Jul 17, 2015 2:12 PM
UPDATE: Woman dies in Derry fire; staffing cuts meant ladder truck failed to arrive
DERRY - Sixty-two-year-old Arlene Evans, of Derry, died Thursday night in a fire at her home.
Her husband was taken to the hospital and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Fire crews say they believe it was accidental and caused by smoking materials near medical oxygen.
“The family, my heart goes out to you," said Linda Merrill, a woman who lives nearby. "I’m afraid that I have to clean out my house too because I don’t want the same thing to happen to me and my husband.”
Fire crews had a tough time reaching the woman, saying the home was filled with clutter - and that wasn’t the only issue.
“The reduction and staffing at that level - you're able to do less simultaneous operations,” Chief Michael Gagnon said.
Firefighters say that despite budget cuts, the outcome of this fire unfortunately would have been the same; one dead and one in the hospital.
But neighbors are not convinced.
“Don’t get me started with that," Merrill said. "For what, to save a bunch of people some money on taxes."
“I have a 2-year-old - god forbid my house catches fire, and I have to wait 45 minutes,” Kirsten Cote said.
Gagnon said the cuts haven’t burned them just yet. He had a crew ready to go.
“When we're at 12, that gives you three engines, a battalion chief and ambulance," he said. "A truck, tanker and all those pieces are not available."
Last night a ladder truck was not available because of cuts in staffing.
The chief said more than one simultaneous emergency could also prove to be a problem.