Andover Fire Rescue responded to more than 110 calls during a two-day period during the weekend cold snap, which brought record cold temperatures and dangerous windchill.
During the worst of the weekend, Andover Fire had an extra engine on duty for 24 hours.
Officials had feared widespread power outages because of the wind. But Andover did not need to open a warming center when there were no widespread outages reported in town. Boston, Worcester, Providence and Hartford all broke low temperature records for Feb. 4, and a national windchill record of -108 was set on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Locally, the response was hampered when Andover Fire’s dispatch center went down several times, according to Andover Ma Firefighters Local 1658, the union that represents the town’s firefighters.
“Even with the extra staffing, we could barely keep up with the call volume,” the union said in a Facebook post. “Unfortunately, this hasn’t been all that unusual for us with the increase in daily calls and the same staffing in place for the last 30+ years.”
The draft budget proposal Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan sent to the select board last week notes the growth of Andover Fire Rescue has not kept pace with the town’s population growth. The budget calls for adding a third ambulance with two employees to each shift and raising the number of administrators per shift to five from four by adding a fire training lieutenant.
“Andover Fire Rescue has not received an increase in firefighting personnel since 2000, at which point three firefighters were added to the department. Since then, calls for emergency medical calls have increased by 45%, or approximately 1,240 calls per year,” the proposal said. “The cost of additional department personnel will be completely offset by revenues generated from the increase in ambulance billing fees and the reduction in ladder aide overtime line item.”