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2005/03/05 Final Report by Neil Courtney



Final Report

Neil D. Courtney -Technical Services Specialist
Maine Fire Training & Education
Southern Maine Community College

Executive Summary

This limited study of the Sebago Fire Department was conducted by the technical services specialist from Maine Fire Training & Education (MFT&E).  Maine Fire Training & Education is a division of the Southern Maine Community College at South Portland.  MFT&E provides fire fighter training programs throughout Maine, administers an associate degree program in fire science, and is a clearinghouse for information on a variety of fire protection topics and related hazard mitigation issues.  

The context of this report has been developed to assist community leaders in addressing two specific fire service issues at hand in Sebago.  The recommendations presented in this report are based upon recognized national fire service standards and recommended practices, and takes into consideration the operational methodology employed by the Sebago Fire Department.

Foremost, this study focused on the present location of the three fixed facilities to determine if a project to construct a new fire station thereby consolidating two older stations was feasible.  The study found that the need for three fire stations is no longer justifiable, nor cost effective.  Two of the three fire stations are inadequate and not worth expending municipal funds on to bring up to date.  The third and newest station at Sebago Center lacks fundamental features inherent in today’s fire stations, however, at its most recent town meeting, the citizens appropriated funds that will allow for some of these deficiencies to be addressed at this 20 year old facility.  

Furthermore, this study reviewed the rolling stock to determine the optimum configuration of fire apparatus for the community.  The study found that the course of procurement the fire department is and has been pursuing is just, based on current and projected fire protection requirements and other hazards the fire department may be faced with mitigating.  The department has been and continues toward streamlining the fleet all the while taking advantage of modern technologies in fire apparatus and equipment design that suits the profile of the community.

Short-term recommendations found in this report include the following:
Ø       Build a new fire station and close the East and North Sebago stations.
Ø       Replace the forestry truck
Ø       Replace Tanker #1 with a pumper/tanker
Ø       Address ISO’s criteria to improve upon the town’s Public Fire Protection Classification
Ø       Re-chassis Tanker #2 solely as a mobile water supply apparatus


The town of Sebago is home to approximately 1,500 year round inhabitants whose numbers swell during the summer as vacationers come to enjoy one of Maine’s most popular lakes.  The town occupies nearly 50 square miles, and is bounded to the east by Sebago Lake, and encircled by the towns of Standish, Baldwin, Hiram, Denmark, Bridgton and Naples.  There are three State Routes that pass through Sebago, Routes 114, 107 and 35.  
Although the town is by all accounts rural in nature and having a low-density population, it appears ripe for sizeable development, as has been the case in neighboring communities throughout the expanding greater Portland region.  Should the anticipated residential growth occur, the impact on all town services could be significant.    

The town of Sebago is administered by a five-member board of selectmen/town manager form of government and operates on a fiscal year platform.  The town has recently adopted a Capital Investment Program (CIP), which should assist the community in projecting future expenditures for departmental equipment and community enhancement projects.  Historically, the town has attempted to set money aside in reserve accounts in anticipation of foreseen capital expenditures as they occur.  It has been the town’s premise not to borrow money but to have the funds available as they undertake improvement projects.  Although the reserves accounts have not always contained sufficient funds to pay for these projects, they have offset the full cost of them.


Sebago has a paid on-call fire department (POC) with a staff of approximately 30 members.  The department operates six pieces of apparatus from three fire stations, which are situated in East Sebago, Sebago Center and North Sebago.  The department provides a variety of services and the organization is challenged to keep pace with the mandates and expanding role all emergency service providers are wrestling with.
The fiscal 2005 operating budget for the fire department is $55,345, with an additional $17,200 allocated to the fire department buildings maintenance and repair account.  Emergency dispatch services for all Sebago safety services are provided by contract with the Town of Naples for $11,735.  Additional revenues are occasionally provided for both the fire department and the Sebago EMS (a separate agency) through the fund-raising efforts of the Sebago Volunteer Association and the Sebago Fire Company.  To date, the fire department has been successful in securing grants through the state and federal government, and a Maine charitable foundation.  These ancillary funds have allowed the department to enhance its serviceability to the community and have reduced the impact on the town’s budgetary requirements (It must be noted that the federal grants require a 10% match from the recipient community).

