OPINION: Response Time Matters


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The following opinion article represents the views and opinions of the author, and not necessarily those of Westwood Minute.

By Kathy Wallace

I think we can all agree that if you have a medical emergency or a fire that you want help to arrive quickly.

Most, if not all of us, live in Westwood for the high level of services. We all were impacted recently by a significant tax increase. This was not welcome news, but quality services cost money.

I was disheartened to learn that the proposed FY25 budget is not fully funding the 4 new firefighters/paramedics that both the 2013 and 2023 operational studies recommended as MINIMUM staffing levels. The FY25 budget includes funding for only 2 firefighters. How do we not have the money to fund what is stated to be our highest priority?

On August 23, 2023, the Westwood Minute wrote "Marianne LeBlanc Cummings (Select Board Chair) proposed to immediately increase the fire department's night staff to nine, and work toward a budget that allows Westwood to staff its fire department with eleven employees for every day and night shift, as a priority".

The current WFD staffing model has 10 firefighters assigned to each of the four working groups. Only one working group is on duty at a time, so we have 10 firefighters total, split between the two stations each day. The Select Board has approved that we must have a minimum of 9 on duty 24/7 365 days funded through overtime if needed. Typically, there are only 9 on duty, due to injury, illness, vacation or leave of absence.

With only 9 staff, we cannot run the second ambulance; 55-60% of WFD calls are medical and there are overlapping calls 35-40% of the time.

  • Without a minimum of 10 firefighters, we cannot run the second ambulance and/or we lose the engine or ladder truck if both ambulances are responding to calls.
  • When the FY24 budget was being determined last year, this same question was raised and the response was that we needed to wait for the results of the operational study.
  • We now have the 2013 and 2023 studies that both recommend that we need a minimum of 11.
  • No staff were added to the Fire Department in FY24. The last time there was an add to WFD staff was in 2020.
  • There has been significant growth in town, with more on the way. We now have multi-story buildings with up to 4 floors.
  • Chief Lund made a fiscally responsible request to add 4 firefighters in FY25. In reality, we need more than 11 as detailed in the studies.
  • Important to note is that the night shift covers 6pm-8am, so it is not a time when the call volume is less.
  • Norwood Hospital has been closed since June 2020 and their parent company has significant financial issues. This creates longer runs for the ambulances going into Boston frequently. It is unknown if and when Norwood Hospital will reopen.
  • There was a recent tragedy in Winthrop resulting in the loss of life of a 2 year old child and no ambulance was available. Staffing matters!

I urge the town to truly make public safety a priority and fund the 4 new firefighters to achieve 11 in each working group and fund for 10 firefighters 24/7 in FY25. WFD protects and serves each and every resident from birth to 100+ years old. Everyone is better off with a well staffed department and it will make it easier to hire quality firefighters by eliminating understaffing. Paramedics are in high demand and we need to have the best work environment including, compensation, leadership, staffing levels and the physical fire station.

The Finance Commission will be discussing the FY25 budget on Monday February 12 at 7pm on Zoom. There will be an opportunity for public participation. Here is the link to the agenda and zoom meeting. Westwood Media Center will record the meeting for later viewing.


If public safety matters to you and your family, please email the Select Board at the addresses below:

Select Board Email Addresses:




Thank you.


Thanks to Westwood resident Kathy Wallace for contributing this opinion article to Westwood Minute.

Westwood Minute takes no position on the opinion articles that it publishes, but seeks accurate and thoughtful commentary on topics that matter to our community, from a variety of differing viewpoints. Feel free to reply with your reaction below, or submit another perspective to WestwoodInAMinute@gmail.com.

You may also be interested in reading:

Select Board Increases Fire Department Night Staffing, Approves Overtime at Estimated Cost of $350K+

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Westwood Fire Department Responds to 4 Fire Outbreaks in One Day

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