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Report of the Fire Department - 2015

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2015.

The department was thrilled to receive approval for a new 1250 gallon per minute (gpm) pumper as a result of an article that was approved in last November’s town meeting. This new pumper will replace the 1996 Seagrave 1250 gpm pumper of the same capacity and will serve the town well for many years.

The Wakefield Fire Department continued to receive significant financial aid in the form of state and federal grants during 2015. This grant assistance has become essential to the operation of the department. This year federal grant funding for approximately $190,000 was used for the replacement of the department’s 23 sets of self-contained breathing apparatus as well as a new hydraulic rescue tool. An additional state grant paid approximately $9,000 towards the replacement of a comparator for the department’s radio system. This equipment had reached the end of its service life and was due for replacement. Grant funding has become a vital source of revenue to replace the department’s aging and obsolete equipment

Emergency Incident Response

During 2015 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,907 emergency incidents, including 3,428 Still Alarms and 479 Box Alarms. This is approximately 408 more incidents (10.5%) than last year and is the sixth consecutive year that incidents totaled more than 3,000, indicating a substantial increase in requests for emergency service since calendar year 2009. The department has experienced a steady increase in every type of incident it responds to over the past six years, most notably in the number of emergency medical responses and fire alarm activations. Calendar year 2016 will likely see emergency responses continue to climb to more than 4,000 annually.

Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2015.

The department had one fire in 2015 requiring a multiple-alarm response. Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson responded to a reported structure fire at 7 Lake Street during the evening of May 25. Upon their arrival, they found a large fire in progress in the area of the front porch extending into the first floor of this two-family residence. A second alarm was struck bringing help from Melrose, Reading, Stoneham and North Reading to the fire. The fire was quickly knocked down by responding crews, who were aided by the fact that the walls of the home were filled with blown in insulation. The cause of this fire was determined to be the careless disposal of smoking materials in the mulch adjacent to the front porch area. Heat and smoke damage was extensive throughout the home, and three residents were displaced as a result of the fire. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and transported to a local hospital where he was later released.

There were several other significant fire incidents that occurred during 2015.

Firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson responded to a fire in a 14,000 volt transformer at the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department (WMGLD) substation located at 5 Wakefield Avenue during the afternoon of February 4. The fire started when a large outside electrical transformer malfunctioned and exploded igniting its contents of transformer oil. Firefighters contained the fire until the arrival of firefighting foam supplied by the Lynnfield Fire Department could be deployed to extinguish the blaze. The fire was contained to the transformer and a nearby tree; however, some transformer oil was released onto the property and an adjoining residence. An environmental company was retained by the WMGLD to supervise the clean-up operations. There were no injuries and minimal power outages as a result of the fire.

The same group of firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson battled a stubborn chimney fire at 30 Park Street during the afternoon of February 26. Firefighters used dry chemical packets, chimney chains and a specialized chimney fire nozzle to extinguish the flames. The hard work of responding firefighters paid off as the fire never extended outside the chimney area. There were no injuries and the homeowners were able to remain in the residence after the fire.

Firefighters led by Captain Paul Pronco responded to another chimney fire at 234 Lowell Street during the evening of February 27. This proved to be another stubborn chimney fire requiring the use of dry chemical packets and chimney chains to extinguish it. This fire was contained to the chimney area. There were no injuries as a result of this fire; however, the homeowner was displaced for a period while repairs were made to the wood stove, which was serving as the primary means of heat for this residence.

Crews led by Captain Randy Hudson responded to a kitchen fire at the Sir Edward Apartments located at 534 Salem Street during the evening of March 7. The fire started when oil being heated in an open pan ignited and then extended to the wooden cabinets and exhaust hood located above the stove. The fire was quickly contained to this area and there were no injuries as a result of this fire.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a small but smoky fire at an apartment building at 18 Salem Street during the morning of March 20. The fire was quickly contained to the stove by firefighters although there was considerable smoke damage to the second and third floor living areas. There were no injuries as a result of the fire and the occupants were able to remain in the building.

Captain Randy Hudson led firefighters at the scene of an electrical fire inside the rooftop elevator machine room at the Colonial Point Apartments at 95 Audubon Road during the evening of March 24. Further investigation indicated that an elevator motor had burned out inside the machine room, creating the smoke condition.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Richard Smith responded to a fire at 40 Lake Street during the afternoon of March 26. The fire started when a plumber’s torch ignited combustible material inside a concealed wall space. The fire was quickly contained to the area around a second floor bathroom and an adjacent pipe chase. There were no injuries and no one was displaced by the fire.

