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Report of the Fire Department - 2010

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2010. 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 operate on a day-to-day basis. The elimination of the position of Fire Prevention Officer two and a half years ago continues to affect 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. The lack of a Fire Prevention Officer’s position is further aggravated by the fact that Massachusetts continues to pass new and/or revised fire code regulations that impose increased enforcement authority on local fire departments.

The Wakefield Fire Department continued to receive significant financial aid in the form of numerous state and federal grants during 2010. 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 the fifth and final year, when the Town accepts full fiscal responsibility for them. An additional AFG for new self-contained breathing apparatus was applied for but not awarded. 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 2010 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,345 emergency incidents, including 2,873 Still Alarms and 472 Box Alarms. This comprises a 10% increase in emergency responses from calendar year 2009. While every emergency response category experienced an increase, the largest increase by far occurred in responses to water-related emergencies, up from 54 in 2009 to 169 in 2010, a direct result of the widespread flooding experienced by the Town in March of 2010. A significant increase in brush fires, from 57 to 90 incidents, was also noted during the summer of 2010.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to four fires in 2010 requiring a multiple-alarm response.

On Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 9:12 P.M., the Wakefield Fire Department responded to a three-alarm fire at 472 Water Street. Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley arrived to find overlapping fire from the windows and doorway of a rear, second-floor apartment. The fire extended into the attic area and caused extensive damage before it was extinguished. No one was injured during this fire. An electrical origin to the fire was suspected although an exact cause was never determined.

Captain Riley and his group were called out again on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 9:17 P.M. to combat a two-alarm fire at 38 Church Street. The fire started in a concealed wall space above a first floor fireplace and quickly extended upwards toward the attic area before being contained. There were no injuries as a result of this fire.

A dangerous and rapid-spreading fire started in a multi-family residence at 28 Richardson Street during the afternoon of April 14, 2010. Crews under Captain Joseph Riley arrived to find the fire had started in a basement area and quickly extended through the structure’s “balloon frame” construction to all floors, requiring four alarms and mutual aid from ten adjoining communities to complete extinguishment. Eighteen building occupants were displaced by the fire. An extensive investigation failed to uncover the cause of this fire.

The fourth and final multiple alarm fire of 2010 occurred on July 19 at 3:07 A.M. at 2 Stone Way. Captain Riley and his group arrived to find a fast-moving fire originating from an unattended chiminea on a rear deck extending into the attic area. There were no injuries during this two-alarm fire.

There were additional significant fire incidents that occurred during 2010 that did not require a multiple-alarm response.

A serious house fire caused by a plumber’s torch occurred on January 16 at 150 Broadway. The fire was quickly extinguished by crews under the command of Captain Joseph Riley. No one was injured during the fire but a family of four was displaced from the home for an extended period.

Firefighters under the command of Captain David Myette responded to a serious electrical fire at the Lincoln School senior housing facility at 26 Crescent Street during the morning of January 27 caused when a motor vehicle struck a large transformer located against the rear wall of the building. Quick work by firefighters and Municipal Light Department crews quickly controlled the situation.

Crews under Captain Joseph Riley were called to a kitchen fire at 19 Houston Street during the early evening of August 20. This fire, caused by unattended cooking, was quickly contained due to a rapid 911 call made by a thirteen-year-old girl living in the home. Damage was confined to the kitchen area, and the family was able to remain in the home.

A potentially serious fire was quickly extinguished by crews under Captain Richard Smith at the former Franklin School located at 100 Nahant Street during the afternoon of September 14. The fire, caused by the careless disposal of smoking materials, was contained to a first-floor bathroom.

A fire caused by illegal outside burning damaged a storage trailer located at 51 New Salem Street during the morning of October 12. Crews led by Captain Randy Hudson worked quickly to contain the fire to this storage unit.

Crews led by Captain Paul Pronco quickly contained and extinguished a deliberately set fire in a classroom at the Wakefield Memorial High School during the morning of October 25. The fire was contained to some decorations and a recycling container in the classroom but caused considerable smoke damage to the adjoining areas of the school. A female student at the school was subsequently charged with a felony count of arson in a public place after a brief investigation.

