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Wakefield Fire Department - 2005 Annual Report

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2005.

The year 2005 was a year of change and transition in the Wakefield Fire Department. During the year, six experienced firefighters retired, perhaps the largest number of retirements in one year in the long history of the fire department. These retirements, representing a cumulative 200 years of dedicated service to the Town of Wakefield, coupled with the loss of 3 firefighters through retirement in 2004 and several long term sicknesses / injuries, left the department drastically shorthanded for much of 2005. This shortfall in personnel along with cost of hiring, equipping and training new replacement firefighters made a significant impact on both the FY 2005 and FY 2006 budgets.

As I look forward to 2006, I am pleased to report that all vacant positions have been filled and that I do not anticipate the large number of retirements in the future that have strained our resources in 2005.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2005, the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 2,815 emergency incidents, an increase of 7% over 2004.

The most serious incident occurring during 2005 was a four-alarm fire at the former Winship Estate at 13 Mansion Road at 11:40 PM on March 19th. This fire, started by careless disposal of smoking articles, burned between the third floor ceiling and the roof of this nearly century old, 3-story, 11,400 square foot mansion. It was only a tremendous effort by firefighters from Wakefield and 8 surrounding communities that saved this historic home from total destruction.

Other serious incidents during 2005 included house fires on Lowell Street (February 15th), Andrews Road (February 17th) and on Harts Hill Road on June 17th. There were two instances in 2005 where the quick response of Engine 2 from the Greenwood Fire Station averted serious fire and life hazard situations: a house fire on Main Street at the Melrose border on January 21st, and a fire in the dumbwaiter at the Greenwoods Nursing Home on Greenwood Street on July 26th. A huge and spectacular fire roared across the Reedy Meadow marsh at rush hour on May 12th. Although this fire did not damage any property, the massive cloud of black smoke clogged traffic on Audubon Road, Edgewater Drive and Route 128/95.

The “Blizzard” of 2005 that occurred on January 22nd - 23rd produced high winds, deep snow cover, treacherous driving conditions and buried hydrants. Extra firefighters were brought in to beef up staffing, but fortunately no serious fires occurred. One elderly Columbia Road resident had to be evacuated to a local nursing home after a water break inside her apartment building necessitated shutting down the buildings heat and electricity.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2005, the Wakefield Fire Department comprised forty-six (46) uniformed personnel: the Fire Chief; five (5) captains, including the Fire Prevention Officer; four (4) lieutenants; thirty-six firefighters; and a civilian Administrative Secretary.

As previously mentioned, 6 Wakefield Firefighters retired during 2005. Firefighter Bruce W. Whittemore retired on January 27th after serving the town and department for 32 years. Firefighter Richard J. Goodwin retired from the department on February 2nd after 39 years of service. Firefighter Albert D. Uva retired on May 30th after 33 years of service. Firefighter Kenneth B. Alexander retired on June 30th after 29 years of service. Firefighter John F. Lockhart retired on July 5th after 29 years, and Fire Captain Peter E. Hubbard Jr. retired on July 5th after completing 37 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.

Fire Lieutenant Paul J. Pronco was promoted to Fire Captain, and Firefighter Francis R. Hudson was promoted to Fire Lieutenant, both promotions effective on December 1, 2005. Captain Pronco replaces Fire Captain Peter E. Hubbard, Jr. and has been assigned as the departments Fire Prevention Officer. Fire Lieutenant Hudson replaced newly promoted Captain Pronco on Group # 4 at the Greenwood Station.

To fill the vacancies created by the 6 retirements in 2005 and the 3 retirements that occurred in 2004, the following were appointed Permanent Firefighters:

Apparatus and Equipment

During 2005 the department continued to experience a large number of mechanical problems with our pumper engines and our aerial ladder truck. The need for the purchase of a new pumper engine to replace our 1986 Engine 4 has now reached the critical stage, and I hope that this can be addressed early in 2006.

All of the departments equipment, apparatus, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc. was inspected, tested and certified during 2005.

Training

During 2005 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters Joseph M. Nee, John A. Walsh and Kenneth J. Lyons graduated from the Mass. Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on December 23rd. With the unusual influx of 9 new firefighters during 2005, we are grateful to Fire Captains Richard P. Smith and Paul J. Pronco for providing our new recruits with two-weeks of intense training until such time that we can get all of them through the Recruit Academy.

Regretfully, due to a lack of funding to support the necessary ongoing specialized training, I have had to place the Technical Rescue and Dive Rescue Teams on inactive status during 2005. I hope to re-activate these special teams during 2006.

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.

With the retirement of veteran Fire Captain Peter E. Hubbard, Jr. in July, our long time Fire Prevention Officer Captain Michael Sullivan transferred to Captain Hubbard's Group # 4. The Fire Prevention Officers position remained vacant for five months until the promotion of Captain Paul J. Pronco in December. The temporary loss of this position really set the department back in the area of fire prevention, especially considering the large amount of new development, construction, and new fire prevention regulations enacted by the state during 2005. I am very grateful that this position has been filled.

The fire department actively participated in another very successful Common Ground event held on the Wakefield Common in August. 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 worked closely monitoring the Public School Music Boosters Pops Night in March, the Fourth of July fireworks and a long term blasting operation in the Druid Hill section of Greenwood.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am grateful to the community and especially our Selectmen, Finance Committee and our Town Administrator Thomas P. Butler for their support during a very difficult year of change and transition in the Wakefield Fire Department. As I look forward to 2006 and beyond, my goals are to keep the department fully staffed and both fire stations operational, replace Engine 4 with a new pumping engine and to restore the specialized rescue teams.

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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