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Worcester's Central Station closes

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  • Worcester's Central Station closes

    My comments at end

    Bell tolls at fire station

    Central makes way for hotel
    Bronislaus B. Kush


    WORCESTER- The klaxon will sound for the last time tomorrow as firefighters make their last runs out of the Central Street fire station.

    During the weekend, equipment, furniture and the personal items of firefighters will be removed - making way for the demolition of the firehouse for a new luxury hotel.

    On Tuesday, the City Council approved a tax increment financing deal for the new Hilton Garden Inn.

    The complex - to be built by Fargo Management LLC - will sit on the 34,224 square foot site now housing the Central Division.

    Fire personnel and apparatus will be redeployed to other stations in a plan drawn up earlier in the year by Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio.

    Fire officials yesterday said no special observances will be held when the station is decommissioned.

    Philip J. Niddrie, Worcester's chief development officer, said workers will be on site as early as next week to assess the asbestos situation at the station.

    He said the structure will be razed in October and work on the hotel could begin shortly after.

    Mr. Niddrie said pilings could be in the ground for the hotel sometime before winter sets in.

    "A lot will depend on the weather," he said.

    When plans for the hotel first surfaced, firefighters said the demolition of the station would reduce downtown fire coverage.

    Chief Dio and city officials maintained, however, that firefighters from the Southbridge Street station and fire headquarters on Grove Street could do the job.

    In May of 1974, the City Council authorized then-City Manager Francis J. McGrath to borrow $890,000 on a 20-year bond to build the station at 70 Central St.

    The complex was to replace the School Street Station and the firehouse behind the old police headquarters on Waldo Street.

    The contract was awarded to F.W. Madigan Co. Inc. and was built under the oversight of Fire Chief Edward F. Hackett.

    The two-story colonial structure was built on a lot acquired from the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.

    It originally housed Engine 1, Engine Company 16, Aerial Scope 1, the Rescue Squad, and the north end district chief.

    The structure sat on 41 piles and was reinforced by a network of steel beams because of its close proximity to the underground Blackstone River.

    It featured 18,000 square feet of floor space, three strategically placed slide poles, special racks for rubber gear, and overhead tanks to fill pumpers.

    "I've tried to design the building with the convenience of the firefighters always in mind," said architect John S. Bilzerian in an interview with Worcester Telegram police reporter Ernest J. "Buzz" Gallagher, shortly before the station opened in October of 1975. "Many things through this structure are real time savers."

    The special features, however, drew criticism from some quarters, including Mayor Israel Katz, who described the station as "elaborate."

    Fargo Management will pay the city $1 million for the site.

    Under the tax deal, Fargo will receive a 50 percent tax exemption on the increase in property value over the duration of the 20-year agreement.

    That means the developer will save about $2.6 million in property taxes during that period. The city, meanwhile, will realize about $2.7 million in new tax revenue from the increase in property value.

    The TIF is to go into effect July 1, 2005.

    In 1989, developer Philip O. Shwachman was interested in obtaining the parcel for a garage, as part of his plans for the $100 million Liberty Square office complex.

    As a bit of history/perspective, this station was first due to the Cold Storage Warehouse. It's closing, however, isn't a huge impact on fire protection as there's three-company stations about 1 mile north and 1 mile south of Central, and the immediate area around Central is mostly commercial occupancies. You have a stronger arguement that an Engine Company is needed downtown not for fire protection but for EMS first response (tall/big buildings = takes longer to get to the patient while their sprinklers keep fires in check). Chief's plan is to build a new station just outside of Downtown, a bit past where the Warehouse was on Franklin, that'll eventually fill the role of the old Central station plus retire a Victorian era station at the other end of Franklin Street.
    IACOJ Canine Officer

  • #2
    Which Central companies are going where, Matt?

    Incidently, I was sitting in the Boynton (mmmm...buckets.... ) two weeks ago, and happened to see every piece of apparatus from Central AND Grove Street go charging up Highland in the general direction of the airport in rapid sucession. Quite impressive.... even the reserve ladder trucks with the un-covered tillers filling in as ladders 1 and 2!!!


    • #3
      Photos Worcester Fire Central Division

      Fire Safety not on City Council Agenda.
      Station was next to Worcester Centrum
      which have huge crowds during concerts etc.
      Hotel not really needed in that location.
      Station was in the right place.
      Just another money story..

