

The two fire departments have been training together for the past two years in preparation for the change. The combined training is already producing dividends, he said.

“By training together, we can all be sure that our focus is the same, we’ve all been together at the same (fire training) courses and we all know each other,” Lefebvre said.

Residents don’t need to adjust to the change, though they will start seeing better service on Jan. 1, and the combined departments hope to save taxpayers money as they move toward someday having a common budget, he said.

“Firefighting, fire ground, and command operations will become a well-rehearsed plan, and not a ‘who-does-what’ disaster,” Lefebvre said. “Working together, we can be safer.”


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