A fire inside combustible construction at the top of a chimney at 10 Orsini Drive was quickly extinguished by crews under the direction of Captain Richard Smith during the evening of November 7. The fire was contained to the top of the chimney and the residents were not displaced.

Finally, Captain Richard Smith and his crew were called to a residence at 55 Whittier Road on December 3 after neighbors reported a fire on the front wall of the residence. Thanks to the quick action of several neighbors prior to the arrival of the department, the fire was contained to this area of the home. The cause of this fire remains undetermined and the residents were able to remain in the home.

Although Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2010, there were two notable accident-related fatalities that occurred during the year. Despite the best efforts of Wakefield Fire, Wakefield Police and Action Paramedic personnel, two-year-old Christopher Sardella tragically drowned as a result of falling into a small fish pond in the rear yard of his Lake Street home during the morning of April 26. Wakefield firefighters responded to a fatal accident that claimed the life of a local man on Vernon Street near Route 95 during the evening of June 27.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 61 mutual aid requests during 2010. Firefighters under the command of Lt. Steven Kessel responded to the City of Malden to assist at a six-alarm fire in a five-story apartment building at 505 Pleasant Street. A crew led by Lt. Kevin Carney returned to Malden to help fight a four-alarm fire on Summer Street during the evening of June 30. Wakefield Engine 2 responded to numerous other fires in Reading, Stoneham, Melrose and Saugus during the year and provided coverage to the City of Lynn during several serious fires in that City.

Wakefield experienced little rain fall in July and August, causing ground vegetation and brush to dry out and become susceptible to ignition. The department responded to several stubborn brush fires in the Crystal Lake area between Sylvan Avenue and West Park Drive on July 3, 5 and 6. Additional brush fires in the Hemlock Road area and Breakheart Reservation occurred on August 18, 20, and 21. All these incidents utilized a significant amount of on-duty resources working, and the fire on August 18 required mutual aid coverage from the Town of Reading.

Wakefield experienced a significant non-fire emergency situation in March of 2010 when flooding rains saturated the region from March 12 to the 15 and then a second time from March 29 to the 31. These relentless rain storms generated more than 115 calls for service from the Wakefield Fire Department for flooding and other water-related emergencies. Hundreds of residents experienced significant water damage from the storms. Stranded citizens driving around street barricades were rescued on four separate occasions by fire department personnel. New Salem Street, Broadway and the end of Water Street at the Saugus town line were all closed to traffic for long periods during the flooding. The Wakefield Fire Department worked closely with all town departments during this period and was grateful for their help and cooperation.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2010, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of forty-nine (49) uniformed personnel: the Fire Chief; four (4) captains, four (4) lieutenants; forty (40) firefighters; and one (1) civilian administrative secretary. A fifth fire captain’s position, the Fire Prevention Officer, has not been filled due to budget cuts.

Calendar year 2010 brought significant changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Fire Lieutenant Steven Kessel retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on June 1, 2010 after serving the department for almost 30 years. A Wakefield native, Kessel was appointed a full-time Firefighter on August 31, 1980 and was appointed Lieutenant on December 16, 2004.

Fire Captain David Myette retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on July 7 after serving almost 40 years with the department. Myette was appointed a Provisional Firefighter on December 10, 1970, a Permanent Firefighter on June 20, 1972, a Lieutenant on August 23, 1993 and a Captain on October 17, 2002. Myette was the senior captain in the department at the time of his retirement.

Firefighter Wayne Wenzel retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on September 2, 2010 after serving more than 24 years. He was appointed as a Permanent Firefighter on May 19, 1986. Prior to 1986, Wenzel served ten years with the Wakefield Water Department.

We thank Captain Myette, Lieutenant Kessel and Firefighter Wenzel for their service and wish them a happy and healthy retirement.

Firefighter Joseph Cardarelli resigned from the department on May 16, 2010 in order to transfer and accept a position on the Massport Fire Department. Appointed a Permanent Firefighter on May 19, 1986, Cardarelli served 24 years with the department and was an active member of the Metrofire District Two Hazardous Materials Response Team. We wish him well in his employment with the Massport Fire Department.