      Photo link for Worcester Fire Central



      • #4
        Saying goodbye to Central Fire Station

        Saying goodbye to Central Fire Station
        Saturday, August 16, 2003

        A lot of history, memories, laughter, emotion

        Saying goodbye to Central Fire Station Firefighters recall life, work at Central

        Christina E. Sanchez


        WORCESTER- Central Fire Station was filled with laughter, teasing and stories yesterday as firefighters young and old reminisced.

        People came and went throughout the day to say goodbye to the station that had been a part of their lives for so many years. The firefighters guffawed as they sifted through handfuls of old photographs of rafting trips and baseball games.

        Tomorrow, Engine 1 will make its last run from Central Station as the station, located at 70 Central St., is shut down after almost 28 years of service.

        "I was the one to open the doors for the first time. The memories, the history, the different memories that came through this station, the friends that became family, the deaths. There's just a lot of history, a lot of emotions, and to see it gone is a disappointment," said former Fire Chief Dennis L. Budd.

        Chief Budd started as a firefighter on Engine 1. He worked at the Central Station from 1975 to 1989. He then went to headquarters on Grove Street, and was there until he retired in November 2000.

        "The quality of the people that I worked with in this station, some of them were closer than family. They would do anything for you and you would do anything for them," Chief Budd said.

        The closing of the station has been hard on everyone, even firefighters who are relatively new. Michael R. Smick has only been with Central Station for two years, but said it will be tough to see it close.

        "It affects me because it affects all the guys around me. All these memories. You feel bad because these guys have been here a long time and they wanted to retire from this station," Mr. Smick said. "You can see it on these guys' faces. There's a lot of memories."

        District Chief Walter C. Giard, who was with the station for the first five years, said while Chief Budd opened the station's door for the first time, he raised the flag. As he was recalling the first day the station opened, retired Firefighter Walter B. Baxter chimed in, "Hey, you remember the bucket incident?"

        The two broke out in laughter, thinking about a training incident that ended in a 20-foot free fall before Firefighter Baxter caught then-Firefighter Giard in mid-air with a safety line.

        District Chief Ronald A. DeFusco, who has been with Central since 1992, and a firefighter for more than 38 years, said the stories about the station and the men are numerous.

        "I remember all that happened here, the good times as well as the bad. The excitement of having all the activity around us. The pleasure of just having people stop in to chat," he said.

        "Some of the things that the guys did to entertain themselves. They made a rat, or something that looked like a rat, and they tied it to a fishing line," he added, laughing.

        As he pointed to some bushes outside the station, he described how the firefighters waited for unsuspecting passers-by and dangled the fake rat out of the bush.

        People would scream, but laugh when they realized what had happened, Chief DeFusco said. "It was all in good fun, though. Someone got even with them. A guy was passing by the rat and he fell to the ground like he had chest pains. When they went to assist him, he said, "I got you.'"

        All jokes aside, Chief DeFusco said, this station was an important part of the city. "The station has been an information bureau, a parking lot for visiting firefighters, a tourist information bureau. People would stop in and ask, "Where can we go to eat.' That's the personality of this station," he said.

        In the station there is a lot fun, games and jokes, but when the men are on a call, they take their job very seriously, Chief DeFusco said.

        As firefighters shared their stories, they rattled off names of men who once worked with them. Firefighter Allen J. Iocco, who has been with the station for 18 years, mentioned Barney Murphy. Everyone seemed to remember Barney as they nodded in agreement.

        "He was a go-getter all the time even at 62, 65. He marked everything on the truck, he always had a magic marker, always had a camera. He took pictures of everything. There used to be this old fire truck, and Barney would get in the back of the truck and talk over the microphone to kids. He'd pretend like it was the truck talking. It was Barney the Truck," Firefighter Iocco said, smiling.

        Capt. Geoffrey Gardell, who has also been at Central for 18 years, said it is sad to see Central Station go.

        "Most of the guys who work here like the noise, the traffic, the downtown noise. We see quite a lot of things going on at night. Lately, with the weather being nice, a lot of the guys have been standing outside, trying to take it all in before the station closes," Capt. Gardell said.

        "This was the No. 1 station people congregated at. They always did things here. Everything went through this station. I can't believe we're really closing," he said shaking his head in disbelief. "They're not only shipping us out. They're breaking up a family."

        The station's doors will close, and a hotel will take its place, but Firefighter Paul R. LaRochelle said he hopes Central Station will not be forgotten. "I would like to see some memorial in the lobby of the hotel that says at one time this station stood here."

        Firefighter LaRochelle said it is hard for him to believe the station is really closing.

