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Fire Station in Kendall Square to Close in July

Fire Station in Kendall Square to Close in July
By Eva Moy

News Editor

City officials say that the closing of the fire station at 350 Main St. on July 1 will not affect the amount and speed of service in that area. The station, known as Engine Company Seven, covers Kendall Square, MIT, Newtown Court, and Washington Elms.

A study of Cambridge fire stations was motivated by budget discussions last January as the city tried to "find ways for increased efficiency," said Lisa C. Peterson, assistant to the city manager. City administrators also acknowledged that public safety is a topic that needs to be addressed by experts in the field, not just administrators, she added.

The consultants had made more drastic recommendations, and closing Engine Seven was just the start, Cambridge Fire Chief Kevin Fitzgerald said. "They said we had a triple overlap down there," he added.

In addition to financial reasons, the station is being closed because of "a drastic change in the neighborhood," Fitzgerald said. There are fewer residential and industrial areas, and the newer buildings have better fire detection systems, he said.

The consultants conducted an extensive geographic mapping of the area, looking at the total response capabilities of Cambridge fire stations, said Peterson, one of five members of the steering committee in charge of the study. Other members include Fitzgerald, the Firefighters' Union president, personnel director, and finance director, according to a memorandum from City Manager Robert W. Healy.

The consultants considered several factors, including the average speed of every street, railroad locations, and traffic conditions, when making the decision to close the station, Peterson said. A fire truck is required to arrive at the scene within four minutes in 90 percent of the calls, with a full complement arriving within eight minutes in 90 percent of the calls, she added.

"Public safety is one of our highest priorities, and it is imperative that Cambridge have reliable, comprehensive, and statistically sound information so that the fire department and city can determine appropriate policies and staffing," Healy wrote in the memo.

Engine Seven was very old

Engine Seven was opened around 1893, according to Lieutenant Jeffrey W. Ashe, a firefighter at that station. The current jurisdiction of Engine Seven will be redistributed between Engine Two in East Cambridge, Engine Three in Central Square, and Engine Five in Inman Square, he said.

Engine Seven is a one-company station, with three men on duty each shift, Ashe said. They respond to medical emergencies in addition to basic fire calls. "We do a little of everything," Ashe said.

However, the small size of the station was not a determining factor in the decision, Peterson said.

"The fact that it's on its last legs and needs to be rebuilt" was a large factor, she added.

"It was just something it was time to do," Fitzgerald said.

Ashe disagreed. "It shouldn't be closed," he said. He added that he does not feel the remaining service will be adequate.

The employees at the station will be redistributed to other sites as part of a plan to implement city-wide four-person crews instead of the current three-person crews, Fitzgerald said.

Both Peterson and Fitzgerald hinted that MIT might be interested in acquiring the land on which the fire station is located. But Assistant for Government Relations Sarah E. Gallop said, "We have no plans to own it, as far as I know."