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Wakefield Fire Department - 2004 Annual Report

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2004.

New Public Safety Building

The biggest news of 2004 was the completion of the new $10.3 million Public Safety Building at One Union Street. On February 28th, an open house was held for past and present members of the Police and Fire Departments, followed by a public open house and dedication ceremony on February 29th. The fire department moved into the new facility on March 31, 2004. Starting at 8:00 AM, we staffed two dispatch locations, one at the new facility and another at the temporary quarters on North Avenue and began the move. By 10:30 AM dispatch operations had been fully transferred to the new facility at Union Street. By noon, all fire department operations had moved to the new building. All fire department administration and fire prevention operations had moved from the Montrose School to the new facility by 5:00 PM.

Photo of the Wakefield Public Safety BuildingCrescent Street view of the new Public Safety Building.The last emergency call answered from the temporary facility on North Avenue was a medical emergency on Jackson Lane at 8:18 AM. The first emergency response from the new Public Safety Building was an alarm activation at a Lowell Street address at 1:17 PM. Overall, the transition to the new facility was a tremendous success, primarily due to the firefighters, contractors and other town department employees whose coordinated efforts made this difficult task seem easy.

As we enter 2005, both public safety departments continue to settle in to this new facility. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Public Safety Building Committee, the Selectmen, the Finance Committee and the townspeople for working to make this wonderful project a reality.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2004, the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 2,634 emergency incidents. Unfortunately, 2004 was the second consecutive year that we suffered a fatal fire in Wakefield. At 2:49 AM on December 28th, the fire department responded to a seemingly routine car fire at a commercial building on Salem Street. While extinguishing the fire, firefighters discovered the body of a 45-year old female in the rear seat area. As of the writing of this report the incident remains under investigation by the Wakefield Police, State Police and State Fire Marshal.

During July and August of 2004, we experienced a rash of ten fires deliberately set in rubbish, dumpsters and motor vehicles in the lower west side and the junction district. This situation culminated on the night of September 4th when patrolling police officers discovered a commercial building fire on Main Street in the junction district. This quick discovery, and a quick response by firefighters, allowed us to keep this fire from spreading to a residential section of the building. In the meantime, police officers were able to piece together a case and arrested a 41-year old male shortly thereafter. This case was an excellent example of co-operation between the public safety departments.

Other serious incidents during 2004 included house fires on Reynolds Road (May 31st), Cedar Street (June 23rd) and on Broadway (June 25th). A particular challenge for the department was a fire on Halloween night on the Sheraton Colonial Hotel exterior sign located 13 stories (150 feet) high on their building. The department also successfully contained a potentially dangerous gasoline spill at a Salem Street service station on the evening of February 28th. Heavy rains April 1st through 4th kept the department very busy. Firefighters using the rescue boat rescued an overturned kayaker on Lake Quannapowitt on the evening of May 31st, and the department's dive team was called out on October 8th to search a car that careened into Lake Quannapowitt off Church Street.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2004, the Wakefield Fire Department was comprised of forty-six (46) uniformed personnel: the Fire Chief; five (5) captains, including the Fire Prevention Officer; four (4) lieutenants; thirty-six (36) firefighters; and a civilian Administrative Secretary. There are four (4) firefighter positions vacant in the department, due to town fiscal constraints. Presently, these vacancies are being covered by firefighters working overtime shifts to ensure coverage at both of our fire stations.

Lieutenant James J. Smith retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on October 2nd after serving the town and department for 34 years. Firefighter Thomas C. Ronan retired from the department on May 1st after 29 years of service, and Firefighter Robert L. Thompson retired on June 12th after 34 years of service. All of these individuals were dedicated and excellent firefighters, and we thank them for their service to the town and wish them all happy and healthy retirements.

Firefighter Robert P. Trant resigned from the Wakefield Fire Department effective on May 23, 2004 after 10 years service in order to accept a firefighter position with the Massport Fire Rescue Department at Logan International Airport in East Boston. We thank Bob for his service and wish him well in his new position.

