The Aquinnah fire chief told the town selectmen this week that he was concerned about his ability to provide adequate fire protection for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) after the tribe refused to allow him to inspect tribal buildings.
“We can’t provide adequate service to them if we don’t know what’s going on in those buildings,” fire chief Simon Bollin told the selectmen at their meeting Tuesday. Mr. Bollin described the tribal headquarters on Black Brook Road as one of the “biggest areas in town; that scares me if anything happens in there, especially not knowing what’s in some of those buildings.”
“It’s not fair to my firefighters to not know what’s in those buildings,” the chief continued. “If there’s a fire, we’re not going to get near it.”
Mr. Bollin said his department wanted to conduct a drill on tribal lands, but was told they could not be there without approval from selectmen. The tribe has 20,000 gallons of water available for firefighting, Mr. Bollin said, and an additional four or five tanks at the tribal housing complex. “We’re supposed to help them upkeep the tanks, but when we went in there we were
told we couldn’t be in there,” he said.
He asked the selectmen to write a letter to the tribal council to arrange a tour of the property and all the buildings and “come up with what our concerns are and what we deem is necessary to work on moving forward in order to provide fire service to them.”
Mr. Bollin took over as chief late last year and has been working to put in place new procedures and equipment to strengthen the department.
Selectman Jim Newman said the board would arrange a meeting with the tribe and fire chief sometime in the next two weeks.
“I don’t think there’s really an issue; it’s just an issue of communicating . . . I don’t see it as something we can’t resolve easily,” Mr. Newman said.
The selectmen also agreed to set the fire inspection fee at $50, the maximum allowed by the state. The town has been overcharging, Mr. Bollin said. The inspection schedule “has been all over the place,” the chief said.
In other business, the selectmen accepted the resignation of Aquinnah library director Catherine Thompson, who said she will retire on Nov. 15 for personal reasons. The library trustees are now seeking a replacement for the position. Ms. Thompson has been director since 2010.
The selectmen also set Nov. 15 for a special town meeting.