Fire Department

The Sebago Fire Department is equipped with apparatus consisting of a combination rescue-pumper, a conventional pumper, a quick attack unit, two large capacity tankers and an off-road forest fire fighting vehicle.  The department is charged with providing fire prevention and public education programs, fire suppression, vehicle extrication, limited technical rescue, and assists Sebago EMS (Emergency Medical Services) upon request.  On average during the past five years, the fire department has answered approximately 110 calls for service annually, with a low of 85 and a high of 139 calls  (For specific data, See “Fire Department Report” in Annual Town Reports).  The ISO (Insurance Services Office) has assigned a Public Fire Protection Rating Schedule of “9,” or semi-protected, for the Town of Sebago.  Insurance underwriters when setting the rates for fire insurance premiums for many communities throughout the United States use this index.  

The Sebago Fire Department provides and receives “mutual aid” from neighboring towns and is a participating community of the “Cumberland County Task Force and Strike Team.”  

Fire Stations

The three fire stations are basic facilities in which fire apparatus is housed in a ready-to-respond mode.  The buildings at North and East Sebago are more than 50 years old while the Center Sebago Fire Station was constructed in 1985.  The East Sebago station has served as the department’s “central station,” having been retrofitted over the years in an effort to accommodate the changing needs of the department.  The facility lacks many features deemed essential when considering modern fire service facilities.  At the annual town meeting of 2004, funds were allocated to build an addition to the Center Sebago fire station that would include running water, a septic system, rest rooms and shower, and a meeting room of sufficient size to accommodate the department membership.  

The need for two separate fire stations along the Route 114 corridor at East and North Sebago is no longer defendable.  When these buildings were originally established as fire stations they likely served their distinct villages reasonably well having allowed for the best possible deployment profile for the time.  These two stations are just 2 ½ miles apart which creates a significant amount of “overlap” with regard to the “service demand zone” each station is responsible for.  The specific “response district” each station has covered over the years could be addressed reasonably well by one new facility strategically located somewhere between.  

The fixed facilities at East and North Sebago are in need or repairs, modifications, upgrades and other improvements that this report does not address but is well realized by fire department officials and members of the seated “Fire Station Committee.”  This report makes no recommendation regarding these two facilities other than to discontinue their use as fire stations as soon as a single, new replacement building can be constructed.  
According to those interviewed for this study, it was learned that some residents were concerned that insurance rates for certain properties may increase in that area serviced by the North Sebago fire station, were it to close.  This apprehension may in part be reason why a proposal to construct a new facility several years ago was scuttled.  The concern was based on the notion that the maximum distance from a new fire station if located elsewhere would be exceeded.  In considering the ISO’s (Insurance Service Office) “five mile” parameter when calculating the maximum travel distances to outermost locations, any plan to locate, relocate, consolidate or close a fire station(s) must be carefully considered and how those travel distances and corresponding travel times may be impacted.  

Since the time these two village fire stations were placed in service, many changes in the way fire fighters “turnout” has changed dramatically.  (Note: turnout time:  The amount of time from notifying fire fighters of an incident to the time they actually respond to the incident.  For volunteer and on-call fire fighters, this includes the amount of time it takes to respond from wherever they may be to the time they arrive at the fire station, access fire apparatus and are ready to respond to the incident.)  Each member of Sebago’s on-call force is now equipped with a portable radio device that enables him or her mobility yet in a constant ready-to-respond mode.  Upon being alerted through the enhanced 911 communication system, they can route themselves to the nearest fire station, staff a fire truck and respond to an incident.  This feature alone may be the key attribute to quicker response by on-call fire fighters over the recent years.  To that end, the need for “village” fire stations in many cases is moot.  Furthermore, technological advances in today’s fire apparatus, especially the advent of high-powered diesel engines and automatic transmissions, allow for quicker response as compared to gas engines and manual transmissions of vintage apparatus.