To fill the vacancy created by Lieutenant Smith’s retirement, Firefighter Steven P. Kessel was promoted to Fire Lieutenant on December 16th. Gary F. Hill of 10 Turnbull Avenue was appointed a Permanent Firefighter effective on June 11, 2004. Firefighter Hill is a four-year veteran of Needham Fire Department and comes to Wakefield as a transfer within the Massachusetts Civil Service system.

Apparatus & Equipment

Photo showing the front of Engine 1Wakefield Engine 1During 2004 we experienced an alarming increase in mechanical problems with our pumpers and aerial ladder truck, illustrating the need for the purchase of a new pumping engine in 2005. The problems stem mainly from the age of the equipment coupled with a very cold winter season in 2004.

On July 10th a new EZ Loader trailer was placed into service to transport the department’s rescue boats. The new trailer replaced a 1970 Highlander trailer which was too small for our needs and which was transferred to the DPW Water Division for use with their small aluminum boat.

Training

During 2004 the department conducted training sessions, including re-certifying of all firefighters in CPR and in the use of our cardiac defibrillators. Firefighters also attended a training session on electrical emergencies presented by the Muncipal Gas & Light Department. The department also trained in vehicle extrication, large caliber master stream operations and search and rescue procedures. The department was able to utilize the vacant Robie Industrial Park buildings for many of these training sessions. Considerable training was devoted to the new dispatch equipment and other associated equipment at the new Public Safety Building.

Members of the Wakefield and Reading Fire Departments participated in the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy’s Flashover Simulator training in November. The Dive Rescue Team completed a grueling 25-hour Ice Rescue Program, qualifying them to conduct rescue operations beneath ice-covered bodies of water. We are grateful to the Beal Corporation and the Wakefield Co-operative Bank for funding this training.

Fire Lieutenant Joseph G. Riley and Firefighter Eugene D. Doucette traveled to Reno, Nevada in October to participate in a Flammable Liquid and Gas Fire Training Program, presented at the University of Nevada Fire Training Center. The special training provided to our firefighters at this program will help us to prepare for a potential terrorist-related fuel tank truck fire, particularly on the busy section of Route 95/128 that passes through Wakefield. This weeklong program was offered free of charge to the Town of Wakefield thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fire Prevention - Fire Safety Education

All commercial and industrial properties in town were inspected at least once during the year, and all schools, nursing homes, and hotels/lodging houses were inspected quarterly. All inspections were conducted by the firefighting shift on-duty, on a ready-to respond basis. Several fire emergency evacuation drills were also conducted at each school facility.

In addition to his responsibilities for fire prevention code enforcement, Fire Prevention Officer Captain Michael J. Sullivan continues to present an excellent fire prevention and fire safety education program in Wakefield. The SAFE Program, funded by a donation from the Smurfit-Stone Paper Company, allows firefighters to reach every elementary student in the town's public and private schools. In addition to a classroom presentation on fire prevention and fire safety, students also visit the METROFIRE Fire Safety Trailer, a fire safety educational tool that allows students to practice what they learn in the classroom.

The fire department actively participated in a very successful “Common Ground” event held on the Wakefield Common on Sunday, August 27th. This event, sponsored annually by the Wakefield-Lynnfield Elks Club, features the police, fire and public works departments displaying their equipment and meeting the community. The department also held an Open House at the new Public Safety Building on Saturday, October 16th. This event gave the department an opportunity to show the community its new facilities and equipment after six months of use.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we are grateful to the community for providing us with a new facility from which to operate for many years to come. Nonetheless, we are very concerned with our ability to continue to provide basic fire and life-safety services from both of our fire stations given the town’s current financial limitations. This clearly will be the challenge to the fire department and the Town of Wakefield as we enter 2005

I would like to thank all the members of the Wakefield Fire Department, the Wakefield Auxiliary Fire Department, the Wakefield Police Department, all other town boards, committees and departments and the citizens of Wakefield for their continued support and assistance

Respectfully submitted,

Chief David L. Parr
Wakefield Fire Department

Further reading: Reports from previous years:

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