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Report of the Fire Department - 2012

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2012. Calendar year 2012 has been a year of significant changes for the Wakefield Fire Department. The reinstatement of a Fire Prevention Officer in August of this year has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the speed and efficiency with which inspectional services are being delivered by the Wakefield Fire Department. Town Meeting authorized the replacement of the 18-year-old aerial ladder 1, a truck that has served the town well but is now due for replacement. Specifications for the new ladder truck have been prepared and it should be going out to bid in January of 2013. Delivery of the new truck is anticipated approximately 12 months after the bid has been awarded. The department has reorganized its command structure to put the four Shift Commanders/Captains in a car and replace them with four newly promoted Lieutenants assigned as the company officer for engine 1 at headquarters. This move allows the department to meet federal standards for incident management protocols designed to increase accountability and control at emergency scenes. The Incident Commander now has the ability to manage the entire emergency scene without also having to serve as a company officer. These changes were made without creating any hiring of new personnel within the department. The fiscal year 2013 budget was increased slightly to reflect the rise in costs for fuel, equipment repairs and apparatus maintenance.

The Wakefield Fire Department continued to receive significant financial aid in the form of numerous state and federal grants during 2012. 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 the addition of four full-time firefighters on a graduated five-year plan 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. Two additional AFG grants were awarded to the Wakefield Fire Department in January of 2012 for a combined total of $132,300. The first grant was worth $20,700 and was used to replace the department’s fire hose nozzles. The second grant was worth $111,600 and funded a joint training program with the Reading Fire Department to provide for training programs on Engine Company Operations, Ladder Company Operations and an Emergency Vehicle Operator safety class. This federal assistance has become essential to the operation of the department as it continues to seek funding for specialized training programs as well as 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 2012 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,091 emergency incidents, including 2,658 Still Alarms and 433 Box Alarms. This is approximately 170 fewer incidents than last year, however, it is also the third consecutive year that incidents totaled more than 3,000, indicating a substantial increase in requests for emergency service since calendar year 2009.

The Wakefield Fire Department had two fires in 2012 requiring a multiple-alarm response.

The first occurred at noon on September 16 when firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley arrived at 9 Anjim Lane to find a fire extending rapidly up the exterior of the home. The 2-alarm fire started in a concealed ceiling space on the side porch of this single-family residence. The fire was contained to that exterior wall and several adjoining rooms due to the fast and efficient work of both on-duty firefighters and mutual aid companies. The home was saved, although seriously damaged. The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental in origin although its exact cause remains undetermined. There were no injuries as a result of this fire. Three family pets were rescued during the fire and the homeowners were displaced until the necessary repairs were made.

The second multiple alarm fire of the year occurred during the morning of December 2. Firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson responded to a report of a house fire at 52 Lake Street, arriving to find a large fire underway on the second and third floors of the two-family residence. The 3-alarm fire devastated the building, requiring mutual aid assistance from eight communities to complete its extinguishment. There were no injuries as a result of the fire. The six residents of the home will be displaced for an extended period of time while the home is rebuilt or completely replaced. The exact cause of the fire could not be determined due to the extent of the fire damage; however, it has been ruled accidental with the cause of the fire strongly suspected to be electrical.

There were several other significant fire incidents that occurred during 2012.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Richard Smith responded to a chimney fire at 1 Eaton Street during the afternoon of February 24. The fire started when heat from a wood stove ignited wood framing around the chimney. Fortunately, the fire was contained to the immediate area around the chimney and adjoining roof area. There were no injuries and no one was displaced as a result of the fire.

The month of March had three potentially serious fire incidents that were quickly controlled by on-duty firefighters. Firefighters under Acting Captain Brian Purcell responded to a fire at 217 Albion Street during the very windy afternoon of March 8. The fire was caused by an overturned candle on a bedroom table and was contained to this area. Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a kitchen fire at 9 Heather Lane during the afternoon of March 10. No one was hurt and the fire was confined to the kitchen area. A fire during the very windy evening of March 20 fanned some hot ashes next to a rear deck into a fast moving fire at 140 Harrison Avenue. Quick work by firefighters directed by Captain Paul Pronco and Lieutenant Thomas Purcell contained the fire to the rear deck. All three of these incidents had the potential to spread into a significant fire.

Another fast spreading fire in the rear yard of 26 Daniel Road on April 29 was quickly contained by firefighters under Captain Paul Pronco and Lieutenant Thomas Purcell. The fire was started when hot ashes from a fireplace disposed of in the rear yard were fanned into flames by high winds. The fire spread to nearby vegetation and an outside storage area and was controlled just as it reached the residence. Again there were no injuries and the home was saved as a result of the quick efforts of firefighters. A thirteen-year-old boy next door was credited with alerting his mother to the fire resulting in a call to 911.

