Home

Report of the Fire Department - 2013

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2013. Calendar year 2013 was the first full year that the department has had a Fire Prevention Officer since the position was re-instated in August of 2012. This 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 in May of 2012, a truck that has served the town well but is now due for replacement. Specifications for the new ladder truck were prepared and after the required bidding process, Seagrave was awarded the contract to manufacture the truck. Delivery of the new truck is anticipated during the spring of 2014. 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 hiring any new personnel and have improved the safety of both Wakefield’s citizens and its firefighters alike. The fiscal year 2014 budget was increased to make adjustments for this new command structure as well as address the rising 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 2013. 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 is in its fifth and final year and the Town is now fully funding the four firefighter positions. Two additional AFG grants were awarded to the Wakefield Fire Department in January of 2013 for a combined total of $150,000 counting local share contributions. The first grant was worth $44,613 and was used to replace the department’s inventory of smaller diameter firefighting attack hose. The second grant was worth more than $100,000 and funded a joint program with five other communities to program and install on-board computers on fire apparatus. 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 2013 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,323 emergency incidents, including 2,858 Still Alarms and 465 Box Alarms. This is approximately 232 more incidents than last year and is the fourth 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 three fires in 2013 requiring a multiple-alarm response.

The first occurred during the evening of January 8 when firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a serious fire at the Northeast Regional Vocational School at 100 Hemlock Road. Upon their arrival, they found a large fire underway inside the carpentry shop. The 2-alarm fire caused an estimated $1 million in damage to the shop area and the roof immediately over it, requiring mutual aid from seven communities to extinguish it. There were no injuries as a result of the fire, however, the carpentry shop remains closed until extensive repairs can be completed. The fire is believed to have started when a spark from a tool or machine being operated inside the carpentry shop was sucked up into the shop’s dust collection system, igniting flammable dust inside the collection bags and ductwork. The fire was very difficult to fight because the ductwork and roof had to be opened up to access the fire, a very labor-intensive effort. The lack of a sprinkler system in the school also played a major role in the size of the fire and the damage caused by it. Major upgrades have been made to the school’s fire alarm system since the fire including a new fire alarm control panel for the school as well as the installation of new fire alarm horn-strobe devices throughout the school.

The second multiple alarm fire of the year occurred during the early morning of May 10. Firefighters under Captain Joseph Riley responded to a single alarm house fire at 63 Gould Street during the evening hours of May 9. The fire extended from an area in the basement into the first floor before being contained. The exact cause of this fire was not determined but the fire was considered as accidental in origin. Firefighters cleared the scene after checking for any fire extension. The Wakefield Fire Department was called back to this residence at 12:50 A.M. on May 10 for a reported structure fire. The department arrived to find a large fire in progress at the front section of the home. This second larger fire required a second alarm response and severely damaged the home. The second fire was determined to be a re-kindle of the previous fire after an extensive investigation failed to identify any other cause. The occupants have been displaced from the residence until it can be re-built.

The third and final multiple alarm fire of 2013 occurred on May 16 when another group of firefighters led by Captain Joseph Riley responded to a reported structure fire at 330 Rear Salem Street. Firefighters arrived at that location to find heavy fire conditions coming from the rear of the home. Firefighters quickly contained the fire to the rear wall of the residence and adjoining rooms. One firefighter was injured during the fire, suffering from heat exhaustion while battling the fire in the summer-like temperatures. The home was extensively damaged as a result of the fire, displacing all five building occupants. The cause of the fire is officially undetermined although the careless disposal of smoking materials is strongly suspected to be a factor in the ignition of this fire.

There were several other significant fire and emergency incidents that occurred during 2013.

A fire in the attic at 9 Butternut Lane was quickly contained by crews led by Captain Randy Hudson during the early morning hours of January 30. The cause of the fire was believed to be electrical in origin. Fire damage was contained to the attic area and the second floor ceiling immediately below the fire. Fortunately, the family living at the residence was not displaced by the fire.

