As an former firefighter, I feel the need to comment on the recent house fire on Mae Terrace in Waterville when some of the responding units went to the similar sounding May Street across town from where the actual fire was (“Fire that damaged Waterville house caused by electrical problem, official says,” June 24). I was relieved to read that there wasn’t any loss of life or serious injuries due to the duplication of street names. This is not always the case.

In the early years of my firefighting/rescue career in New York, there were a few streets with similar sounding names. Back then, there weren’t computers, GPS devices, and an E-911 system that would help to locate the correct address in an emergency. A firefighter’s knowledge of the area helped the responding units arrive at the right place. It never happened with our fire department, but sometimes this did happen, and the time wasted going to the wrong address cost unnecessary loss of life and extensive property damage.

When the E-911 system went into effect years later, any duplicate street names or similar sounding names were supposed to be changed to prevent this from occurring. Some towns complied, but many didn’t because of the negative response of the people who had the same address for years and didn’t want to change. Back then, it was time consuming to notify everyone about your address change, banks, credit card companies, etc. Now, it is very easy to do so. Most bills you receive have a place in the back to change your address information, or it can be done online.

I can’t understand why more cities and towns aren’t making this mandatory.


Donald Fournier


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