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Living in a Firehouse

by Karen Grava, Director of Media Relations

UNH students are gaining real-world experience living in the Allingtown Firehouse.

Six UNH students are finding that their living situation this year isn’t very conducive to sleep – at least on some nights.

That’s because they are living in the Allingtown Firehouse, and every time there is a fire or emergency call, they respond.

"Living here has reinforced my dream of being a professional in the fire service," said Scott McGuire, president of the UNH EMS Club and the liaison officer between the Allingtown Volunteer Fire Association (AVFA) and the University. McGuire, who is from North Attleboro, Mass., where he is a volunteer firefighter, is a senior studying fire/arson investigation and fire administration.

McGuire said he was interested in living at the firehouse because of the real world experience it would provide. “My interest increased exponentially when I met the career staff of the city of West Haven Fire Department and some of the members of the volunteer department.

"The relationships I have developed with the other volunteers and with the career personnel are invaluable. The advice and the help they give to me will stay with me for the rest of my life," he said.

"It helps me strive to 'live the dream,' as we say in the fire-service world."

John Carew, chief of the AVFA, said the relationship between the fire association and UNH has been long-standing and has gotten stronger and stronger over the years. While West Haven has both paid and volunteer firefighters, AVFA responded to nearly 500 calls in 2011, he said.

"The advantages to Allingtown of having students living in the firehouse are that it provides a more secure building and especially that the students become members of the AVFA and provide help and support for the career firefighters," he said.

Edward R. Ball, a UNH master of public administration student who received a B.S. in fire/arson investigation and municipal fire administration from UNH last May, serves as a lieutenant in the Allingtown Volunteer Fire Association and an instructor at the service’s Emergency Care and Safety Institute.

The six students living in the firehouse and the more than 25 UNH students who are volunteer firefighters supplement West Haven's manpower, he said.

Since there are only five paid firefighters per shift in Allingtown, Ball, who is from Bloomingdale, N.J., said the students can make a real difference during an emergency. "We're in the shadows with the career guys, and it is an amazing experience."

The six living in the firehouse pay a yearly fee to live there which goes to the Allingtown Volunteer Fire Association to purchase gear and maintain equipment used by the volunteer firefighters, Ball says. They live like career firefighters with a bunkroom, dayroom and kitchen.

"We are doing this for the experience," Ball said. "Most of us come from small rural areas with few fire/emergency calls.  Allingtown gets a lot of calls a year and it is a unique opportunity to learn."