A dog that had wondered onto Crystal Lake and fell through the ice was rescued by crews under the direction of Captain Paul Pronco during the morning of January 26. Firefighters arrived to find the dog with its head resting on the ice shelf of the lake. The rescue boat was launched immediately and the dog was removed from the water within 5 minutes. The animal was unharmed by the incident and its owner used good judgment in not trying to rescue the dog himself.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson responded to three potentially serious fire incidents during the month of March. The first was a stove fire at 93 Albion Street on March 10. This fire, confined to the immediate area of the stove and adjoining cabinets, started when cooking oil on the stove overheated and ignited. The same group of firefighters responded to a house fire at 9 Nichols Street on March 16. This fire started when hot ashes adjacent to the residence ignited nearby combustibles as well as the exterior siding of the home. The fire was quickly contained to the area of origin. Captain Hudson’s group was called upon a third time in March to extinguish a fire in a wood pellet stove at 22 Ledgewood Road on March 22. The fire was contained to the flue area for the stove. There were no injuries in any of these incidents and no occupants were displaced as a result of the fires. All three of these incidents had the potential to develop into a significant fire.

Another fast spreading fire on the front porch of 6 Nichols Street was quickly contained by firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson. The fire spread quickly due to high wind conditions on that day but was contained to the porch flooring and railings due to the quick work of the responding firefighters. The fire was determined to be accidental although its exact cause could not be identified. Once again there were no injuries or displacements as a result of this fire.

Crews under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to an oven fire at 415 Main Street during the early morning of July 4. The fire was confined to the oven but created a considerable smoke condition throughout the store. Sadly, Wakefield firefighters recovered the body of an elderly woman who had drowned in Crystal Lake during the afternoon of July 27.

A group of firefighters under Captain Paul Pronco extinguished a fire in a large boat located in the parking lot of 95 Audubon Road during the early morning of August 4. The fire caused extensive damage to the boat and appeared to be intentionally set. Captain Pronco and Lieutenant Sean Curran led another group of firefighters at a fire involving an MBTA bus on North Avenue during the afternoon of August 14. This fire was caused by a malfunction of the engine compartment of the bus.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson assisted a resident at 29 Crescent Street during the evening of September 11 who had fallen asleep with food on the stove. The fire did not extend beyond the stove but did create an extensive smoke condition throughout the apartment. Captain Thomas Purcell led fire crews during a small but smoky fire involving a computer laptop at 68 Chestnut Street during the evening of September 14. Crews under the direction of Captain Paul Pronco responded to another potentially serious stove fire at 389 Main Street during the early morning of September 26. Damage at all three fires was limited to the area of origin and there were no injuries reported.

Crews led by Captain Randy Hudson assisted employees at the Honey Dew Donuts shop at 386 Main Street during a small kitchen fire caused by a toaster oven that was accidentally left on. The fire scorched an area behind the oven and created a minor smoke condition in the restaurant. Captain Richard Smith led another group of firefighters during a kitchen fire at 35 Park Avenue during the afternoon of October 30. Fire damage was limited to the stove area however the entire residence suffered considerable smoke damage.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson assisted employees at the Rock Tenn facility, located at 365 Audubon Road, extinguish a fire in a cardboard corrugator during the evening of November 5. The fire started when cardboard stock being fed into the machine jammed and ignited. The fire was contained to the machine and caused more than $10,000 in damage. Firefighters faced significant challenges fighting the fire due to the immense size of the building and the difficulties encountered trying to vent smoke from such a large structure. Firefighters and plant employees worked together very effectively thereby preventing a much more serious incident.

Captain Paul Pronco led crews that responded to Farmland at 415 Main Street during the early morning of December 22 to rescue an employee who had trapped his arm in a piece of machinery in the kitchen area. Fire crews were able to free the man’s arm in approximately 5 minutes using cutters from the department’s “Jaws of Life” extrication equipment. The man was treated and transported to a Boston hospital by Action Ambulance paramedics. The employee’s arm was successfully saved due to the efforts of Wakefield firefighters, Action Ambulance paramedics and hospital staff.

