Haverhill Firefighters’ Union Calls for Increased Staffing, Saying National Standards Not Met

Local 1011 Union President Timothy Carroll during a 2019 appearance before the City Council. (WHAV News photograph.)

The head of the Haverhill firefighters’ union says the city is not keeping pace with its growth and must immediately begin adding staff.

Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll told city councilors Tuesday Haverhill does not meet the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association in terms of response times and staffing requirements. He repeated concerns expressed before the body in 2019. He said the city does not have the staff or the facilities to meet those standards and believes it will only get worse with new construction.

“Initial response for a single-family dwelling is 16 firefighters on scene within four minutes. We don’t meet that requirement. For open-air shopping centers, it’s 27. We don’t meet that requirement. For a high-rise, initial four-alarm assignment capability, 42. We don’t meet that requirement,” he explained.

Carroll said most communities with populations greater than 60,000, like Haverhill, have a staff of 120 to 150 firefighters. Haverhill currently has 96.

Asked about applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency Safer Grant, designed to help cities reach adequate staffing levels, Carroll responded, the first question asked by that agency is “Is the city taxing its citizens at its tax levy?” Because Haverhill is not, he said, FEMA will not consider any grants.

“So, we’re saving the citizens $12.00 a year on homeowner costs so we can miss out on grants. That doesn’t seem logical on the fire side,” he said.

Carroll said in 2004, the city had 106 firefighters and made 6,000 runs. In 2020, by comparison, there were 10 fewer firefighters on the payroll who were responsible for 13,000 runs. He added, without additional firehouses, homeowners in outlying areas are simply not as safe as someone living nearby.

Carroll presented the Council with a plan whereby additional firefighters would be phased in over a five-year period. Councilors agreed. Councilor Timothy J. Jordan said the money is available and should be used.

“We’ve been taking in, trying to build up the revenue side by taking all these new projects that will bring one-time money in additional tax dollars and yet we’re not balancing the other side of the sheet with increased investment in our city, namely our police, in our fire, in our staffing at our schools. So, I think it is time for action to take place,” he said.

Councilors voted 8-0, with Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien absent, to send a letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini asking him to look at the plan and report back on it. They also asked that a copy of the plan be forwarded to the Traffic and Safety Committee for a more in-depth look.

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