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Report of the Fire Department - 2016

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2016.

The department looks forward to accepting delivery of a new 1250 gallons per minute pumper truck scheduled for delivery late summer of 2017. This new pumper truck will replace the 1996 Seagrave 1250 truck 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 2016. This grant assistance has become essential to the operation of the department. This year federal grant funding for approximately $18,000 was used for the replacement of an antiquated and obsolete protective gear washer/extractor and protective gear dryer. The department has applied for an additional federal grant for $47,000 which, if awarded, will be used to purchase a set of battery-powered hydraulic rescue tools that can be utilized in remote areas away from fire apparatus and in confined space applications. A state grant has also been applied for to replace the department’s inventory of smoke exhaust fans with new battery-operated units. State funding pays for the training and response costs associated with the department’s participation in the regional hazardous materials and technical rescue response teams.

The Greenwood fire station underwent its first significant renovation since it was built in 1963. As a result the station was closed for seven weeks during the summer of 2016. All asbestos floor tile was removed from the station and replaced with new tile flooring. The bathroom and shower facilities were completely removed and replaced. The dormitory area was completely renovated and converted to three individual rooms which are now more conducive to a mixed gender environment where male and female firefighters are working together. The kitchen was completely renovated and central air conditioning was installed in all areas except the apparatus floor. These renovations were long overdue and will benefit the department as well as the personnel assigned to the station for many years to come.

Wakefield has many ongoing construction projects underway underscoring the need for a strong Fire Prevention Bureau staffed with a full-time Fire Prevention Officer. The ability of the department to monitor these projects and follow up on fire safety and enforcement issues in the community has significantly improved since this position was re-instated in 2012.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2016 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,785 emergency incidents, including 3,387 Still Alarms and 398 Box Alarms. This is approximately 122 less incidents (3.1%) than last year most likely due to the relatively mild winter and a decrease in severe storms during the summer months. Despite the slight decrease in calls for assistance, it is clear that the department has experienced a steady increase in every type of incident it responds to over the past seven years, most notably in the number of emergency medical responses and fire alarm activations. Calendar year 2017 will likely see emergency calls continue to climb towards 4,000 responses annually.

Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2016. The department had two fires in 2016 requiring a multiple-alarm response.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to the Lakeside Inn, 595 North Avenue during the morning of February 22 after receiving several automatic fire alarm notifications for the hotel followed up by a call from the hotel management reporting a building fire. Upon their arrival, they found a fire inside a wall of one of the hotel rooms extending rapidly to the second floor. A second alarm was struck bringing help from Melrose, Reading, Stoneham and North Reading fire departments to the scene. The fire extended inside concealed wall and ceiling spaces into the second floor and was eventually stopped at the second floor ceiling before it could extend into and across the attic area. The cause of this fire was determined to be the accidental ignition of insulation by a plumber who was conducting soldering operations inside a concealed wall space. Fire damage was primarily confined to four hotel rooms, with smoke damage extending throughout the south wing. The plumber who was involved in the fire’s ignition suffered second degree burns to both hands while attempting to extinguish it and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital for follow-up treatment before being released. One firefighters suffered minor injuries as a result of the fire as well. A total of 18 rooms were lost for an extended period of time as a result of this fire.

Captain Brian Purcell led Wakefield firefighters responding to Wakefield’s second multiple alarm fire at 12 Highland Street during the evening of June 25. Firefighters arrived within one minute to find a large fire engulfing the rear deck and exterior siding on the east side of the home as well as fire showing from several second floor windows. The fire quickly extended into concealed ceiling and wall spaces and eventually into the attic area of the two-family residence. A second and third alarm was struck bringing firefighters from Lynnfield, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Saugus, Stoneham and Woburn to the scene. The fire took several hours to extinguish causing heavy fire damage to the second and third floors of the residence. Homes on both sides of the fire building were damaged by the intense heat given off during the initial stages of the fire. The two-family home was a total loss, displacing the two property owners. Two firefighters suffered heat-related injuries during the fire, one requiring transport to an area hospital. State troopers from the State Fire Marshal’s Office were called in to investigate the fire and determined the fire started in the area of the rear deck most likely from the improper disposal of a cigarette.

