Fundraising continues for new fire station in Bristol

BRISTOL — As the exterior of the new Bristol fire station continues to take shape and the restored 1897 Memorial Bell now hangs proudly in its new tower, fundraising to outfit the interior of the long-awaited facility is in full swing.
First Assistant Fire Chief Eric Forand, who heads the New Firehouse Needs Working Group, reports that efforts to raise money for the interior furnishings and equipment has brought in about two-thirds of the $75,000 that the Bristol Fire Department expects it will need.
That fundraising has come through a combination of cash donations, grants and in-kind donations.
“After the generous support that the town gave to the fire station through the vote last year, it’s been really nice to see people still supporting us to help get this fire station outfitted with the essential equipment that we need,” said Forand. “It’s really gratifying.”
Last July, voters approved a $3.19 million bond to build the new fire station at 79 West St., and Bristol voters on Town Meeting Day passed a hefty municipal budget that begins making payments on that bond. But to keep the size of the bond down, funding for the station’s interior furnishings — appliances, tables, chairs, file cabinets, gear lockers, benches, firefighting equipment and the like — was not included in the final figure.
Fundraising efforts for the new station began with the Bristol Fire Department’s fraternal nonprofit, the N.H. Munsill Hose, Hook and Ladder Company (the original name of the Bristol Fire Department), which raises funds annually through its dinner dance, coin drop and chicken barbecue. These past fundraising efforts — including large donations from Bristol residents Bill James and the late Gussie Laverne — put approximately $30,000 into the new fire station’s coffers.
The effort has received a $600 grant from Round Robin.
Forand’s group is also pursuing a number of grants. In January, they applied to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for an equipment matching grant to raise $10,000 for a new OSHA/National Fire Protection Association-compliant air bottle fill station.
The group is applying to Walmart for a $2,500 grant for three computer-capable flat screen TVs. Two of the screens would go in the training room, for lectures, demos and after-action reviews, said Forand. The other would go in the gear room as part of the fire department’s Active911 digital messaging system for first responders. Through Active911 the screens would map the fire’s location, briefly describe the fire, and list the responders for a given episode.
“We have the Active911 system so now we’re trying to get the screen in the gear room to really make it that much more useful for us,” said Forand. “When we get a page out, it comes across the computer screen and it tells you where (a fire) is and it tells you what it is, so that when you go into the gear room and you’re getting changed up you can see where you’re going and what you’re going to.”
The system would also tell officers whether there are 10 people responding or two people responding.
Firefighters and supporters have also been scouring Addison County and the whole state of Vermont for in-kind donations, especially for furnishings. So far, said Forand, Middlebury College has donated pots, pans, serving dishes and 100 dinner plates, as well as furniture. The National Bank of Middlebury has donated file cabinets. Champlain College has donated 15 hardwood tables and 120 chairs to go with them, as well as stuffed chairs and office chairs.
The Bristol Fire Department is coordinating with the town of Middlebury so that as the town office moves to its new location this spring, the Bristol Fire Station can bring in any office furniture no longer needed. Similarly, Forand has been in communication with bike tour company VBT to see about furnishings the company might no longer want as it relocates to Williston. Forand also has been checking with the state of Vermont’s surplus warehouse and the UVM surplus warehouse.
While each donation is important, Forand said firefighters have been especially appreciative of the volunteer labor being donated by local craftsmen, who are pitching in to build shelves, cabinets and tables. Gerry Tetrault of Bristol has been building the six display cases for the new station’s display of historical firefighting equipment and memorabilia, as well as air room cabinets and counter space for the downstairs training room. Stark Mountain Woodworking has pledged to make the large table for the day room, where firemen can relax, eat and congregate. Bristol resident John Monks is providing a table top fashioned from a single tree (cut down in the cemetery near the new fire station), along with a bookshelf. And the list goes on.
Cash donations, said Forand, help the fire department purchase specialty equipment not covered by grants, such as the $5,000 “gear extractor.” He explained that this piece of equipment is like a large washing machine, but one capable of removing carcinogens from the firefighter’s bunker gear — “the heavy stuff we wear when we go into the fire.” Such specialized equipment, Forand explained, is part of taking care of equipment so that it lasts longer and part of keeping firefighters safer. The new gear lockers, he said, which will cost $5,000-$6,000, will also make gear last longer and keep firefighters safer.
“Everyone will have their own gear locker where you hang your gear. In the old days, people would carry around bags and come back and things would get stuffed in there — we’re talking $2,000 worth of gear — so we want you to come back, you hang it up,” Forand said. “It makes it last longer. You don’t have to replace it as often. It keeps it in better condition. It keeps the firefighters safer.”
Online, the department has raised $1,295 of the $30,000 it needs from its GoFundMe campaign. Offline, the department has received pledges and donations of around $13,000.
Forand emphasized repeatedly the fire department’s appreciation of the high level of local support. And as enthusiastic as Bristol firefighters are to move into a functional new building — after the structural and septic challenges of the old one — they’re also looking forward to a building that will help them keep the community safer.
“We’ll be in one station, we’ll have the facilities to store our gear in the proper manner and deal with larger incidents, and all in house, so we don’t crowd ourselves,” he said. “They also worked into this new fire station a lot of training mechanisms, so we’ll be even better trained than we already are. And it gives us the availability for other towns in the Addison County Firefighters Association to come and use our facility for meetings and trainings.
“We keep our fingers crossed,” said Forand, as the group continues its fundraising efforts. “Everything’s kind of a deadline. Hopefully we’re in by June.”
To make a cash donation for the new fire station furnishings and equipment, make checks payable to Bristol Fire Department and mail to Town of Bristol, P.O. Box 249, Bristol, VT 05443; or donate through the department’s GoFundMe campaign, online at www.gofundme.com/apnw745g. To contact Eric Forand about other contributions to the new fire station, email [email protected] or call Forand at the town office at 453-2410.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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