Crews under Captain Joseph Riley responded to a fire at the Guillow’s wooden toy factory on New Salem Street during the afternoon of May 11. The fire was ignited when sparks from a wood cutting machine got into the dust collection system for the plant. The fire was contained to this collection system’s ductwork and the adjoining area. There were no injuries and the plant was not seriously damaged as a result of the fire. A second serious fire occurred on May 21 at Wakefield High School when the same group of firefighters under Captain Riley responded to a bathroom fire near the north driveway entrance to the school. The fire, intentionally set by a student, was quickly extinguished, but not before it had created a considerable smoke condition in the corridors nearest the bathroom.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson responded to a fire at 22 Cedar Street during the morning of June 25. The fire was ignited when a section of the roof was struck by lightning. The fire was contained to the roof area adjacent to the lightning strike and caused damage to the home’s electrical system. There were no injuries and the family was able to remain living in the home.

Lightning was the cause of two separate incidents in the same residence during the month of July. Firefighters under Captain Paul Pronco responded to 17 Old Colony Drive on the evening of July 4 when the homeowner reported that the residence was struck by lightning. The fire self-extinguished but caused considerable damage to the home’s electrical system. Captain Pronco’s group returned to the same home on July 18 only to find incredibly that the same residence had been hit by lightning a second time, once again causing damage to the electrical system that had just been repaired. The second strike also damaged the home’s chimney. The residents were fortunately not injured during either incident and were able to remain living in the home.

A fire against the rear wall of a home at 25 Bartley Street on August 5 triggered a response from firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco. The fire was caused when discarded smoking materials ignited trash being stored in this area. The fire was contained to the rear wall and porch of the residence and damaged a car parked in the driveway.

Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2012.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 46 mutual aid requests during 2012. Wakefield Engine 2 provided coverage to the Winchester Fire Department during a 3-alarm fire in that community on Copley Street during the morning of May 18. Captain Paul Pronco and Firefighter Michael Long responded to the City of Lawrence as part of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team during the evening of June 11 to assist with the rescue of a man from a bridge in that city. Wakefield Engine 2 covered a vacant station in the City of Woburn during the evening of July 16 while that community dealt with a gasoline tanker rollover on Route 128. This tanker incident was the second one in less than a year on a highway in the vicinity of Wakefield. Captain Richard Smith led crews from Engine 1 and Ladder 1 assisting the Saugus Fire Department at the scene of a drowning at Breakhart Reservation on August 26. A crew under the command of Lieutenant Kevin Carney assisted the Saugus Fire Department at the scene of a major natural gas line rupture at 17 Pine Street during the morning of November 26. Wakefield Engine 2 responded to numerous other fires in Reading, Stoneham, Melrose, Lynnfield and Saugus during the year and provided coverage to the City of Lynn during several serious fires in that city.

Wakefield experienced several significant weather events during the year 2012.

Hurricane Sandy struck the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on October 29, its gale force winds knocking down numerous trees and power lines in Wakefield. The Wakefield Fire and Police departments worked closely with crews from the Department of Public Works and Municipal Gas and Light Department to keep streets open and accessible and electrical power on. Although there were several scattered power outages during the storm, all but a few households had power restored within a few hours. There were no reported injuries or citizens displaced as a result of this storm. The value of having its own power company again worked in the best interest of Wakefield residents as thousands of electric customers throughout the state experienced multiple day power outages. Wakefield executed its emergency plans for Hurricane Sandy flawlessly and all Wakefield residents should be proud of the way their town employees pulled together and handled this storm.

Wakefield experienced several severe lightning storms during the year 2012, most notably on June 25, July 4 and July 18. All three storms resulted in significant lightning strikes to residential properties.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2012, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of fifty (50) uniformed personnel: the Fire Chief; five (5) Captains, including a Captain in fire prevention, four (4) Lieutenants; forty (40) firefighters; and one (1) civilian administrative secretary.

Calendar year 2012 brought significant personnel changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Wakefield Firefighter Robert F. Brown retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on November 14, 2012 after serving the department for 31 years and the Town of Wakefield for more than 40 years. A Wakefield native, Brown was appointed a full-time Firefighter on April 16, 1981. He was the senior firefighter assigned to Group 4 at the time of his retirement. We thank Firefighter Brown for his service and wish him a happy and healthy retirement.

Wakefield appointed three new firefighters to its ranks on February 1 when Nolan J. Curran of 23 Grove Street, Patrick J. Jarvis of 94 Elm Street and Michael C. Rowe of 6 Pilgrim Road were sworn in at Town Hall. These firefighters replaced Firefighter Thomas Curran, who retired in September of 2011 and Firefighters Phil Rogers and Tim Robblee, who transferred to the Chelsea and Malden Fire Departments respectively during the same month.

Two additional Wakefield firefighters were hired on November 15, Shane M. Brown and Christopher D. Scott, both from Wakefield. These two positions filled vacancies created by the retirement of Robert F. Brown and the Town’s reinstatement of the Fire Prevention Officer’s position.

