Fire district lays off a third of its force

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — A Groton fire district is facing major layoffs and fire officials say they may need to rely on neighboring districts to help them respond to emergencies.

“It’s frightening,” said Cindy Sutton of Groton.

Sutton lives in the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District where the overseeing board Thursday laid off nine firefighters, leaving 16 on the force.

“You’re laying off a third of your force,” she said. “How can you guarantee our safety? God forbid something happened.”

The move means four firefighters per shift. But if someone is sick or on vacation, it could drop to three.

The local fire district may have to depend on mutual aid to meet minimal staffing standards when responding to a call. The layoffs come after taxpayers approved a $3.9 million budget last month.

“They say with that amount they need to do this,” Sutton said. “I think it’s time to rethink that and sit down and redo those numbers.”

Another woman, however, said she’s not concerned about a longer response time.

“There’s supposed to be … we voted in for volunteers and back in the day, Poquonnock Bridge had a wonderful volunteer fire department,” the woman who declined to give her name said.

The woman pointed out how Poquonnock — the largest fire district in Groton — has a higher mill rate than any other district in town. She believes guaranteeing pay raises for firefighters put a strain on the budget.

“You hear firefighters brag about getting $40,000 and $50,000 in overtime, working call boxes which are antiquated,” she said. “It doesn’t need to happen.”

News 8 understands the layoff notices have now gone out, giving the affected firefighters just 30 more days on the job.

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