The towns of Standish, Hollis, Waterford and Waterboro have reduced the number of fire stations either by closing one or more existing stations and consolidating resources, or by decommissioning several facilities and constructing a new station in a calculated location.  As examples, these communities were able to streamline their fire and emergency medical services delivery system by strategically locating a modern facility to operate from and meet the current and future service needs of the community and region.

Fire Apparatus

The Sebago Fire Department operates the following apparatus:

      Eng #4 – 2001 Rescue-Pumper
1250 gpm/1000 tank
Eng #2 – 1990 Conventional Pumper
1000 gpm/1000 tank & 2400 gal dump tank
 Tank #2 – 1979 Converted Tanker - Mack
3,300 gal tank & 3,500 gal dump tank
 Tank #1 – 1987 Converted Tanker - GMC
3,750 gal tank
Eng #3 – 2003 Initial Attack Vehicle
1000 gpm/340 gal tank – All wheel drive
Forestry #1 – 1967 4X4 Forest Fire Truck
Converted military truck – forestry equip.
The fire department has made significant advances towards streamlining and improving its method of operation, which is evidenced in the arrangement and design characteristics of its newest apparatus.  The department carries 9,390 gallons of water on the five major apparatus.  In a rural community where there are no municipal fire hydrants to draw from, water must be brought to the incident by vehicle or pumped from a static source through long hose lays to the fire.  

Sebago has initiated a Capital Investment Program (CIP) that lays out a programmatic approach to purchasing large ticket items and funding town-wide improvement projects.  It has been stated in an internal document that the town should attempt to have all major front-line apparatus replaced after 22 years of service.  Currently, there are two full-size pumpers, Engine #2 a 1990 model, and Engine #4 a 2001 model that should provide service to the town until approximately 2012 and 2023 respectively, based upon this threshold.  The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) states that front line fire apparatus should serve no more than a ten to 15 year period before it is reclassified as reserve status.  However, where the Sebago Fire Department currently responds to approximately 110 calls per year and has purchased reasonably good quality apparatus of recent, and with the implementation of an aggressive apparatus maintenance program, the department may be able to exact two decades of frontline service from their apparatus.      

The town replaced Engine #3 a 1979 commercial-chassis pumper in 2004 with a relatively new “quick attack vehicle,” or better known as a mini-pumper at no expense to the community.  This new vehicle is a boon to the fire department and compliments the current configuration of apparatus.  Instead of having three full-size pumpers, the department now operates with two pumpers and a mini-pumper which better suits the department overall.  The mini- pumper is much smaller and more versatile, allowing for easier and quicker access onto small camp roads, difficult terrain and areas requiring all-wheel drive capability due to mud, grade and slippery road conditions.  

The two mobile water supply units, or “tankers” have chassis’ that saw previous service in private industry and were acquired by the fire department upon their “first” retirement.  Like many small communities and in a spirit of thriftiness, Sebago recycled these used vehicles and retrofitted them for fire fighting duty.   

The forestry unit, which is now 37 years old, is a retired military vehicle and serving as an off-road forest fire fighting vehicle.  For concern of safety and risk aversion, this vehicle does not travel to or from fire scenes with water onboard.  The roadworthiness of this truck is tenuous at best.  The fire department fills the tank from a larger apparatus when it arrives at the scene so it can be used for off-road for fire suppression duty.  


Replacement of Fire Stations:

Site and construct a single fire station that combines the East and North Sebago stations:  The pool of resources at East Sebago and North Sebago fire stations should be consolidated into a single new facility and the two current facilities decommissioned.  A new facility in the vicinity of Route 114, Fitch and Long Hill Roads should serve the fire protection needs collectively for both East and North Sebago reasonably well.  Ideally, the site chosen should have two acres of land, good topography, easy access and good line-of-sight from the roadway.      

During this study, it was learned that there has been a limited number of fire fighters assigned to the North Sebago station for a period of time.  As previously stated, these fire stations have served “districts” or “villages” within town, however, the demographics of and the trends within the community appear to have caused a shift in residency as evidenced with many of Sebago’s fire fighters now living closer to the Center Sebago area.  This may be an anomaly and should new residents move into town and join the fire department, the pendulum could swing differently.

