Editor’s note: this is a continuation of a series looking at proposed changes to the Gorham Fire Department

A decrease in the number of call firefighters and a number of aging, inadequate stations has led to a recommendation that Gorham retire three existing fire stations, replacing them with two modern ones.

The recommendations come from a study recently conducted of the Gorham Fire Department. The study suggests eliminating fire stations at North Gorham, White Rock and also the one Gorham shares with Windham. The report suggests Gorham and Standish collaborate to build one station to replace White Rock and North Gorham and join forces with Windham to replace an outdated station in South Windham.

Gorham Deputy Fire Chief Ken Fickett said consolidating the two Gorham fire stations would allow the department to beef up the staff. Two live-in students now man each of the stations during the night shift.

Consolidating the two stations into one modern station would provide more bunk space for student firefighters under one roof, supplementing the call company. “My push is for 12 students,” Fickett said.

The stations were remodeled in recent years, adding bunkrooms but space is tight now. A building with space for additional student firefighters would also allow firefighters to get to the scene of a fire quicker.

Student firefighters, who are attending college, receive a free room in exchange for being on duty nights in the fire stations. “Students can get on the road in two minutes,” said Scott Mildrum, a former live-in student who is now a part time Gorham firefighter.

Mildrum said the White Rock station houses Engine 5, a forestry truck and a canteen truck with water and food. Gorham’s rescue units are both headquartered at the Central Station but one would be sent to White Rock during snowstorms.

The North Gorham Station, which covers Saint Joseph College in Standish, has a 4,000-gallon tank truck and a Standish-owned engine with a 750-gallon capacity. The North Gorham Station also houses Gorham’s marine truck, which is equipped with coldwater rescue gear including two boats, one inflatable.

The library at North Gorham is in a wing of the fire station. Town Manager David Cole said that the library situation would have to be addressed with any future change to that station.

Citing figures from Gorham Fire Chief Bob Lefebvre, the report pegged the cost of a new station to replace White Rock and North Gorham at $1.2 million. The report gave an estimate of $50,000 for the sale of the White Rock station and $80,000 for the sale of the North Gorham station. The two stations are 3.5 miles apart.

In South Windham, the report recommended that Gorham and Windham jointly construct a new building, perhaps on state land at the prison in Windham. “It’s not adequate for a fire station anymore,” said Windham Fire Chief Charlie Hammond about the station on Route 202 just across the Presumpscot River from Gorham.

Hammond, who thought acquiring land for a station would be workable, said there have been discussions about availability of state land for a station. He also said the county owns land near the prison.

A station at the prison would allow for inmate help with free maintenance of a building and grounds. In the report, Lefebvre said a new station replacing South Windham would cost $1.5 to $2 million.

The present station was remodeled once, adding bunkrooms for student firefighters but students have to cross the truck bays to use the bathroom and kitchen. Meeting space is also limited in the station. The accommodations at the station are not suitable for the services the department provides, Hammond said.

He said the building can’t be further expanded because of its proximity to the river. “It was OK in the 1960s,” Hammond said. “We’ve outgrown it.”

The South Windham Station houses a 95-foot ladder truck that Gorham bought jointly with Windham five years ago. Mildrum, who bunked at the South Windham Station as a student, said the front of the ladder truck is in the middle of Route 202 before it can make a turn when leaving the station. The tar apron between the station and the edge of the road is only about 30 feet and the ladder truck is 47 feet long. An addition on the rear of the station was necessary for the truck to be able to fit inside the station.

The Windham forestry truck is at that station, along with two vehicles for the Presumpscot Valley Hazmat Team of which both Gorham and Windham are members. The hazmat team stores a squad truck and a bus filled with equipment there. There is no rescue unit at that station but a future joint venture could include a rescue unit, according to the report.

The Gorham Town Council will discuss the report in a workshop in May. PolicyOne Research, Inc., and Maine Fire Training and Education, a department at Southern Maine Community College, produced the report.

A study of Gorham Fire and Rescue has recommended that Standish and Gorham build a new fire station, eliminating this fire station in North Gorham and the one in White Rock.(White Rock Station 1) – A picture inside the White Rock Fire Station.(South Windham fire 1) (Scott Mildrum 1) – “Students can get on the road in two minutes,” said Scott Mildrum, a former live-in student firefighter in Gorham.

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