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Report of the Fire Department - 2009

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2009. 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 seventeen months ago has affected the speed and efficiency in which inspectional and enforcement services have been delivered by the Wakefield Fire Department. The department has reduced its overall number of in-service inspections by more than 500. This lack of a Fire Prevention Officer’s position is further aggravated by the fact that Massachusetts continues to pass new or revised fire code regulations that impose increased enforcement authority on local fire departments.

The Wakefield Fire Department received significant financial aid in the form of numerous state and federal grants during the year 2009. The largest of these grants was a federal Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER Grant). This grant subsidizes on a graduated five year plan the addition of four full-time firefighters for fire suppression duty. The addition of these four positions raises the number of firefighters on duty to a level of twelve, something that the Wakefield Fire Department has not experienced in many years. This grant gradually increases the local contribution for payment of these positions until by the fifth and final year the Town accepts full fiscal responsibility for them. An additional AFG grant paid for 90% of the cost of new firefighting gear for 46 of the department’s uniformed members. An additional state fire equipment grant helped fund new gear for the four SAFER firefighters mentioned above. This federal and state assistance has become essential to the operation of the department as it continues to seek funding for the regular replacement of equipment that has approached the end of its service life, becoming noncompliant with government regulations and standards.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2009 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 2,970 emergency incidents, including 2,555 Still Alarms and 415 Box Alarms.

On Sunday May 17th, 2009 at 5:25 A.M., The Wakefield Fire Department responded to a 2-alarm fire at 30 Summer Street. Firefighters under the command of Captain David Myette found a fire in the second floor apartment and were able to quickly extinguish this fire. No one was injured during this accidental fire started from discarded smoking materials however the residents were displaced until repairs could be made.

The Wakefield Fire Department also responded to several “working fires” during 2009 that did not require the initiation of a multiple alarm but were serious in nature.

A dumpster fire occurred next to the rooming house at 48 Water Street on the morning of July 5th. This dumpster was located next to the building and caused considerable damage to the exterior of the building before quick work by firefighters under the command of Captain David Myette extinguished the fire.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a fire in the former Lincoln School at 26 Crescent Street during the early evening of September 10th. A fire in a first floor bedroom was quickly confined to that room and the surrounding area. The Lincoln School, used primarily for senior housing, contains many hidden wall and ceiling voids that could have created conditions for an enormous fire destroying the entire building. The fire was accidental in origin and started in an area of the building that was not sprinklered. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries although several occupants were displaced for an extended period.

A potentially serious incident on Carriage Lane was averted when underground power lines were accidentally dug up and damaged on October 20th at a new development on Carriage Lane. Firefighters under the direction of Captain Joseph Riley worked in conjunction with Wakefield Municipal Light Department employees to quickly control the situation and contain the damage in several of the development’s homes.

A house fire at 693 Main Street in Wakefield was quickly controlled by firefighters operating under the command of Captain Richard Smith. The fire, started by a pet when it knocked over a lamp onto some bedding, was quickly contained to the room of origin.

There were additional significant incidents that occurred during 2009. Although Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2009, there were a number of motor vehicle accident related fatalities that occurred during the year. Wakefield firefighters responded to a fatal accident that claimed the life of a man on Route 95 on March 1st. A married couple from Cambridge was tragically killed during a serious car accident requiring the use of the “Jaws of Life” during the evening of April 14th. Despite the efforts of numerous bystanders as well as local Fire, Police and Paramedic personnel, Alyssa Nanopolous of Wakefield tragically lost her life when she was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing the parking lot of the Northeast Regional Vocational School on Hemlock Road during the afternoon May 11th. Finally, a young man from Stoneham was fatally injured as a result of a serious motorcycle accident on June 2nd at the intersection of Prospect and Brook Streets.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 67 mutual aid requests during 2009. Firefighters from Engine 2 responded to a serious house fire at 125 Florence Street in Melrose on March 25th. While conducting a search for trapped occupants on the second floor, Firefighter Joseph Albert, assisted by Lt. Steven Kessel and Firefighter Joseph Nee, located and removed an unconscious dog from the burning home. Wakefield Engine 2 responded to numerous serious fires In Reading, Stoneham, Melrose, and Saugus including a fire at the former Atlantic Lobster facility and the Resco incinerator plant, both in Saugus.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2009, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of forty-five (45) uniformed personnel: the 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. Four more firefighter positions have been partially funded by a federal staffing SAFER grant and will be filled in the near future.

Calendar year 2009 brought significant changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Firefighter Richard R. Cardavelli retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on January 2, 2009 after serving the department for 26 years. A Wakefield native, Cardavelli was appointed a fulltime firefighter on March 18, 1982. Firefighter Cardavelli was the senior firefighter assigned to Group 1 under Captain David Myette at the time of his retirement. We thank Chief Firefighter Cardavelli for his service and wish them a happy and healthy retirement.