Crews under Captain Joseph Riley extinguished a smoky dryer fire during the morning of April 12 at 7 Kingmont Street. The fire started when a dryer malfunctioned igniting an accumulation of built-up lint within the unit. The fire was quickly extinguished by responding firefighters, however, the entire home suffered extensive smoke damage. A family of four was displaced for an extended period following this fire.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Randy Hudson responded to 83 Cedar Street after an outside trash fire extended to a nearby rear porch during the evening of April 15. The fire was quickly contained to the area of origin with no extension occurring inside the multi-family residence. The cause of the fire was determined to be the careless disposal of a cigarette. There were no injuries or displacements as a result of the fire.

Wakefield firefighters led by Captain Paul Pronco responded to a reported dryer fire at 61 Spring Street during the morning of August 14. Firefighters arrived to find a heavy smoke condition inside the home. The fire was contained to the dryer and no one was injured.

Crews under the command of Captain Joseph Riley extinguished a kitchen fire at 34 Harts Hill Road during the early afternoon of October 11. The fire was quickly extinguished and confined to the second floor kitchen area, although there was considerable smoke damage to the adjoining hallway on the second floor. The unit below the apartment suffered some water damage as well. The cause of this fire was determined to be the careless disposal of smoking materials. The lone occupant of the apartment was displaced as a result of the fire and there were no reported injuries.

Captain Paul Pronco led firefighters responding to a fire at 146 Lowell Street during the early afternoon of November 16. Upon their arrival, firefighters found that an outside mulch fire had extended to the exterior wooden siding of the building. The fire was quickly extinguished and confined to this area. An adjoining beauty salon suffered some minor smoke damage as a result of this fire. The cause of this fire was determined to be the careless disposal of smoking materials. There were no reported injuries.

Wakefield firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a fire at 7 Linden Avenue during the early evening of December 28. The fire started in a basement bedroom quickly filling the residence with dense smoke. All eight family members were able to exit the residence promptly after smoke detectors inside the home activated, alerting them to the danger. The fire was quickly extinguished and was confined to the bedroom where it started. The remainder of the home suffered heavy heat and smoke damage. The cause of the fire was determined to be an electrical short circuit and related arcing in a power strip plugged into a nearby electrical outlet. There were no reported injuries however the family will be displaced for an extended period as a result of this fire.

There were several non-fire related incidents that were noteworthy in 2015.

Crews operating under Captain Richard Smith quickly rescued an elderly man when his vehicle accidentally rolled back onto his leg at a service station at 570 Main Street during the afternoon of April 13. Firefighters were able to lift the vehicle off the man within one minute of their arrival utilizing the department’s air bags. The man was quickly treated, and due to the nature of his injuries, a Medflight helicopter was requested to transport him to the hospital. The helicopter landed at Veteran’s Field and quickly transported him to Tufts Medical Center for follow-up care. The man’s injuries were not life-threatening thanks to the quick work of responding Wakefield firefighters, police officers and Action Ambulance paramedics.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a serious motor vehicle accident on Route 128 northbound near exit 42 that claimed the life of a young woman during the morning of May 25. A second serious car accident occurred on the same date at 96 Main Street resulting in serious injury to both drivers after they collided head on.

Firefighters led by Captain Richard Smith responded to another car accident during the early morning of May 30 that resulted in a car striking the residence at 459 Lowell Street, seriously injuring the driver.

Firefighters operating under Captain Randy Hudson responded to a serious motor vehicle accident involving a motorcycle on Route 95 southbound near Exit 39 during the morning of September 9. The operator of the motorcycle suffered serious injuries and was transported by a Medflight helicopter to a Boston hospital. The same group of firefighters under Captain Hudson responded to another serious accident at 150 Oak Street during the early morning of December 6. The accident resulted in serious injuries to several young adults, who were promptly treated and transported to area hospitals through the joint efforts of Wakefield firefighters, police officers and Action Ambulance paramedics.

