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Wakefield Fire Department - 2006 Annual Report

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2006.

The year 2006 was a year of rebuilding within the Wakefield Fire Department, following several years of a huge turnover in personnel due to retirements. We had 5 firefighters retire in 2005, only 1 firefighter retired during 2006. However we are still experiencing personnel and budget shortages due to the many new firefighters that we have hired who are attending the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy- Recruit Training Program.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the department in 2006 was the high cost of apparatus and equipment repairs coupled with the increased cost of fuel that have strained our budget. We are grateful that a new pumper engine approved by the April 2006 Town Meeting will be delivered in February of 2007, which should alleviate some of the strain on our maintenance budget.

The Wakefield Fire Department was also the recipient of several gifts from local businesses during 2006, including a $3,100 gift from Alcoa-Reynolds Food Packaging, $2,000 from the local Dunkin Donuts franchise, $2,500 from Irving Oil, and a very generous $10,000 donation from Smurfit-Stone Packaging Co. We are grateful for these gifts and plan to use the funds to purchase equipment for the new pumper.

Retired Captain Charles C. Curran passed away on August 22, 2006 at the age of 80. Captain Curran, a decorated World War II veteran, was a very respected fire department officer and had served the Town of Wakefield and the fire department for 45 years.

L. Murray Young, a lifelong Wakefield resident and ardent supporter of the Wakefield Fire Department, passed away suddenly on November 30th. Murray served as an Auxiliary Firefighter, and was the Wakefield Fire Department Historian. Murray was always there to support and assist the fire department and his hometown of Wakefield. Both Murray and Captain Curran will be sorely missed.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2006, the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 2,902 emergency incidents, an increase of 10% over 2005. 2006 was the second busiest year in the history of the Wakefield Fire Department, second only to 1976 when the department handled 2,912 incidents.

The fire department responded to a 4-alarm house fire at 29 Yale Avenue on the evening of October 27th. This fire had a tremendous head start as our only 9-1-1 calls were received at 8:59 PM from neighbors. First arriving firefighters under the direction of Captain David Myette found heavy fire on the first floor that had already extended to the second and third floors of the 3-story home built in 1860. Firefighters had to work fast to prevent this fire from spreading to the surrounding homes on Yale Avenue. Firefighters Brian Purcell and Joseph Nee, while conducting a primary search under heavy smoke and fire conditions, found the lone occupant of the home, Mr. Phillip Freethy, age 88, in a first floor hallway. Mr. Freethy was immediately rescued from the home and turned over to Paramedics who worked feverishly to resuscitate him. Tragically, Mr. Freethy was pronounced dead at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. The cause of this fire was determined to be accidental / electrical.

Another serious house fire that required 4-alarms to control ravaged the Bertrand residence at 7 Shumway Circle at 5:26 AM on the morning of August 24th. Mutual aid from 11 communities was needed to assist the Wakefield Fire Department in a very difficult and stubborn fire that started accidentally on the kitchen stove and spread rapidly inside the walls and ceilings of the 100+ year old home. A smoke detector is credited with saving the family of 4 at home at the time of the fire. Fortunately there were no injuries reported to the family or the some 50 firefighters who fought this dangerous fire.

Other serious incidents during 2006 included house fires on Orsini Drive (February 4) that resulted in serious burns to the occupant, Mansion Road (July 9), Main Street (September 7), Summer Street (September 15) and Traverse Street (December 22).

The now famous Mothers Day floods of May kept the department very busy during the period May 12 – 23, handling some 307 calls to assist local residents with flooding in their homes and businesses.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 80 mutual aid requests during 2006, including assisting the Reading Fire Department at three very serious fires that occurred in that community during 2006, including 3-alarm fires in frigid temperatures on January 16 and 17 and at a 4-alarm house fire on December 1st. Wakefield Firefighters also responded to Danvers on November 22nd to assist with the tremendous explosion that destroyed a chemical plant and ravaged the surrounding neighborhood.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2006, 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.

Firefighter Robert W. Jordan retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on July 6, 2006. Firefighter Jordan was appointed a Permanent Firefighter on October 21, 1974. We thank Bob for his nearly 32 years of service to the Wakefield Fire Department and we wish him a happy and healthy retirement.

To replace Firefighter Jordan, Ms. Roberta Taggart of 36 Converse Street, Wakefield was appointed a Permanent Firefighter effective on July 18, 2006.

Apparatus and Equipment

During 2006 the department continued to experience a large number of mechanical problems with our pumper engines and our aerial ladder truck. The April Town Meeting did approve the purchase of a new pumping engine that will replace the 1986 Mack pumper – Engine 4. The new pumper is scheduled for delivery in February – March of 2007.

The 1995 Seagrave Aerial Ladder truck was out-of-service for several weeks in May while several large repairs (brakes, springs, etc.) were made, normal repairs for this truck that is now 11-years old. During the period Ladder 1 was out-of-service, we were able to borrow a ladder truck from the Chelsea Fire Department for which we are grateful.

All of the department’s equipment, apparatus, hose, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc. were inspected, tested and certified during 2006.

Training

During 2006 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters Eugene D. Doucette, III, Robert Ford, Robert J. Brown, John Hurley and Richard B. Cardavelli graduated from the Mass. Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program during 2006.

Regretfully, due to a lack of funding to support the necessary ongoing specialized training, the Technical Rescue and Dive Rescue Teams remained on “inactive” status during 2006. We will continue to try to find a way to re-activate these teams in 2007.

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, and the department assisted in the full-scale evacuation – relocation drills practiced by each school during 2006.

A major piece of new legislation “Nicole’s Law” took effect on March 31, 2006. This law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed on each level of each residential building that is heated by a fossil fuel product. (Gas, oil, wood) The new legislation has added additional responsibilities to the department by way of public education of the new law and additional inspection workload on our officers.

October is traditionally Fire Prevention Month, and firefighters, coordinated by Fire Prevention Officer Captain Paul J. Pronco and Captain Michael Sullivan and utilizing a gift from Alcoa-Reynolds Food Packaging Co., once again visited all of the public and private elementary schools with the Fire Safety House, an excellent hands-on fire safety education tool that has been very popular and effective in presenting vital fire safety and burn prevention information to our school children.

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 annual Fourth of July fireworks, a large blasting operation off Green Street, the construction of the new Shaw’s Supermarket, continued development of Heron Pond and the Wakefield Crossing condos, and the new Harts Hill Heights assisted living facility.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am grateful to the community and especially our Selectmen, Finance Committee and our Town Administrator Thomas P. Butler for their ongoing support. As I look forward to 2007 and beyond, my goals are to keep the department fully staffed and both fire stations operational, continue our apparatus replacement program, 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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