A few years ago after a fire destroyed a home on Boathouse Road on Lost Lake, a conversation began about fire protection in this area of town. A Lost Lake Fire Protection Study Committee was created and began to review and discuss improved methods of protecting homes in this densely settled part of town.
The Lost Lake/Knops Pond area rapidly grew in 1920s and 1930s following a subdivision development. There were no zoning regulations in that time and house lots were 20 feet by 100 feet. Summer cottages sprung up first along the waterfront and eventually behind on adjacent lots. The use of these homes was seasonal until the 1970s when many of the homes were updated and remodeled and became year round homes. As a result, this area is densely settled on what once were narrow dirt roads. Most of the roads are now paved, but access still remains difficult due to their size.
Groton is the largest town in Middlesex County and many homes have been built along a wide spread network of roads, many of which do not have water lines and hydrants. This is a common problem throughout the state. The center of Groton and West Groton have Water Departments that have developed and expanded over the years. The outlying homes and the Lost Lake/Knops Pond areas of town have not had this kind of protection. The shallowness of the lakes and the inability of fire equipment to lift water to a fire severely hamper firemen’s capabilities. As a result, there have been numerous brush fires and home fires over the years that destroyed many homes. The lack of water in densely settled areas poses a threat to homes and woodlands.
In 1939 a great amount of dead wood and slash left behind from the great hurricane of the previous year helped to fuel a forest fire in Groton. The fire eventually burned itself out, but residents who remember it say all they could do was spray water on their homes to save them. More recently a troublesome fire got out of hand in the Rocky Hills area and proved exceedingly difficult to control and knock down due to lack of water.
The Lost Lake/Knops Pond area is heavily wooded as well as being densely settled. The Fire Protection Committee decided that Groton needed to better protect itself from this danger. An extensive study was undertaken with Water Superintendent Tom Orcutt and local lake resident and civil engineer, Val Prest, taking the lead together with Groton’s fire chief, Steele McCurdy, Rena Swezey, Town Assessor and lake resident,Tom Delany, DPW Director, Don Palmer, Police Chief, and Carol Quinn, Lost Lake resident.
The approach they came up with protected a maximum number of homes at the minimum cost possible. Extension of water lines and installation of hydrants was proposed for Pine Trail and along Route 119 (Boston Road) to Summit Road near Lost Lake. Also two 50,000 gallon cisterns were designed to be installed. One adjacent to Grotonwood’s parking lot and the other on land donated by the Groton Conservation Trust on Weymisset Road near Lost Lake and Knops Pond. The cisterns were designed to provide enough water for 2 hours of fire suppression. Finally, a dry hydrant was to be placed on Island Road adjacent to Knops Pond, the only area suitable for such a device.
Town meeting voted to authorize the expenditure of approximately $1.8 million not without some voicing their objections. In the end, it was rightly seen as a project for the public good and easily passed a voice vote.
The installation began during the summer and all pieces are complete minus the dry hydrant which should be completed within the month. This expansion of fire protection covers around four hundred Groton homes at a modest cost of about $30/year for an average home. The property taxes that could be lost by a devastating fire in this area is significant. Some homes are still beyond the insurance company’s recommended distance of 1000 feet from water, but the distance for many has been reduced four and fivefold. If you are one of the homes that now has water a 1000 feet or less from your home, you should talk with your home insurer about a reduction in your cost. If you have questions about the distance of your home from one of these new fire fighting structures, you may call the Fire Department or the Water Department for clarification.