A fire station is still needed to cover the Route 114 corridor, the waterfront areas where the largest concentration of buildings and high-value properties are located, as well as access to the network of roads in the easternmost section of town.  According to officials, response reliability of the fire apparatus from North Sebago has become problematic requiring responding fire fighters from other districts to reroute to North Sebago to get the truck.  A new facility housing the resources of the combined stations as proposed in this report would likely minimize or negate that fallibility.

A key element to locating a new fire station and when considering consolidating two current fire stations into one new facility, is to assure that the impact on the service areas of the region are not compromised.  The ISO uses a response distance parameter of no more than five miles from a fire station before an area beyond is consider “unprotected property.”  For Sebago, it appears that a new station located within the prescribed area as identified should not adversely affect the response distance threshold.  Moreover, should the town and the regions fire services fully qualify, update and implement an “automatic aid” response plan based upon the ISO’s guidelines, perhaps any indistinct coverage issues could be resolved.  (See section:  Implement an “Automatic Aid” program).   

A new fire station for Sebago should contain upward of six apparatus bays.  It is not the intent to fill the fire station with apparatus, but to give the fire department flexibility to evolve in the future.  Moreover, the town should consider moving the Sebago Rescue to the “new public safety building” at some point in the future and design accordingly.    
Additional equipment other than fire trucks may come in the way of a rescue boat, a snowmobile and rescue sled, a county owned Hazardous Material response trailer, or through a cooperative effort, the Standish Fire Department would house a fire truck in a Sebago Fire Station to better serve that area of Standish without having to build a redundant fire station.  

A fire station along the Route 114 corridor is not only crucial to Sebago, but also plays a factor in providing fire protection to Standish when looking at the mosaic of fire station locations from a regional perspective.  That part of Standish appears to be “unprotected” were it not for the East Sebago fire station.  These two departments have a relationship that benefits both – “quid pro quo.”  Aerial ladder service and a large capacity tanker are available to Sebago from Standish, and Sebago provides “first due” coverage to that area of town beyond five miles from their nearest fire station.

All to often, communities design and construct fire stations based on current circumstances.  In some instances, relatively new buildings have been added to or modified in order to address unforeseen or unplanned changes in their emergency services delivery system.  Fire service facilities of the 21st century should be expandable and flexible in design.  MFT&E can provide a package of information on fire station design, features and concepts upon the town’s request.  This information should be referenced as the town embarks upon the task of locating and constructing a new fire station.  

The issue of what to do with the abandoned fire stations may be fundamental to the community’s approval of a fire station construction project.  The disposition of outmoded buildings should be considered during any project to replace them, however, those discussions should not be an impediment to the project’s progression.

Install fire suppression and detection systems in all public buildings:  First and foremost, all public buildings should be equipped with an automatic fire detection system that is tied directly to a central station alarm system.  A central station system is a third party entity that monitors alarm systems and upon receipt of an activation notifies the appropriate agency to respond.  Moreover, the alarm system should include a “no-heat” component.  This would alert someone in the event the heating system malfunctions and allows for corrective action before a freeze-up was to occur.  Sebago lost a fire truck in just such a scenario in 2003 when the furnace failed at the East Sebago fire station.  And to go a step further, the alarm system should include an “intruder” component.  This would add another layer of protection that would eliminate or minimize the potential of theft and vandalism to public property.  

The fire stations and all public facilities should be equipped with sprinkler systems.  These buildings represent a significant investment on the part of taxpayers are frequently left unoccupied and susceptible to the ravages of an undetected fire.  A sprinkler system is a 24-hour per day sentry that also provides the means to hold a fire in check or extinguish one until the arrival of fire fighters once notified through automatic detection.  

These fire stations should have mounted in a visible location on the front of the buildings a direct-line emergency telephone connected to the E-911 system for the traveling public to use in case of an emergency.  The vicinity in which these stations are located are sparsely populated and a means of alerting public safety officials of an emergency should be provided at what people equate with “safe havens.”

