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Wakefield Fire Department - 2008 Annual Report

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2008.

The biggest challenge to the department in 2008 was trying to maintain the same level of fire and life safety services to the community despite budget cuts. The fire department budget has essentially been level funded for several years, despite the cost of fuel, equipment repairs and in general, the cost of doing business increasing constantly. The department has been relying on grants and private donations to continue to operate on a day-to-day basis. The elimination of the position of Fire Prevention Officer starting August 1st, after the retirement of Chief David L. Parr from the department, has affected the speed and efficiency in which inspectional and enforcement services have been delivered by the Wakefield Fire Department.

The Wakefield Fire Department was the recipient of several gifts from local businesses and civic organizations during 2008, including a $7,000 donation from Smurfit-Stone Packaging Co. which we used to purchase a new and improved Thermal Imaging Camera for engine 2 assigned to the Greenwood fire station. The Wakefield Savings Bank, Wakefield Cooperative Bank, Hobbs Brook Management (representing the owners of 601 and 701 Edgewater Drive), the Sheraton Colonial Hotel, Sprint Nextel, Crystal Motor Express, the Mun Su Sa Buddhist Temple, Metro PCS, and the Wakefield Rotary Club generously contributed a combined total of more than $15,000 towards the purchase of a new set of the “Jaws of Life” vehicle extrication tool and associated equipment including air bags and a hydraulic ram set. Irving Gas/ Blue canoe donated money to purchase replacement firefighting foam used during training. The purchase of this equipment, which has the potential to save many lives, would have been impossible without this support.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2008 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 2,818 emergency incidents, including 2,319 Still Alarms and 499 Box Alarms.

On Sunday June 29th, 2008 at 1:32P.M. the Wakefield Fire Department responded to a 2-alarm fire at 10 Evans Place. Evans Place is a very steep and narrow street off of Oak Street, which presented significant problems in terms of vehicle access for our fire apparatus. Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco were able to quickly extinguish this fire, a difficult task as the fire occurred on a hot muggy summer day. One firefighter received a minor injury during this accidental fire and the residents were displaced until repairs could be made.

The Wakefield fire department also responded to several “working fires” during 2008 that did not require the initiation of a multiple alarm but were serious in nature.

On Sunday, February 17th firefighters under the command of Acting Captain Kevin Carney made quick work of containing a fire on the third floor of a residence at 39 Melvin Street. No injuries were reported and the fire was determined to be accidental.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco fought a stubborn chimney fire on Newhall Court. The fire was contained to the chimney itself, minimizing damage to the interior of the home.

A fire in an exterior wall of the Dockside Restaurant on Main Street in Greenwood on July 16th was prevented from entering the building through the actions of firefighters under the command of Captain David Myette. The cause of this fire was determined to be the careless disposal of smoking materials.

The department responded to an early morning fire in a second floor apartment at 17 Albion Street on August 13th. Adjoining properties on each side of the building were less than 5 feet away presenting a significant exposure threat. Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley successfully contained the fire to the second floor apartment of origin. This same group of firefighters also extinguished an attic fire at 360 Water Street on October 17th. Both fires were determined to be accidental.

The ability of the Wakefield fire Department to handle these working fires without summoning multiple alarms will be severely impacted if anticipated cuts to staffing levels are initiated during this period of economic recession.

There were additional significant incidents that occurred during 2008. At 2:09 A.M. on the morning of January 16th, firefighters on Engine 1 and Ladder 1 under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a car fire at a North Avenue parking lot. Upon arrival, firefighters found a 2003 Ford pick-up truck totally engulfed in flames. As they extinguished the fire they made the grim discovery of a 49 year old Stoneham man inside the vehicle. On August 23rd firefighters under the command of Lieutenant Kevin Carney responded to a hit and run accident on greenwood Street that tragically took the life of a Melrose woman.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 60 mutual aid requests during 2008. Firefighters from Engine 2 responded to a serious 3-alarm fire in Saugus on April 24th that resulted in several occupants being rescued by firefighters over ladders. Engine 2 responded to two major fires in July. The first was a serious house fire on Winthrop Street in Stoneham that occurred during the evening of July 4th and the second fire occurred in a residential building on Franklin Street in Melrose on July 16th. Engine 2 also participated at the scene of a serious house fire on Mount Vernon Street in Saugus during the early morning hours of October 29th.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2008, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of forty-five (45) uniformed personnel: the Acting Fire Chief; four (4) captains, four (4) lieutenants; thirty-six firefighters; and a civilian Administrative Secretary. A fifth fire captain’s position, the Fire Prevention Officer, has not been filled due to budget cuts.