There were several other significant fire incidents that occurred during 2016.

Firefighters under Captain Randy Hudson responded to a fire at 416 Main Street during the evening of January 20. The fire started in wiring for a ventilation fan located above the dropped ceiling inside the Nail Expressions salon. The fire was quickly extinguished and confined to the area above and around the dropped ceiling in the salon. A considerable amount of smoke extended into the second floor hallway and offices above the salon. The cause of the fire was determined to be an electrical short and related arcing in the ceiling ventilation fan. There were no reported injuries; however, the nail salon was displaced for an extended period of time.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Brian Purcell responded to a reported car fire at 18 Highland Street during the morning of March 22. They arrived to find that the car fire had extended to the adjoining house next to the driveway. Quick work by responding crews confined the fire to the vehicle and the exterior siding of the house closest to the vehicle. The occupants were able to remain in their home, and one firefighter suffered a minor injury as a result of the fire.

Crews led by Captain Brian Purcell responded to a reported building fire at 0 Middlesex Street during the early evening of May 16. They arrived to find the home filled with smoke from a basement stove-top fire that had extended to nearby cabinets. The fire was quickly extinguished and confined to the immediate area surrounding the stove. The occupants were able to remain in the residence once the heavy smoke condition had been vented.

Captain Randy Hudson led firefighters at the scene of a fire inside the service area of Liberty Chevrolet on Bay State Road at noon on May 18. The fire started while work was being conducted to remove a fuel tank from a vehicle. During this process, the gasoline ignited causing a flash fire in the area. Liberty Chevrolet employees managed to extinguish the fire in the burning fuel tank using fire extinguishers, moving it outdoors prior to the arrival of the department. An employee in the service area suffered burns to his face and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital. Fortunately his injuries were not serious. Damage was confined to the immediate section of the service area involved allowing the car dealership to remain open.

Hot dry weather conditions this summer combined with the ongoing drought conditions in the region resulted in very low moisture levels in ground vegetation including brush and mulch. The department responded to numerous brush fires in Wakefield during June and July, the largest of which occurred on June 12 in a wooded area off Acorn Avenue, consuming more than two acres. A smaller but more spectacular brush fire occurred along a ridge line east of Gates Lane during the evening of June 19, threatening several homes before it was quickly contained by responding firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a structure fire at 37 Butternut Road during the early morning of October 10. They arrived to find that an exterior light fixture on the rear of the home had shorted out igniting the exterior wall behind it. The fire extended into an adjoining concealed basement ceiling area before being extinguished. The cause of the fire was determined to be a water leak from a recent rain storm that had caused a short circuit within the fixture. The fire was confined to the immediate basement area and no injuries were reported. The family of four was displaced for a short period due to the significant smoke condition created throughout the home and the resulting damage that it caused.

Crews under the command of Captain Thomas Purcell responded to a kitchen fire at 72 Converse Street during the evening of November 15. Firefighters arrived to find a fire inside a microwave oven that had extended to the nearby kitchen cabinets before being partially extinguished by an occupant. Fire damage was contained to the microwave and cabinets while the remainder of the home suffered some smoke damage. The cause of the fire was determined to be the overheating and subsequent ignition of a heating pad inside the microwave. There were no injuries as a result of the fire and the family was able to remain in the house.

Wakefield firefighters under the direction of Acting Captain Philip Preston responded to a fire alarm activation at 107 Audubon Road during the afternoon of December 11. Firefighters encountered a smoke condition on arrival caused by the ignition of a ceiling light/fan fixture inside one of the businesses located in the building. The fire was contained to the bathroom area and the business was able to remain open.

Captain Paul Pronco led firefighters at the scene of a kitchen fire at an apartment building located at 39 Richardson Avenue during the afternoon of December 12. The fire was contained to the stove and adjoining cabinets but caused considerable smoke damage throughout the apartment. The fire started when a pan of grease ignited and subsequently spread due to the occupant attempting to extinguish the fire with water. Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of the fire.