Christopher Curran, Timothy Donovan, Sean Giampa and Gerald Sancinito were appointed Permanent Firefighters on March 25, 2010. These positions were filled due to a federal SAFER staffing grant awarded from the Department of Homeland Security.

Amesbury Firefighter Erik Cole transferred to the Wakefield Fire Department on June 3, 2010.

Daniel Hancock, Dean Marsinelli and Kevin Wesley were appointed Permanent Firefighters on August 4, 2010.

Firefighter Brian Purcell was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on July 1, 2010 to replace Lieutenant Steven Kessel.

Firefighter Thomas Purcell was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant to replace Lieutenant Randy Hudson on July 15, 2010.

Lieutenant Randy Hudson was promoted to Captain on July 15, 2010 to replace Captain David Myette.

Two of Wakefield’s firefighters, Jonathan Murphy and Richard Cardavelli, were called up from military reserve status to active duty in 2010. Firefighter Murphy left Wakefield in March to serve with a military police unit in Afghanistan and Kuwait. The department welcomed him back on August 27 when he completed his tour. Firefighter Cardavelli was called to active duty in May of this year and continues to serve with his unit in Iraq. The department looks forward to his safe return in the spring of 2011.

Apparatus and Equipment

The Wakefield Fire Department took delivery of a 2011 Chevy Silverado in October to replace a worn out 1998 Chevrolet utility truck serving as Car 6. The new car 6, like the other department service vehicles, is equipped to tow the department’s rescue boats, Hazardous Materials Response Trailer, and Technical Rescue Trailer. The new car 6 was purchased as part of the department’s Fiscal year 2010 Capital Outlay budget.

Car 3, a 1996 Chevy Tahoe, on extended loan by Liberty Chevrolet of Wakefield since June of 2008, was returned to Liberty with the thanks of the department when this new vehicle was delivered. The department’s technical rescue trailer is on long-term loan to the Essex County Technical Rescue Team. The trailer is being put to good use during monthly training drills conducted by this team.

The department also received delivery of forty (40) new air bottles for self-contained breathing apparatus. This expenditure of $36,000 also came out of the Capital Outlay budget to replace the department’s old Kevlar-wrapped cylinders that had reached their fifteen year service life. Two (2) new Sensit Gold multi-gas detectors were donated to the department by the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department and placed into service in November of 2010. These new detectors will be used during investigations of natural gas odors and carbon monoxide-related emergencies. They monitor levels of oxygen, natural gas, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide and were needed to replace older worn out units.

All of the department’s equipment, apparatus, hose, ladders, breathing apparatus, etc. were inspected, tested and certified during 2010.

Training

During 2010 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters Christopher Curran, Timothy Donovan, Sean Giampa and Gerald Sancinito graduated from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on September 24, 2010. Firefighters Daniel Hancock, Dean Marsinelli and Kevin Wesley started the recruit program on January 3, 2011 with an anticipated graduation date of March 25th

Captain Paul Pronco, Firefighter Phil Rogers, and Firefighter Michael Long are members of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team, which became operational in February of 2010. This team had its first significant incident on October 11 in the Town of Dunstable when a skydiver became entangled in trees in that community. The citizen was rescued in an efficient and timely manner thanks to the training and dedication of all the team members.

Firefighter Phil Rogers is also a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search and Rescue Team MA-TF1. This team was not activated during 2010. The Wakefield Fire Department does not presently have any members on the Massachusetts District 2 Regional Hazardous Material Response Team as Firefighter Joseph Cardarelli has transferred to the Massport Fire Department. The department will be applying in the future to fill any openings that appear on that team.

Fire Prevention - Fire Safety Education

All in-service inspections of commercial and industrial property 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), Gates Lane and Montrose School Lane as well as many other locations in town.

A Student Awareness of Fire Safety (SAFE) grant awarded to the Wakefield Fire Department in the amount of $4,900 during fiscal year 2010 was combined with donations from the private sector to fund a program with the Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House. This house was towed to all the elementary schools in Wakefield during the last two weeks of October. More than 1,500 children in grades 1-4 from these schools attended fire safety classes in this safety house. These children 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 2010.

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 these difficult financial times. As the department enters 2011, 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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