Firefighters responded to the scene of a serious gas leak at 397 Main Street during the morning of September 14. Crews under Captain Randy Hudson were able to work with WMGLD employees to quickly control the situation. The leak was eventually traced to a faulty seal on the pipe feeding the gas meter for the Duck Walk Restaurant.

Captain Randy Hudson led crews that assisted the Wakefield DPW at the scene of a major water main leak on Green Street near its intersection with Dillaway Street during the afternoon of October 10. A 16 inch water main ruptured, resulting in thousands of gallons of water rushing down Green Street onto Main Street and flooding adjoining properties in the area. The rushing water undermined Green Street, flooded basements and displaced retaining walls and trees. Green Street became impassable to traffic for an extended period. Firefighters assisted DPW personnel in aiding local residents affected by the flooding. Water department employees were quickly able to isolate the water break and restore water pressure to the town within a short period.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 54 mutual aid requests during 2015.

Lieutenant David Shinney led a crew from Engine 2 that assisted the Stoneham Fire Department at the scene of a two-alarm fire at 612 Main Street on the morning of January 8. Lieutenant Robert Taggart and a crew from Engine 2 assisted the Revere Fire Department during a three-alarm fire at 400 Broadway in that city during the morning of February 6. Lieutenant John Mercurio led a crew from Engine 1 assisting the Lynnfield Fire Department at the scene of a five-alarm brush fire on May 6 that burned more than sixty acres of Reedy Meadow. A crew from Engine 2 under the command of Lieutenant David Shinney assisted the Saugus Fire Department at the scene of a three-alarm fire at 3 Water Wheel Lane during the early morning of July 12. Firefighters from Engine 2 under Lieutenant Robert Taggart responded to a two-alarm fire at 61 Main Street in Stoneham during the afternoon of August 10. Lieutenant David Shinney and a crew from Engine 2 assisted the Melrose Fire Department at the scene of a two-alarm fire at 75 Stratford Road during the afternoon of November 24.

Captain Paul Pronco and Lieutenant Michael Long responded along with other members of the Essex County Technical Rescue Team to the Town of Andover after a barn collapsed on February 22 at 182 Jenkins Road, trapping several horses. The team worked quickly to free three horses trapped inside the building. 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 two incidents during 2015. The first incident occurred on April 5 when the team was called out to 86 Preston Street in Beverly and asked to investigate an unknown white powder found at that location. The powder was tested and found to be non-hazardous. The team was called out again on June 12 to handle an incident at the Weston State Police barracks involving some birds eggs contaminated with the bird flu. The department is reimbursed for all training and incident response costs for this team by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Weather affected the responses made by the department during 2015.

A winter storm struck the area on January 26-27, depositing 29 inches of snow on the town. The storm quickly turned into a blizzard, with high winds and heavy snowfall exceeding several inches an hour, creating near white-out conditions. Governor Charles Baker declared a State of Emergency as well as a ban on all non-essential traffic on roadways throughout the state. The town instituted a parking ban on all streets until January 29. Wakefield implemented its emergency plan as the DPW struggled to keep the streets passable. Employees from the Fire, Police, DPW, WMGLD and School departments worked closely to help ensure the safety of Wakefield’s citizens. There were very few power outages during the storm. Fire hydrants were dug out by Fire and DPW crews. There was no reported damage to any public facility and no one was injured as a result of the storm.

February proved to be an extremely stormy month as well with three additional winter storms hitting the area on February 2-3, 8-9 and 14-16, depositing several feet of additional snow on the area. The storm of February 14-16 was particularly severe, with high winds and heavy snowfall creating nearly white-out conditions. Wakefield’s streets became progressively narrower as the snow piled high and the department fought a losing battle to locate and keep fire hydrants clear and accessible. February saw an increase in responses for water problems as ice dams formed on roofs. Falling snow and ice damaged several natural gas meters causing responses for gas leaks. A motor vehicle struck a buried gas meter behind 18 Albion Street on the morning of February 12, causing gas to accumulate under buried snow and enter several properties on both Albion and Foster Streets. High snow banks and narrow streets contributed to the 33 motor vehicle accidents that the department responded to during February.