There were several non-fire related incidents that were noteworthy in 2016.

Crews operating under Captain Randy Hudson responded to an incident involving a wall collapse in a house under construction at 18 Line Road during the early morning of March 17. A second floor wall at this location collapsed onto four construction workers seriously injuring them. Firefighters worked closely with Action Ambulance personnel to remove the injured parties by ladder and transport them to area hospitals. The rescue was made more challenging by the fact that the interior stairs had only been partially completed at the time of the incident.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Thomas Purcell responded to a serious motor vehicle accident at 86 Elm Street during the afternoon of June 8. A male operator of a motorcycle was seriously injured after his bike collided with a car. Due to the nature of his injuries he was transported by a Boston Med Flight helicopter to Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Off-duty Wakefield firefighter Michael Rowe received a department letter of commendation for his efforts in assisting the downed motorcyclist before the arrival of firefighters and paramedics from Action Ambulance. His actions as well as the actions of all on-scene personnel saved this man’s life.

Captain Christopher Smith led firefighters from Engine 1 and Ladder 1 at the scene of a serious car accident on Route 95 North between exits 39 and 40 during the evening of July 9. Firefighters arrived to find the occupant of one of the vehicles trapped and quickly extricated the individual by using the Jaws of Life to pry open a vehicle door. The occupant was then transported by Action Ambulance to a nearby hospital with a severe ankle injury.

A well-known local man was seriously injured when the vehicle he was driving was struck by a commuter rail train at the Broadway crossing just before noon on August 11. Responding fire fighters under the command of Captain Thomas Purcell found a Ford F150 pick-up truck pushed several hundred yards down the tracks and wrapped around the front car of the train. The lone occupant of the vehicle was quickly extricated using the Jaws of Life. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital by a Med Flight helicopter due to the serious nature of his injuries. The quick work of responding firefighters and paramedics from Action Ambulance and Med Flight saved this man’s life.

Lieutenant Sean Curran and a crew from Engine 1assisted an injured motorcyclist at the scene of a serious car accident on the evening of August 24. The male operator suffered serious injuries when he collided with a motor vehicle at 383 Water Street. Off-duty Wakefield Fire Captain Christopher Smith and Chelsea Fire Department Deputy Chief Paul Giancola both stopped to render assistance to the injured operator. Their actions kept the patient calm, preventing further injury. Both Captain Smith and Deputy Giancola were officially commended by the department for their actions.

Captain Christopher Smith led firefighters from Engine 1 and ladder 1 at the scene of a serious car accident at the Route 95 off Salem Street off ramp during the afternoon of August 27. Firefighters arrived to find a passenger car pinned underneath a tractor trailer truck’s rear wheels. One of the occupants was trapped for a brief period and was rescued once the trailer was stabilized with rescue jacks. The trapped occupant was not injured and refused medical treatment.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco assisted Action Ambulance and Med Flight personnel treating an adult male who had been stabbed with a broken golf club during the evening of August 30. The male was impaled by the club, requiring extensive on-scene care and preparation prior to his transport by helicopter to Beth Israel Hospital.

Captain Thomas Purcell led crews at the scene of a motor vehicle accident and resulting fuel spill at the Irving Blue Canoe self-service gas station at 448 Salem Street during the early morning of November 18. A vehicle towing a trailer struck a fuel pump, damaging the internal piping and spilling approximately 75 gallons of gasoline onto the concrete apron surrounding the pumps. Fortunately, all the safety features in the pump worked correctly, shutting down the flow of gasoline and preventing a much larger spill. Firefighters contained the spilled fuel with bags of absorbent material, diked nearby storm drains and applied a foam blanket over the spilled gasoline to contain the flammable fumes. The state hazardous materials team for this area responded to provide additional support and advice to the department. Irving fuel representatives notified a clean-up company to mitigate the spill as well as a contractor to make repairs to the damaged pump. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was notified and responded to supervise clean-up operations. Quick and decisive action by Wakefield firefighters kept a serious incident from becoming a major spill and fire.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 58 requests for mutual aid during 2016.