Wakefield’s Firefighter Richard Cardavelli continues to serve in the National Guard after being called up from military reserve status to active duty in May of 2010. The department looks forward to his safe return when his tour of duty has been completed.

Lieutenant Thomas Purcell was promoted to Fire Captain and assigned as the department’s new Fire Prevention Officer on August 22. Firefighter Joseph Albert was promoted to Fire Lieutenant on the same date to take Lieutenant Thomas Purcell’s place.

Firefighters Sean Curran, Christopher Smith, Michael Long and Philip Preston were all promoted to Fire Lieutenant on December 28, 2012. These promotions were made as part of a re-organization of the department’s command structure placing the shift Captain in a command car and replacing them with four Lieutenants assigned to the headquarters Engine 1. This change will bring the department into compliance with federally required National Incident Management System standards (NIMS) and allow for greater accountability and control for the department at emergency scenes as the shift Captain will no longer be burdened with the role of company officer of Engine 1 in addition to being the overall Incident Commander.

Firefighters Sean Giampa, Gerald Sancinito and Shane Brown received a letter of commendation from the department for their actions in coming to the aid of a man who had collapsed while working out at the L.A. Fitness Center in Stoneham during the evening of December 18. The three firefighters witnessed the man collapse and found him to be unresponsive. They performed CPR and successfully used a defibrillator at the facility to re-establish the man’s heart rhythm. All this was accomplished before the arrival of the Stoneham Fire Department and Action Ambulance.

Apparatus and Equipment

There were no purchases involving vehicles or fire apparatus during calendar year 2012.

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 received a grant for the replacement of the department’s fire hose nozzles during 2012. The nozzles were funded by a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) award for $20,700 and as part of the department’s fiscal year 2012 Capital Outlay budget. The 2012 Capital Outlay Budget also provided for the local share of a joint training grant with the Reading Fire Department worth $111,000, authorized the department to repaint Engine 2, which has a serious problem with peeling paint, and approved the purchase of software for an incident reporting system to be utilized in dispatch. Town Meeting approved a separate article in May for the allocation of $950,000 for the purchase of a new aerial ladder tuck for the department.

All the department’s pumper engines, fire hose, ground ladders, and breathing apparatus were inspected, tested and certified during 2012. The aerial ladder for Ladder 1 was also inspected and certified.

Training

During 2012 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

The department participated in joint training classes with the Reading Fire Department on Ladder Company Operations in May, Emergency Vehicle Operator in June and Engine Company Operations in September. Nationally recognized instructors from New York State taught the classes. Firefighters Nolan Curran, Patrick Jarvis and Michael Rowe graduated from the twelve-week Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on September 28, 2012. These firefighters were certified during this program to the level of Firefighter I/II.

Captain Paul Pronco and Firefighter Michael Long are active members of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team, which became operational in February of 2010. Firefighter Daniel Marsinelli was appointed to the District 2 Hazardous Materials Response Team on June 19, 2012. Lieutenant Phil Preston completed the Hazardous Material Operational Level Responder and Hazardous Materials Technician classes as well and will serve as a back up to Firefighter Marsinelli should another position on the team become available to the department.

Fire Prevention - Fire Safety Education

The in-service inspections of commercial and industrial property in town, a program discontinued in 2008 due to the elimination of the Fire Prevention Officer from the budget and the corresponding lack of resources to conduct follow-up inspections, was re-instated in September of 2012. As a result, 225 business fire inspections were conducted in the community between September and December of 2012 by on-duty firefighters. These inspections have allowed potentially dangerous fire safety violations to be discovered and corrected while simultaneously updating emergency business contacts for these properties. 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, the Fire Prevention Officer 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 Blue Jay Circle, Carriage Lane, Gates Lane, Patriot Circle, Druid Hill Avenue and Stoney Hill Lane as well as many other locations in town.

There is presently no formal fire safety education program conducted by the Wakefield Fire Department in the local school system due primarily to funding cuts and the absence of a Fire Prevention Officer’s position. A program utilizing the Metrofire Regional Fire Safety House was discontinued due to lack of funding. This house was towed to all the elementary schools in Wakefield during the school year. More than 1,500 children in grades 1-4 from these schools attended fire safety classes annually 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 had been very popular and is an effective means of presenting vital fire safety and burn prevention information to our elementary school children. With the recent re-instatement of the Fire Prevention Officer’s position, the department hopes to begin a limited public education program during the fall of 2013 subject to available funding. Several large pre-schools in town as well some kindergarten classes did visit both fire stations.

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 2012.

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 Town enters 2013, my goals are to continue to expand code enforcement activities and develop public education programs in the department. An additional goal will be to procure and outfit the new aerial ladder truck authorized by Town Meeting.

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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