Proposed New Building

Over the last decade, the Town and the members of the volunteer fire department have wrestled with the future of the West Rockport Fire Station. The current West Rockport fire station was built in 1973 out of blocks with a flat roof and basic materials.  While the building has undergone some modest improvements over the last 50 years, as it stands today the West Rockport Fire Station is in poor condition and is unable to meet the needs of the fire department in 2023.  The Town developed a committee to investigate the options surrounding this station and found the following:

Key building systems are failing: the furnace and roof require complete replacement, heavy rains cause frequent flooding in the basement thus black mold is present in the basement in spite of a working sump pump, the main water line to the building is broken though a temporary line was added for toilet usage, and the windows in each vehicle bay are rotten.

Expansion Options Limited: Currently housed within the building are Engine-23 (2015) and Engine-21 (1996) which has had the deck gun and ladder removed to allow it to fit in the building. Only 4 inches separate Engine 23 and the back of the vehicle bay which means it is miraculous we are able to park that apparatus after each use without damage to the vehicle or the building. Whereas fire apparatus is becoming larger and longer as years progress averaging between 28 to 36 feet in length, the current distance between the building state right of way ranges from 20 feet on the Route 90 side of the building to 30 feet on the Route 17 side of the building which means it is impossible to expand closer to the road. Let alone, if the state was to decide to remodel the Rt 17/Rt 90 intersection this would prevent any fire truck from pulling out of the bay door and park.  It would be out in the State right of way and possibly travel lane.  Further the two fire trucks were stationed at the main station in the Village and all are over 28’ long and 10” high so neither of these trucks would fit in the West Rockport Station if the need arose.   Seeing these issues, in 2018, the Town purchased property adjacent to the station to address these concerns.

Current Needs of The Fire Department: Currently there are 25 volunteers in the Rockport Fire Department.  There are four members that live near our main station in the Village, of these members, none of them presently drive trucks. Meanwhile, sixteen firefighters live near the West Rockport Station so moving as many trucks as possible adjacent to our volunteers will improve response times for our residents and mutual aid partners.

Why have a single fire station in the middle of Rockport? ISO (Insurance Services Office) Fire Score is a rating system that determines how well the fire department can protect our community and home.  This affects every resident’s insurance rating with their individual insurance company.  A significant portion of this rating is based on the distance between a home and the closest fire station and at bare minimum ISO requires a home to be within five miles from a fire station. Given Rockport’s size, it would be a tremendous challenge to meet the needs of our community with one station. This is the main reason why we have two stations within our town.  This is the same case for many other towns in the State of Maine.

Does a new fire station fit into the Town’s future plans?  The future of the volunteer fire service has dramatically changed over the last 25 years, and fire departments are having to change with the times.  Finding citizens to volunteer at the fire department is becoming extremely difficult and almost impossible.  Our volunteers are busier in their personal lives, with families, business and traveling.

Like neighboring communities Rockport Fire hasn’t seen a new volunteer join our force in almost three years and the average age of our volunteers continues to increase. The average number of current members attending calls has dropped from 16 members down to eight.  Some calls at night we see as few as four firefighters attending. While mutual aid helps greatly to mitigate these declines, this is an issue felt across the board and will require incredible collaboration across town lines. 

With the drop in volunteerism, Rockport like many other communities is beginning to look at hiring fire fighters to be ready to answer the call. Rockport will be seeing two new full-time firefighters joining the team within the next year.  Each of these firefighters will be certified in Firefighter I & II, which means they will be able to fight fires on the interior of structures and also possess licensing as a Basic EMT. As we’ve seen regionally, fire departments are being asked to assist and support EMS needs for our residents and we will need adequate space and staffing to support growth in that area in the years to come. Providing room for that growth in this station is absolutely critical to ensuring our residents’ safety. Without those options, the Town and its neighbors face an even more uncertain future for EMS response.

With the assistance of 2A Architects and Gartley and Dorsky of Rockport, the Town has developed a proposal for our residents which provides solutions to these varied concerns and sets us on a path that meets our present day needs and also considers a future where fire and EMS services become intertwined. We were pleased to see a local contractor, Maine Coast Construction, submitted the low bid from which Article 4’s funding was created. Unfortunately, the rapid inflationary pressures on the building market cause this project to be substantially more expensive now than when we first considered constructing a new West Rockport Fire Station, but with prices continuing to increase and the deteriorating building, the Town cannot wait any longer.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this project, please feel free to reach out to Fire Chief Jason Peasley at 236-4437.