A relatively dry spring and summer resulted in low moisture levels in outside brush and vegetation, directly contributing to numerous brush and mulch fires. The department assisted the Lynnfield Fire Department with several large brush fires during the month of May, including one burning more than sixty acres of Reedy Meadow, which backs up to Audubon Road and Edgewater Office Park. There were several large brush fires in and around Breakhart Reservation during August requiring additional resources from the Saugus Fire Department and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to extinguish. Wakefield also assisted the Melrose Fire Department with a large brush fire in that community on September 23.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2015, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of 51 personnel: The Fire Chief; five Captains, including a Captain assigned as Fire Prevention Officer, 12 Lieutenants, 32 firefighters; and one civilian administrative secretary.

Calendar year 2015 brought some personnel changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Wakefield Firefighter John M. Riley retired from the department on September 17 after serving with the department for more than 32 years. Firefighter Riley was appointed to the department on April 14, 1983; and at the time of his retirement he was the senior firefighter in the department. Firefighter Riley’s considerable knowledge and experience will be missed and we wish him a long and healthy retirement.

Melrose Firefighter James R. DeMartino transferred over to the Wakefield Fire Department and was sworn in at a ceremony at Town Hall on December 21. Firefighter DeMartino is a two-year member of the Melrose Fire Department. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program and is certified to the level of Firefighter I/II. Firefighter DeMartino is a Wakefield resident and is also trained as a paramedic. The department welcomes firefighter DeMartino and wishes him a long and productive career with the department.

Apparatus and Equipment

The department’s technical rescue trailer was on long-term loan to the Essex County Technical Rescue Team. The trailer was no longer needed by either the team or the department and has been donated to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as an equipment trailer.

The department received a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) totaling $190,000 for the replacement of the department’s inventory of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as well as a new hydraulic rescue tool. This AFG grant funded 90% of the cost of the breathing apparatus and rescue tool with the remaining 10% local match coming from a Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Outlay request. The department also received Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Outlay funding in the amount of $12,165 for the local share of a state grant paying for the replacement of an obsolete comparator for the department’s radio system and approximately $12,000 for the replacement of three hydrant pumping valves and a new stove for the fire station at the Public Safety Building. As mentioned previously, Town Meeting approved the allocation of $650,000 towards the purchase of a new 1250 gallon per minute pumping engine last November.

All the department’s pumper engines, fire hose, its aerial ladder, ground ladders, air compressor and breathing apparatus were inspected, tested and certified during 2015. The aerial ladder for Ladder 1 was also inspected and certified.

Training

During 2015 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Firefighters Arthur Fennelly graduated from the nine-week Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on January 16, 2015. He was certified to the level of Firefighter I/II upon graduation from the program.

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.

Fire Prevention - Fire Safety Education

The department conducted in-service inspections of commercial and industrial properties in town during 2015. As a result, 580 business fire inspections were conducted in the community between March and December of 2015 by on-duty firefighters operating on a ready-to-respond basis. An additional 88 quarterly inspections of school buildings, nursing homes, hotels and boarding homes were also conducted. Another 58 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 122 compliance inspections during 2015 to ensure that any potential violations or hazards discovered were corrected. These inspections have also resulted in updated emergency business contacts for these properties, allowing property owners to be notified quickly so that they can respond to an emergency scene. 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 worked closely monitoring the July 4th parade and fireworks and several blasting projects around the town.

New single family homes were inspected on Winship Drive, Longmeadow Drive and Druid Hill Avenue as well as many other locations in town. Digital Realty continues to extensively renovate its data storage facility at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway. The department‘s Fire Prevention Bureau conducted final inspections on several large construction projects in town including the new WMGLD substation on Salem Street, the Dollar Tree store on Main Street and several construction projects in the Greenwood Plaza on Main Street. The bureau is also closely monitoring pre-construction operations in the Brightview Assisted Living facility being built on Crescent Street, a new apartment building being proposed on North Avenue and several restaurants being built out or proposed in downtown Wakefield.

The department presently does not have the necessary funding to conduct fire safety classes in the local school system. Several large pre-schools in town as well some kindergarten classes visited both fire stations. Multiple fire drills were conducted at each school facility and the department assisted with multi-hazard evacuation drills at every public and private school in Wakefield during 2015.

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 the year. The new fire engine that Town Meeting agreed to purchase will be designed and ordered in the next few months. As the Town enters 2016, my goals are to continue to expand code enforcement activities in the department, provide quality training programs for department members and to continue to advocate for and request funding for new fire department equipment.

I would like to thank all the members of the Wakefield 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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