(This is part 2 in a series of posts about the proposal for a new aerial ladder truck in Southborough. For more information, see the series introduction.)
Yesterday I explained why an aerial ladder truck is important in firefighting. Basically, when responding to a fire in a two-story or greater building, having an aerial ladder truck means a faster response with less manpower, which in turn means less damage to property and less risk to human life.
But how many fires does Southborough have in buildings that are two stories or greater? That’s an interesting question.
There are 3,326 homes in Southborough, of which 71% are at least two stories tall. In addition, about 100 commercial buildings – including schools and churches – are two or more stories in height. So, for any given fire incident in Southborough, chances are good it’s going to be in a building that’s at least two stories tall.
In fact, the numbers bear this out. From January 1, 2004 through October 15, 2008, 70% of building fires in Southborough were in structures at least two stories tall. That means 70% of building fires required the use of a ladder truck. Compelling, right?
Here’s the rub. In that almost 5-year time period, there were only 89 building fires in Southborough. Limit that to fires in structures at least two stories in height and you’re talking 62 fires, or a little more than one per month.
That seems like a pretty small number, but Fire Chief John Mauro Jr. likens having a ladder truck to having car insurance. “Maybe that one time it makes the difference between getting in there and saving someone and not saving someone.”
But, at what seems like a relatively infrequent rate, couldn’t Southborough just rely on mutual aid from surrounding towns when we have a fire that needs a ladder truck? We’ll tackle that question tomorrow.
(In case you’re wondering, there have been fatal fires in Southborough, although fortunately, not frequently. The most recent was in 2002 when a woman died from burns suffered in a fire in her home on Vale Terrace. Other fatal fires include a 1983 blaze on Oak Hill Road and an 1972 fire on Bryden Road.)