A group of firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson responded to a chimney fire at 11 Crystal Street during the afternoon of December 29. The fire was contained to the area of the chimney and the residents were able to remain in the home.

Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2013.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 71 mutual aid requests during 2013. Wakefield Engine 2 provided coverage to the Winchester Fire Department during a 3-alarm house fire in that community during the morning of July 3. Lieutenant Christopher Smith and a crew from Engine 1 assisted the Lynnfield Fire department at a serious fire at their DPW facility at 59 Summer Street during the afternoon of August 20. During October, Engine 1 and 2 responded to assist the Saugus and Lynnfield Fire Departments during extensive brush fires in those communities. A crew under Lieutenant Joseph Albert assisted the Stoneham Fire Department at the scene of a stubborn 3-alarm fire at 38 Pleasant Street on Thanksgiving afternoon. Wakefield Engines 1 and 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.

Captain Paul Pronco and Firefighter Michael Long responded along with other members of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team to an incident in Ipswich during the morning of November 19. This incident involved a trench collapse at 134 County Road that trapped a worker until he could be extricated by team members. The Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council reimburses the department for all training and incident response expenses associated with this team.

Firefighter Daniel Marsinelli, a member of the Massachusetts District 2 Hazardous Materials Response Team, responded to four incidents during 2013. The first incident involved a problem with Anhydrous Ammonia from a storage facility in Somerville on March 19. The team was called out on May 7 to handle an incident at the Brookline Post Office involving a package containing a suspicious white powder. The third activation of the team involved the rollover of a 12,000 gallon gasoline tanker on Route 3 in Chelmsford on May 17. Firefighter Marsinelli’s final team activation for 2013 was the rollover of another 12,000 gallon tanker containing diesel fuel on Route 16 in Arlington. Fortunately neither rollover resulted in a fire. The department is reimbursed for all training and incident response costs for this team by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Winter Storm Nemo struck the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on February 8-9, depositing some 27 inches of snow throughout the town, creating blizzard conditions with high winds and very low visibility. 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 this winter event flawlessly and all Wakefield residents should be proud of the way their town employees pulled together and handled this storm.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2013, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of fifty (50) uniformed personnel: the Fire Chief; five (5) Captains, including a Captain in fire prevention, eight (8) Lieutenants; thirty-six (36) firefighters; and one (1) civilian administrative secretary.

Calendar year 2013 brought significant personnel changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Wakefield Fire Lieutenant Kevin P. Carney retired from the Wakefield Fire Department on August 15, 2013 after serving more than 36 years with the department. Carney was appointed a full-time Firefighter on August 6, 1977. He was appointed Fire Lieutenant on April 17, 2003. At the time of this retirement, Lt. Carney was the senior Lieutenant on the department. Veteran Firefighter Eugene D. Doucette Jr. retired from the department on October 2, 2013 after having also served for 36 years. Doucette was appointed a Permanent Firefighter on May 5, 1977. Firefighter Doucette was the senior firefighter in the department at the time of his retirement. We thank Lieutenant Carney and Firefighter Doucette for their service and wish them a happy and healthy retirement.

Wakefield Firefighter Dean Marsinelli resigned from the Wakefield Fire Department on May 31 to pursue other career interests. Firefighter Marsinelli was appointed a Wakefield Firefighter on August 5, 2010. We thank Firefighter Marsinelli for his service to the department and wish him luck in his future endeavors.

Wakefield Firefighter Shane Brown resigned from the Wakefield Fire Department on October 17 to pursue a career with the Cambridge Fire Department. We wish Firefighter Brown a long and productive career in the fire service.