Calendar year 2008 brought significant changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Fire Captain John F. Brown Jr. retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on January 10th, 2008 after serving the department for 35 years. Captain Brown was appointed a provisional firefighter on October 20th, 1972, a Permanent Firefighter on November 21, 1972, promoted to Fire Lieutenant on August 23, 1979, and promoted to Fire Captain on August 23, 1983. At the time of his retirement, Captain Brown was the senior Captain in the Wakefield Fire Department.

Fire Chief David L. Parr retired from the Wakefield Fire Department On September 5th, 2008 after more than 30 years of service. Chief Parr was appointed a Permanent Firefighter on September 1, 1978 after having served for several years on the Wakefield Auxiliary Fire Department. He was promoted to Fire Lieutenant on June 18, 1983, promoted to Fire Captain on June 24, 1986, and appointed as the Chief of Department on August 9, 1993. Chief Parr has taken a position with the Boston office of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security where he is helping to administer grants to fire departments in the New England Region. Chief Parr has contributed significantly to the department over the course of his career. Chief Parr’s fifteen years of service as a Fire Chief saw the construction of a new fire department headquarters housed in the Public Safety Building, the complete replacement of all of the department’s fire apparatus, the installation of a new dispatch and radio system for the department, and the introduction of computers in fire department operations. Many examples of new technology such as thermal imaging cameras, multi-gas and carbon monoxide detectors, and residential sprinklers were introduced to the department and Town as a whole under Chief Parr’s tenure. Chief Parr was an active participant in many fire service agencies and organizations outside of Wakefield and was instrumental in getting many local option state fire regulations accepted by the Town of Wakefield. Chief Parr has truly left his mark on the Wakefield Fire Department.

We thank Chief Parr and Captain Brown for their service and wish them a happy and healthy retirement.

Wakefield Fire Lieutenant Joseph G. Riley was promoted to Fire Captain on February 1, 2008, replacing Captain Brown. Captain Riley was assigned to Fire prevention from January to July of this year when he was re-assigned as a shift captain.

Wakefield Firefighter Robert J. Taggart was promoted to Fire Lieutenant on February 1, 2008 to fill Captain Riley’s place and assigned to group 3 under Captain Richard Smith.

Wakefield Fire Captain Michael J. Sullivan was appointed as Interim Fire Chief on August 1, 2008 as Chief Parr took his well deserved vacation leave during the month of August prior to his retirement. The position of Interim Fire Chief is necessary until the results of a March 2009 civil service written exam and subsequent assessment center are determined during the summer of 2009 and an appointment can be made by the Town Administrator.

John T. Mercurio of 47 Oak Street, Wakefield and Clifford P. Silva of 1 Furness Circle, Wakefield were appointed Permanent Firefighters on February 28, 2008.

Firefighter Robert J. Brown was granted a civil service lateral transfer to the Chelsea Fire Department effective on April 20, 2008. We wish Firefighter Brown good luck in his new endeavor.

Timothy K. Robblee of 21 Herbert Street in Wakefield was appointed a Permanent Firefighter on July 7, 2008, replacing Firefighter Brown. Fire Lieutenant Robert J. Taggart received a commendation for his quick actions at a medical emergency on August 24, 2008. Lieutenant Taggart, off-duty at the time, witnessed the collapse of a man and finding him with no pulse, immediately initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Lieutenant Taggart was instrumental in this man’s successful recovery from a heart related ailment.

