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Sunderland chief open to developing regional firefighting service

“Sunderland is happy to join any regional discussion,” said Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz.

In December, the Board of Selectmen sent letters to Whately, Hadley, Leverett, Hatfield and Shutesbury inquiring whether the neighboring towns would explore sharing firefighting services.

The only town to express interest was Leverett.

Later this month, the two towns plan to discuss the possibility of sharing fire services, according to Sunderland Fire Chief Robert Ahearn.

In the meantime, Sunderland will pursue talks with the Franklin County Fire Chiefs, which sent a letter to its 21 member towns to gauge interest in securing state money for a regionalization study.

The study would review the current fire and emergency response system and look at various scenarios for revising, improving and modernizing fire services.

The fire chiefs hope to fund the study with the help of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, which receives money from the state annually for regional planning projects.

“I’m quite happy the (fire chiefs association) is doing it,” said Ahearn. “We’ll get a look at the whole picture in the county.” Regardless of the results of the study, Nartowicz said the selectmen would pursue discussions on fire services.

“If the (council of governments) can’t provide technical assistance, Sunderland would still be interested in a regional discussion,” Nartowicz said.

The Sunderland Fire Department, which is an on-call department, is exploring sharing resources because it is finding it more difficult to recruit firefighters, said Ahearn. “We’re finding it hard to get people who want to commit to the time it takes to being a firefighter,” he said.

There are 25 on-call firefighters in Sunderland, 20 of whom are also emergency medical technicians.

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