The Fire Suppression Unit of the Westbrook Fire Department’s Call Company was recently disbanded and its few remaining members assigned to the company’s Fire Police side.

“We made a very difficult decision to retire our suppression side of the call company,” the city’s Fire Chief Steve Sloan told councilors last week.

The number of call company firefighters had dwindled to three recently, not counting Deputy Chief Gary Caron and Capt. Mike Corey. “We are transitioning everybody to the Fire Police side so they can continue to give back to the community,” Sloan said.

Fire Police handle traffic control at a variety of incidents including accidents, fires and downed electrical wires.

Caron and Corey announced the decision to the call company in a letter March 26. “Effective immediately, the suppression division of the call company will be retired as a separate unit of the department,” they wrote.

Sloan attributed the decline in numbers to training requirements and the pandemic. Sloan said certification of a firefighter takes six months and 240 hours of training. “People just don’t have the time,” Sloan said, adding that training for a paramedic takes another six months and 300 hours.

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In 2015, the city had 20 to 30 call company members respond to calls.

The Fire Department in 2020 put a policy in place that company members had to go to four incidents a month or 12 incidents in a quarter at the department that responds to 5,000 incidents a year. Sloan said since 2020 only one member met the requirements.

Sloan also said COVID “drastically reduced” the call company numbers of firefighters. But, “we have no intention of disbanding the call company,” Sloan said, “or stopping their ability of giving back to the community.”

He said the fire service nationwide has seen a “drastic decrease in our volunteers” and said it’s affecting several departments in the Westbrook region.

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