HANCOCK — The Hancock Volunteer Fire Department dates back to 1957. One of its fire stations is just as old.
On Feb. 12, department representatives met with members of the town’s Board of Selectmen and an architecture firm for the first time to consider the possibility of constructing a new fire station.
“The current building does not have enough room for all of the department’s vehicles. There’s no running water,” said the department’s Chief Chris Holmes. “With our conditions you can’t just build a garage and put the trucks in it.”
The presentation, given by representatives from Bucksport-based Lewis & Malm Architecture, covered initial considerations for the town should it decide to eventually construct a new building. The firm has worked on several similar projects, including fire stations for Harrington and Winterport.
A pre-design study for the fire station proposed a location directly across the Cemetery Road from the current facility, on land that had previously been proposed as a parking lot for the Hancock Grammar School. That location would not affect insurance costs for Hancock homeowners, as there would be no changes in the fire station’s five-mile radius of coverage.
The discussion was just a preliminary one for the town to begin considering what its expectations and needs would be from a new fire station.
“There’s not a lot of room in there now. The station limits what we can do in the future because of its dimensions,” Holmes said. “Down the road we see the need for additions like a ladder truck. We’ve had two chimney fires in the past week, and both times we’ve had to use Sorrento’s ladder truck.”
The design for the Harrington Volunteer Fire Department station has space for five fire and rescue vehicles.
The Hancock Volunteer Fire Department has 20 members, down from 35 around five years ago. The department operates seven vehicles and a rescue boat. Along with the boat, three vehicles are kept at the Cemetery Road station, where space is tight enough that the department’s forestry truck is kept outside throughout the year.
Across the state, membership in the volunteer fire departments that service so many small towns in Maine has been in decline for years. Mandatory training that requires extensive night and weekend commitments and younger populations that are less firmly rooted in a town can exacerbate recruitment issues.
“Membership ebbs and flows with job changes, life changes, people just losing interest and drifting away,” Holmes said.
Architect Charles Earley noted that a new building could serve as an enticement for people to join up.
“Building a new fire station can be good not only for the department, but for the entire town’s morale,” Earley said. “And it can be a good way to attract people to volunteer.”
The Feb. 12 meeting was an initial overview of what constructing a new fire station might involve. The next steps for the town would be to evaluate the inventory and needs of the Fire Department, and begin determining a budget for a suitable design.