Wakefield Firefighter Joseph Cardarelli was appointed a member of the Massachusetts Metrofire Hazardous Materials Response Team in January of 2008. Firefighter Philip Rogers was appointed a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - Massachusetts Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team during the same month. Firefighter Cardarelli has responded to several hazardous materials emergency incidents in the Metropolitan Boston area and Firefighter Rogers was deployed with the FEMA team to hurricanes Gustav and Ike last September and additionally to Southern New Hampshire as a result of the December ice storm that devastated many areas in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Apparatus and Equipment

The Wakefield Fire department did not receive any new fire apparatus during Calendar year 2008.

The Wakefield Fire department Dive rescue team was disbanded in February due to budgetary issues. The former Dive Rescue vehicle, originally donated to the department by Action Ambulance, was transferred over to the Wakefield Police Department in February, where it was converted to another use and continues to serve the Town.

Car 3, a 1996 Chevy Tahoe, was donated by Liberty Chevrolet of Wakefield to the department in June. This vehicle is utilized as a back-up to the Chief’s Car 1, the Fire Prevention Officer’s Car 2, and the department’s pick-up truck, Car 6, which is in poor condition. It is also used to transport firefighter to and from training classes. Car 3, like the other vehicles, is equipped to tow the department’s rescue boats, Hazardous Materials Response Trailer, and Technical Rescue Trailer.

The Wakefield Fire Department received a 2008 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Department of Homeland Security in November in the amount of $70,380 to partially fund the replacement of one set of personal protective gear for each of the department’s forty six (46) members including the Fire Prevention Officer. The grant funds 90% of the base cost for each set of protective coat and pants. This gear is badly needed to replace the 13 year old worn out and non-compliant protective gear currently used by each department member.

The Department also received a $7,800 Massachusetts State Fire Equipment Grant during 2008 which was used, along with private donations, to purchase a new set of the “Jaws of Life” rescue extrication tool, a set of hydraulic rams, and a new system of air bags. This equipment will undoubtedly save many lives in the future.

A Student Awareness of Fire Safety (SAFE) grant was also awarded to the Wakefield Fire Department in the amount of $4,700 during fiscal year 2008. This money, along with donations from ALCOA Reynolds Food Packaging of Audubon Road funded a program with the Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House presented to all the elementary schools in Wakefield this fall.

All of the department’s equipment, apparatus, hose, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc. were inspected, tested and certified during 2008.

Training

During 2008 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters John T. Mercurio, Clifford P. Silva, and Timothy K. Robblee graduated from the Mass. Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on September 26, 2008.

Regretfully, due to a lack of funding to support the necessary ongoing specialized training, the Technical Rescue and Dive Rescue Teams have been disbanded.

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 or the Fire Prevention Officer. Several fire evacuation drills were also conducted at each school facility, and the department assisted in the multi-hazard evacuation and relocation drills practiced by each school during 2008.

The Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House was towed to all public and private elementary schools in Wakefield during the last half of October and the first week of November. Thanks to a gift from ALCOA Reynolds Food Packaging and a state SAFE grant from Massachusetts, some 1,600 children in grades K-4 toured the fire safety house and received a hands-on fire safety lesson regarding home escape plans, smoke detectors, and common residential fire hazards. This fire safety program has been very popular and is an effective means of presenting vital fire safety and burn prevention information to our elementary school children.

The department actively participated in another very successful “Common Ground” event held on the Wakefield Common on August 16th. This event, sponsored annually by the Wakefield-Lynnfield Elks Club, features the police, fire, public works and the gas-light departments displaying their equipment and meeting the community. The department also worked closely monitoring the annual Fourth of July fireworks and several blasting projects around the town.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am grateful to the community and especially our Selectmen, Finance Committee and our Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio for their ongoing support during difficult financial times. As the department faces the New Year 2009, my goals are to keep the department fully staffed and both fire stations operational for as long as possible.

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,

Interim Chief Michael J. Sullivan
Wakefield Fire Department

Further reading:

Reports from previous years:

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