Implement an “Automatic Aid” program:  Sebago and its neighboring communities should implement a written “Automatic Aid” response program that definitively meets the guidelines of the ISO’s automatic aid requirements.  This program would have the regions fire departments basically respond to calls without regard to town boundaries.  In many cases, an area of one town which is located a certain distance from its own fire station may if fact be better served by another community’s fire department solely due to the location of a proximal station.  Elongated response times and travel distances, in addition to the “turn-out time” it takes for volunteer fire fighters to respond to their fire station upon receipt of an alarm, compounds fire fighting efforts and allows fires to free burn and grow in size, further exacerbating fire fighting efforts and diminishing the opportunity for positive results.

According to the ISO, in many cases, less apparatus are needed to provide adequate fire suppression under guidelines of the “Fire Suppression Rating Schedule” when communities operate under an automatic-aid program.  This generalization needs to be carefully evaluated when reviewing and revising such a plan.

Definitions:    Mutual Aid:  Mutual aid refers to outside assistance that is requested by one community from another after a fire has occurred.  Assistance by the outside fire department is rendered upon request.  Mutual aid can impact on the grading evaluations of water supply as derived in the ISO grading schedule.

Automatic Aid:  Automatic Aid refers to outside assistance that responds immediately and without hesitation on the first alarm to (reported) building fires beyond their boundaries.  Two or more departments that participate in an automatic aid arrangement operate as one fire department for dispatching fire apparatus to building fires.

As an example, the Bridgton fire station on Route 107 is located approximately three miles from the Bridgton-Sebago town line.  This station could play an important role in responding immediately to fires and other emergencies in that region of Sebago.  

According to the ISO, outside engine companies can be credited when “Automatic Aid” engine companies that are available within five miles of the town limits are arranged to respond on the first alarm to designated building fires.  The Bridgton, Hiram and Baldwin fire departments all have stations that could play a key role in supporting this opportunity.  Conversely, resources at the East Sebago fire station are vitally positioned to respond to the Route 114 area in Standish that is beyond five miles from the nearest Standish station.  The relevance that the Sebago fire stations play with regard to the section of Standish should not diminish if a new Sebago fire station is constructed as recommended in this report.
Replacement of Fire Apparatus:
Replace the forestry truck as soon as possible:  The current forestry truck is 37 years old and the department is concerned about its operational reliability.  As policy, the department keeps the onboard water tank empty.  Not until it arrives at an incident does the tank get filled and then assigned fire fighting duty.  

In an effort to keep to the fleet of apparatus to a manageable size, the town may wish to use Engine #3 as its primary forest and brush fire unit.  However, it may behoove the fire department to dedicate a low-cost vehicle for rough terrain forest fire fighting.  The type of service incurred while engaged in off-road fire fighting operations can be extremely harsh on a vehicle.  Invariably, damage to the vehicle’s body and mechanical gear can almost be expected when utilized in such a capacity.  To subject the new $120,000 engine #3, for this type of duty may be imprudent.  

The town should consider purchasing a brush fire “skid-unit.”  This unit features a “slip-in” modular component designed for forest and brush fire fighting and can be removed with little effort from a standard heavy-duty pickup truck and transferred to a replacement vehicle or removed so that the vehicle can be used for some other function.  The town could opt to purchase a used pickup truck of good quality and only several years old.  The town should expect to replace the truck chassis on a schedule after 10 – 15 years of service.

Replace Tanker #1 by 2007 with a pumper/tanker:  The next vehicle to be replaced should be the tanker at Sebago Center, Tanker #1.  Apparatus must comply with that edition of NFPA #1901, the standard for “Automotive Fire Apparatus,” that was in place at the time the apparatus was commissioned, as per Maine State Law.  Tanker #1 is a converted truck chassis and it is not known whether it was fabricated in compliance with the guidelines of NFPA #1901 when outfitted for fire service duty.  It was duly noted that this vehicle is “top heavy” in a memorandum to the Selectmen in 2001.