        "It's rare that you get 18 guys together that get along. And like he (Captain Gardell) said, they are breaking us up," he said. "I think today is the worst for me. It's finally real, finally here."

        Photo link for Central Division Worcester


        • #5
          Engine 1 moved, removed

          Engine 1 moved, removed
          Saturday, August 30, 2003

          Old station floor needs shoring up Engine 1 homeless until station floor can be shored up

          Christina E. Sanchez


          WORCESTER- Engine 1 is temporarily homeless - its 32,000 pounds are too much for the 108-year-old wooden floor of the Brown Square Fire Station.

          The engine moved to Brown Square when Central Fire Station was closed Aug. 18 to make way for development of a downtown hotel. Thursday it was moved to the Fire Department headquarters on Grove Street, where it will remain out of service until the Brown Square floor is shored up.

          For now only Engine 6 will run from Brown Square Station.

          Firefighters are upset over the situation, but city officials say the problem can be resolved soon. And Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio sees no increased danger to public safety even though shutting down an engine company always means some delay in response time.

          Local 1009, International Association of Fire Fighters, said the situation could have been avoided.

          Donald Courtney, vice president of Local 1009, said the problem at the Brown Square Station was foreseeable.

          "We're not surprised that this happened. With the age of the station, it was to be expected. There was a rush to accommodate the developer," he said referring to plans to replace Central Station with a hotel. "There was a rush to do this without taking into consideration the safety of the building (Brown Square)."

          Mr. Courtney said the problem could have been avoided with better preparation. He said the city could have made plans with the developer to keep some Fire Department presence in the area.

          "I understand that the hotel was a priority, and economic development is something that is important for the city. We don't want to stand in the way of economic development. But Fire Department presence is very important and should have been preserved," he said.

          Chief Dio said the news about Brown Square Station comes as a surprise to him because, initially, an engineer declared the floor to be safe. After mathematical calculations of the structure were completed, it was found the safety factor of the floor was not as great as it could be, he said.

          "The engine is temporarily being moved out while some minor support work is being done. By next week sometime, we should be able to move Engine 1 back in. There's not a lot of work, we just had some concerns," Chief Dio said.

          "When there's a safety issue, I'd rather clear everyone out. I want everyone going home at the end of the day safe."

          The department originally had made plans to bring in a spare engine, which was 5,000 pounds lighter, temporarily to replace Engine 1. Chief Dio said the decision changed because the department did not want to take any chances with too much weight on the floor.

          The temporary shutdown of Engine 1 will not affect coverage of the city, Chief Dio said. As of now, the department is short of manpower, so there is always at least one company shut down, he said.

          Firefighters from Engine 1 will be assigned to another company, and engines from other stations will be called if additional assistance is needed.

          Chief Dio said the Fire Department has no other concerns about safety at the buildings where the rest of the Central Station equipment was moved because all the other stations have concrete floors.

          City Manager Thomas R. Hoover said he is not worried about adequate fire coverage of the city. "I leave it up to the chief for deployment. He's going to deploy the equipment and personnel that is needed. I am very confident of that," Mr. Hoover said.


          • #6
            No clue

            To really understand Central, you would have to live or be around Worcester to actually see the role the companies stationed there play in the protection of Worcester. Niel is correct, it's a pathetic move by the city to get money. And also, the rescue company plays an essential role in Worcester. With their new home on McKeown Rd., if theyre responding to a fire across the city, you can add an additional 5 to 10 minutes before their arrival whereas in many cases, especially in the downtown area, they are first on scene. The name central also holds some significiance because from that general area, you can basically access any part of the city.I know on top of these reasons that i have already listed, Central will be missed by all of those who were really a part of it.
            "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for hs brothers".

            Firefighter of the Future

            "There's no use sending a FF to hell, he'd just try to put it out"

            "We're the one's walking in when everyone else is running out"


            • #7
              While not exactly about Central Station, the local alternative press had a good article on Worcester's public safety staffing situation in general this week:

              IACOJ Canine Officer


              • #8
                After a beer @ Irish Times the other night i happened to swing down to Central which seems a very sad and empty place now that it has become obvious that its closed. it was very strange to drive by on a nice night and not seeing any of the guys out on the apron. to me it is a great loss to the whole feeling of the centrum area. I just hope the city gets off its *** and gets new quarters sometime this decade for E1, L1, R1, and C3.
                Member IACOJ & IACOJ EMS Bureau
                New England FOOL
                "LEATHER FOREVER"
                As always these are strictly my own opinions and views


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