Wakefield’s Firefighter Richard Cardavelli returned to the Wakefield Fire Department on April 17, serving almost three years with the National Guard after being called up from military reserve status to active duty in May of 2010. Firefighter Christopher Curran also returned to the department on December 17 after a deployment with the United States Coast Guard in May of this year. The department welcomes Firefighters Cardavelli and Curran back and proudly acknowledges their service.

Firefighter Louis Sardella was promoted to Fire Lieutenant on October 3, 2013 and assigned to Group 1, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Lieutenant Kevin Carney.

Captain Richard Smith, Lieutenant Phil Preston, Firefighter Daniel Marsinelli and Firefighter John Walsh were recognized by both the department and the Board of Selectmen for their actions on April 7 when they successfully resuscitated a man who had collapsed while walking around Lake Quannapowitt with his wife.

Apparatus and Equipment

The department received delivery of a 2014 Ford Explorer 4WD utility vehicle in October of 2013. This vehicle was assigned to the Captain-Shift Commander and designated as Car 2. The 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD utility truck was designated Car 3 and assigned to the Fire Prevention Officer.

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 $44,613 for the replacement of the department’s fire attack hose as well as firefighter self-rescue “bail out” rope kits during 2013. This equipment was funded by a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) award for $44,613 and as part of the department’s fiscal year 2014 Capital Outlay budget. The 2014 Capital Outlay Budget also provided for $20,000 for a 20% local match for another AFG $100,000 regional grant to program and install computers on fire apparatus and $35,000 for the purchase of a command vehicle for the Captain-Shift Commander.

Town Meeting approved a separate article in May of 2012 for the allocation of $950,000 for the purchase of a new aerial ladder truck for the department. This truck is being built at the Seagrave plant in Wisconsin with delivery anticipated in the spring of 2014.

All the department’s pumper engines, fire hose, ground ladders, and breathing apparatus were inspected, tested and certified during 2013. The aerial ladder for Ladder 1 was also inspected and certified.

Training

During 2014 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighter Christopher Scott graduated from the nine-week Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on August 30, 2013. Firefighter Scott was certified during this program to the level of Firefighter I/II.

Captain Paul Pronco and Firefighter Michael Long continue to be active members of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team, which became operational in February of 2010. Firefighter Daniel Marsinelli continues to be an active member of the District 2 Hazardous Materials Response Team. 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 inspection of commercial and industrial property in town was fully implemented in 2013 for the first time since 2008. As a result, 573 business fire inspections were conducted in the community between March and December of 2013 by on-duty firefighters operating on a ready-to-respond basis. An additional 83 quarterly inspections of school buildings, nursing homes, hotels and boarding homes were also conducted. Another 59 inspections directly related to local and state licensing of restaurants, group homes, day care centers and after-school programs were completed. The Fire Prevention Officer or Fire Chief completed more than 250 compliance inspections during 2013 to ensure that any potential violations or hazards discovered were corrected. These inspections have also resulted in updated emergency business contacts for these properties, ensuring a timely response of individuals to any property in town that the department responds to. These in-service inspections also have the added benefit of familiarizing department members with the floor lay-outs and individual hazards associated with the buildings that they inspect before they are called out to face them during an emergency situation.

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 including a large development of apartments and townhouses at the end of Hopkins Street known as Richmond Vista. New single family homes were inspected on Winship Drive, Nazareth Drive, Carriage Lane, Sugar Hill Lane, Druid Hill Avenue and Patriot Circle as well as many other locations in town. Another notable building that was completed was the new CVS facility at 451 Main Street. Digital realty continued to extensively renovate its data storage facility at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway during 2013. The department‘s Fire Prevention Bureau continues to monitor several large construction projects in town including the Galvin Middle School and several large apartment complexes at 14 Audubon Road and 415 Lowell Street.

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 2014 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 2013.

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 2014, my goals are to continue to expand code enforcement activities and develop public education programs in the department. An additional goal will be to outfit and place into operation the new aerial ladder truck that is expected for delivery during the spring of 2014.

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:

Home