The department should blend the functions of a fully qualified pumper and the water carrying capacity of sufficient volume into a single, dual-purpose vehicle.  This project would further the mission of the department in redesigning the fleet, yet increasing the efficiency of each new apparatus by configuring them as multifunctional units.  The pump should be rated at no less than 1,250 gpm and the tank capacity at no less than 2,500 gallons

Note:  The fire department’s two large capacity mobile water supply apparatus are the next vehicles that will need to be replaced.  As a cost saving measure, the department should have one of the two units strictly as a mobile water supply apparatus and the other as a combination pumper/tanker.  

Replace Tanker #2 by 2010:  The 1979 converted tanker would be replaced with a large capacity mobile water supply vehicle.  This vehicle would be for carrying water and would not necessarily be designed as a pumper/tanker.  As such, the department would already have four apparatus with an aggregate pumping capacity of 4,500 (gpm) gallons per minute, assuming a pumper/tanker was previously purchased with a 1,250 gpm pump.   The water tank module on the current in service Tanker #2 is fairly new and of non-corrosive synthetic materials.  At the time this apparatus is due for replacement, the apparatus body and tank module should be assessed and a determination made as to whether or not it could be remounted on a new chassis.  This could save the community money by reusing a component, again providing its condition at the time allows.  At a minimum the apparatus would need only a “transfer pump” of 500 gpm capacity.

Improve upon the ISO rating for the Sebago:  Currently, Sebago is rated a Class “9”.  There is an opportunity for the town to lower this rating through an aggressive program that would have Sebago work in conjunction with it neighboring fire departments to design and implement a program that meets the ISO’s “alternative water delivery program.”  A well-grounded plan that fully qualifies with the criteria in ISO’s Public Protection Classification “Alternate Water Supply” needs to be developed, exercised and implemented.  At a minimum, the undertaking must deliver no less than 250 gpm (gallons [of water] per minute) for a period of two hours.  Increased gallonage and the ability to deliver a constant flow of water for longer periods of time may be cause for further
improvement in a community’s ISO rating.  As an example, Hollis, Maine has an ISO rating of “7”.  The fire department a number of years ago proved its ability to flow 325
gpm for a prescribed period of time through a tanker shuttle operation.  This demonstrated program led to the reduction of fire insurance premiums on certain properties throughout the community due to the prowess of the fire department’s rural water supply program.


The Town of Sebago and its fire department have made significant strides as it moves towards its long-term goal of modernizing, streamlining and becoming as efficient as possible.  The consideration to construct a new fire station that would eliminate two obsolete structures and consolidate resources in a single new facility is prudent and should be addressed as soon as possible.  The town needs to identify which fire station should be deemed the “headquarters” station, although the new facility would be the likely candidate as it could be designed as such.  This would have administrative offices, equipment maintenance and repair facilities, meet handicap accessibility requirements, have ample off-road parking, and include inherent features that would accommodate those changes that may occur within the fire department over time.  The process of designing a new facility would then be the next step for Sebago.  Either the current “Sebago Fire Station Committee” would undertake that task, or that committee would sunset and a new “Sebago Fire Station Building Committee” would be designated.  That team would be charged with designing a new fire (and perhaps rescue) building that should meet the anticipated needs of the community for a period of no less than 25 years.

The long-term plan for the fleet of apparatus could have a pumper, a combination pumper/tanker and a forestry truck at the Sebago Center fire station.  The new station along the Route 114 corridor would contain the rescue/pumper, the mini-pumper and a mobile water supply apparatus.  The fire department’s long-term strategy of maintaining an optimum number of up-to-date apparatus is sound.  Fire administration realizes that to hold on to aged, obsolete equipment presents a reliability concern and may confound the organization’s managerial and operational process.  

It is incumbent upon the town and the other communities in the area to embrace a “regional” approach to fire protection.  As such, the Town of Sebago needs to assure it has resource sufficient to address its own fire protection needs and that they are tailored to encompass a broader approach.  The town should be able to deploy a segment of its resources to fires outside its own jurisdiction, yet not undermine its own protection needs at the same time.  The arrangement and multiplicity of the fleet of six apparatus should be sufficient for Sebago for the foreseeable future and satisfy the commitment to the regional delivery of fire suppression capability, a logic other neighboring communities would hopefully embrace as well.