There are lessons to be learned from an analysis of a horrific fire in April that left two Londonderry women dead.

Nothing could have been done to save the lives of Fran Gehling, 64, and her daughter, Rebecca Gehling, 23, according to the Fire Department's report. Their home at 38 Hemlock St. was almost fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived early April 13.

But two shortcomings are obvious when reading the chilling, blow-by-blow account of what firefighters found and their response. The water supply was inadequate and there weren't enough people on duty to battle a blaze of that magnitude.

These are tough lessons, but they're ones the town can do something about.

The Town Council took the first step Monday night when it added four firefighter positions to the budget. There were 10 people on duty at the Londonderry Fire Department when the call came in at 4:21 a.m.

The move will "significantly increase" the department's response to fires, according to the report.

Councilor Tom Dolan hedged a bit before voting with the rest of the board. He suggested putting the question to voters in March.

Adequate water was another major problem at the fire scene — as it is throughout much of the town. Only 45 percent of homes in Londonderry are within reasonable distance of a fire hydrant, according to fire Capt. Jim Roger.

The Gehlings' home was nearly 900 feet away from the closest hydrant. Londonderry's growth, residential and commercial, has far outpaced a concurrent expansion of municipal water services.

The town would do well to concentrate on expanding its hydrant system to better protect residences and businesses. But that's not an overnight fix.

Meanwhile, residents need to keep smoke detectors in place and activated, consider sprinkler systems if their homes are far from a water source and practice a family escape plan before a fire strikes.

None of these recommendations might have saved these two women's lives. But the deficiencies revealed in the analysis of firefighters' response to the blaze must be addressed.

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