Lieutenant David Shinney led a crew from Engine 2 that assisted the Saugus Fire Department at the scene of a three-alarm fire at 240 Essex Street on the morning of January 6. A crew from Engine 2 led by Lieutenant Michael Long covered a vacant Woburn fire station during a three-alarm fire in that city during the afternoon of March 8. Acting Lieutenant John Hurley led a crew from Engine 2 covering a vacant Winchester fire station during a three-alarm fire in that community on June 5. Crews from Engine 4 and Ladder 1led by Lieutenants Joseph Albert and Philip Preston assisted the Lynnfield Fire Department at the scene of a two-alarm fire at 10 Blue Jay Road during the evening of July 12. Lieutenant David Shinney, Firefighter Gary Hill and Firefighter Joseph Nee, along with more than two hundred other area firefighters responded to a ten-alarm fire in the city of Cambridge during the afternoon and evening of December 3 that destroyed at least 12 buildings and left more than a hundred people homeless. Lieutenant Christopher Crogan and a crew from Engine 2 covered a vacant Malden fire station during a three-alarm fire in that city during the afternoon of December 6.

Captain Paul Pronco and Lieutenant Michael Long responded along with other members of the Northeast Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team after a large explosion occurred inside a commercial building at 61 Willow Street in the Town of North Andover on the morning of January 8. The team worked with the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad and regional hazardous materials team during the investigation following the explosion. 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 one incident during 2016. The incident occurred on January 9 when the team was called out to 190 Warren Street in Watertown after a chemical spill was reported. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts reimburses the department for all training and incident response costs for this team.

The department was called upon to assist the Saugus Fire Department several times inside Breakheart Reservation. 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 most notable assistance provided by the department inside Breakheart occurred during a two-acre brush fire that started inside the reservation on July 23 near the ridge trail not far beyond the high voltage power lines. The department worked closely with crews from the Saugus Fire Department and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to extinguish this fire. Lieutenant Joseph Albert and a crew from Engine 4 took the fire boat into Breakheart Reservation to assist the Saugus Fire Department with a possible drowning and water rescue on the lower lake during the morning of July 18.

Personnel

As of December 31, 2016, 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 2016 brought some personnel changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Wakefield Fire Captain Joseph Riley retired from the department on January 8 after serving with the department for almost 30 years. Captain Riley, a veteran of the United States Navy was appointed to the department on April 3, 1986. Riley was promoted to Lieutenant on October 17, 2002 and to Captain on February 1, 2008. Captain Riley was the shift Captain of Group 2 at the time of his retirement. Captain Richard Smith retired from the department on January 28 after serving for more than 42 years with the department and 45 years with the Town of Wakefield. Smith was appointed to the department on June 30, 1973. He was promoted to Lieutenant on June 26, 1986 and to Captain on April 17, 2003. Captain Smith was the senior member of the department on his retirement and was the shift Captain of Group 3. The department will miss Captain Riley and Captain Smith’s considerable knowledge and experience and wishes them a long and healthy retirement.

The retirement of Captain Joseph Riley resulted in the promotion of Lieutenant Brian Purcell to Fire Captain and Firefighter Christopher Crogan to Fire Lieutenant on January 26. Captain Brian Purcell is a 14-year veteran of the department. He has been assigned as the new shift captain for Group 2. Lieutenant Christopher Crogan is a 16-year veteran of the department and has been assigned to Group 4. The retirement of Captain Richard Smith resulted in the promotion of Lieutenant Christopher Smith to Fire Captain and Firefighter Robert Ford to Fire Lieutenant on February 8. Captain Christopher Smith is a 21-year veteran of the department. He has been assigned as the department’s Fire Prevention Officer, replacing Captain Thomas Purcell, who transferred over to serve as the new shift Captain for Group 3. Lieutenant Ford is a ten-year veteran of the department and has been assigned to Group 2. The department congratulates these members on their promotions and new assignments and looks forward to working with them in their new capacities.