Jonathan P. Murphy of 8 Williams Street, Wakefield and Christopher S. Sullivan, presently a resident of North Reading, were appointed Permanent Firefighters on March 30, 2009.

Wakefield Interim Fire Chief Michael J. Sullivan was appointed as the new Permanent Fire Chief on September 1, 2009 after the results of a March 2009 civil service were received by Wakefield in August of 2009. Four more firefighter positions were filled in September of 2009 due to the federal SAFER staffing grant by laid off firefighters from a list supplied by the Massachusetts Department of Human Resources. Fall River firefighters Jean Pierre Lefleur and Jonathan McElroy and New Bedford firefighters Nathan Venancio and Joseph Allen joined the Wakefield Fire Department until mid-November, when they were all called back to their home departments thanks to federal stimulus money. These four positions are currently open and will be filled as soon as possible from a new list of candidates furnished by the Massachusetts Department of Human Resources.

Firefighter Daniel P. Sullivan received a commendation for his quick actions at a medical emergency on August 23, 2009. Firefighter Sullivan, off-duty at the time, witnessed a man who was in obvious distress chocking on a piece of food at a restaurant in Dedham and immediately performed the Heimlich maneuver on him, clearing his airway. Firefighter Sullivan was instrumental in this man’s successful recovery, performing a lifesaving action prior to the arrival of the Dedham Fire Department and emergency medical services.

Apparatus and Equipment

The Wakefield Fire department did not receive any new fire apparatus during calendar year 2009. Car 3, a 1996 Chevy Tahoe, on extended loan by Liberty Chevrolet of Wakefield since June of 2008, continues to serve the department well. 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 firefighters 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 member of the department. The grant funds 90% of the base cost for each set of protective coat and pants with the remaining money funded by the Capital Outlay allotment for FY2010. This gear was badly needed to replace the 13 year old worn out and non-compliant protective gear used by each department member. This gear was purchased and placed into service in October of 2009.

The department also received delivery of 3,000 feet of large diameter supply hose for its three fire pumpers. This expenditure of $20,250 also came out of the Capital Outlay budget to replace the department’s old worn out water supply hose and will insure a dependable delivery of water to the scene of a fire for many years to come.

Additional funding came in the form of a $7,792 Massachusetts State Fire Equipment Grant during 2009 which was used to purchase the personal protective gear for the four additional firefighters added to the department from the federal SAFER personnel grant. The cost of this gear was not factored into the above mentioned federal protective gear grant.

A Student Awareness of Fire Safety (SAFE) grant was also awarded to the Wakefield Fire Department in the amount of $4,900 during fiscal year 2010. This money, along with donations from the private sector and public grants, will fund a program with the Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House to be presented to all the elementary schools in Wakefield during the fall of 2010.

All of the department’s equipment, apparatus, hose, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc. were inspected, tested and certified during 2009.

Training

During 2009 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters Jonathan P. Murphy and Christopher S. Sullivan graduated from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on June 19, 2009.

Captain Paul Pronco, Firefighter Phil Rogers, and Firefighter Michael Long have been accepted into the newly formed Essex County Technical Rescue Team, which will become operational by February 2010. Firefighter Phil Rogers is also a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Team MA-TF1. Firefighter Joseph Cardarelli is an active member of the Massachusetts District 2 Regional Hazardous Material Response Team.

Fire Prevention - Fire Safety Education

All commercial and industrial property inspections in town were discontinued due to the elimination of the Fire Prevention Officer from the budget and the corresponding lack of resources to conduct follow-up inspections. There has been a serious decrease in the number of safety inspections (more than 500 fewer) conducted in the community as a result of the loss of the Fire Prevention Officer position. As a result, potentially dangerous fire safety violations are not being discovered and emergency business contacts for properties are not being maintained. All schools, nursing homes, and hotels/lodging houses were inspected quarterly. Any establishment in town with a liquor license and those requiring a fire inspection mandated by the state received an inspection. All inspections were conducted by the firefighting shift on-duty, on a ready-to respond basis or the Fire Chief.

The department also worked closely monitoring the annual Fourth of July fireworks and several blasting projects around the town. New housing units were inspected as they were completed on Carriage Lane, Heron Pond (414 Salem Street), Grace Court, Gates Lane, Montrose School Lane and 600 Salem Street.

The Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House was towed to all public and private elementary schools in Wakefield during the last week of October and the first half 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. 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 2009.

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 2010, 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,

Chief Michael J. Sullivan
Wakefield Fire Department

Further reading:

Reports from previous years:

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