Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 26, 2002
The historic agreement between the town Fire Department and beach precinct, in which beach fire protection will become the responsibility of the town, has been a long time coming — 95 years to be exact.
While the change is not a dramatic one, it is one that will benefit the department by making it more unified, combining beach and town fire protection under one department.
The two departments have been separate entities since 1907, when beach voters decided to form their own district for the purpose of protecting the rapidly developing area of town. At that time, what served as the town fire department was located three miles away, which was considered quite a distance given the limited transportation options of the era.
The first items purchased to aid in beach protection were three hand- drawn hose carts, which could be hooked up to hydrants of the newly operating Hampton Water Works Co.
Beach precinct residents have since been responsible for the cost of the building's upkeep along with purchasing any new equipment needed.
But that was then, and this is now.
With the rising costs of purchasing firefighting apparatus, maintaining a beach precinct fire department has become increasingly more expensive. Two years ago, precinct voters decided to look into the possibility of handing responsibility over to the town.
Not only was it legal for the precinct to get out of the fire protection business, but the Hampton fire chief supported the change as well. The historic deal was agreed upon last Monday, after almost a year of negotiations.
Under the new agreement, the town is now responsible for fire safety at the beach, including equipment and building maintenance, which not only eases the tax burden of precinct residents, but eliminates any possible gaps between the two departments.
The two departments have always worked together, with the Hampton Department responding to fires at the beach and vice versa, so the change as far as fire protection is concerned will hardly be noticeable.
The precinct will hold a vote on Friday at the annual beach meeting to authorize commissioners to donate fire apparatus, including one fire truck, to the town.
Although the deal is mostly just a change in legalities, the historic agreement trumpets both a new, unified Fire Department, as well as a new era for the town of Hampton, which has indeed come a long way since the days of hand-drawn hose carts.