Marblehead Firefighter Steven L. Bivens transferred over to the Wakefield Fire Department and was sworn in on February 16 in order to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Captain Joseph Riley. Firefighter Bivens is a six-year member of the Marblehead Fire Department. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program trained to the level of Firefighter I/II and is an Emergency Medical Technician. Firefighter Biven is also a member of the Northeast Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team. Franklin Firefighter Daniel J. Paglia transferred over to the Wakefield Fire Department and was sworn in on June 2 in order to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Captain Richard Smith. Firefighter Paglia is a ten-year member of the Franklin Fire Department. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program and is trained to the level of Firefighter I/II. Paglia is also a certified Paramedic. The department welcomes Firefighters Bivens and Paglia, wishing them a long and productive career as Wakefield firefighters.

Apparatus and Equipment

There were no changes to the department’s inventory of vehicles during 2016.

The department received a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) totaling $18,000 for the replacement of the department’s antiquated and obsolete protective gear washer/extractor and protective gear dryer. This AFG grant funded 90% of the cost of the washer/extractor and dryer 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 $23,000 for the replacement of ten sets of firefighting personal protective gear. As mentioned previously, the department is anticipating the delivery of a new 1250 gallon per minute pumping engine during the summer of 2017. Town Meeting approved the allocation of $650,000 towards the purchase of this engine in November of 2015.

All the department’s pumper engines, fire hose, ground ladders, air compressor and breathing apparatus were inspected, tested and certified during 2016. The aerial ladder for Ladder 1 was also inspected and certified.

Training

During 2016 the Wakefield Fire Department conducted training sessions covering the following topics:

Captain Paul Pronco, Lieutenant Michael Long and Firefighter Steven Bivens continue to be active members of the Northeast Massachusetts 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 all commercial and industrial properties in town during 2016. As a result, 574 business fire inspections were conducted in the community between March and December of 2016 by on-duty firefighters operating on a ready-to-respond basis. An additional 84 quarterly inspections of school buildings, nursing homes, hotels and boarding homes were also conducted. Another 21 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 225 compliance inspections during 2016 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 plans and individual hazards associated with the buildings prior to an emergency situation. The department worked closely monitoring the July 4th parade and fireworks and several blasting projects around the town including Druid Hill Avenue, Lovis Avenue and 888 Main Street.

The calendar year 2016 has brought an abundance of construction activity to Wakefield. New single family homes were inspected at many locations in town including Carriage Lane, Druid Hill Avenue, Nahant Street, Park Street, Salem Street and Winship Drive. Many older homes and buildings were demolished in preparation for new construction including locations on Church Street, Crescent Street, Drummer’s Lane, Eaton Street, Evergreen Street, Main Street, North Avenue, Park Street, Pearl Street, and Walton Place. The department‘s Fire Prevention Bureau is closely monitoring large construction projects at the Brightview assisted living facility at 21 Crescent Street, a three-story apartment building at 602 North Avenue, a five-story 60-unit condominium and commercial property at 175 North Avenue and a two-story medical office building at 888 Main Street. Large solar panels arrays are being installed on top of the parking garages at 600 and 700 Edgewater Drive that will provide supplemental power for those office buildings. Several new restaurants opened in Wakefield including Caryn’s Sports Bar in downtown Wakefield.

The department presently does not have the necessary funding to conduct fire safety classes in the local school system. This is unfortunate since classroom instruction of fire safety and survival skills have been proven to save the lives of school-age children on many occasions state-wide. Several large pre-schools in town as well as 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 2016.

The re-instatement of the full-time Fire Prevention Officer position in 2012 continues to positively affect the department’s ability to conduct enforcement responsibilities more efficiently and effectively. Commercial properties are being inspected and violations are followed up in a timely manner. Each duty shift is given the opportunity to conduct walking tours of various commercial properties and major construction sites in town. This increases the awareness and overall operational safety of all department members by making them aware of specific safety hazards that they may encounter at the locations they visit.

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 delivered later this year. As the Town enters 2017, my goals are to closely monitor the town’s ongoing major construction projects, provide quality training programs for department members and to continue to advocate for and request funding for new fire department equipment. An additional goal will be to outfit and place into service the new fire department pumper that is scheduled for delivery during the summer of 2017.

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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