Report of the Fire Department - 2014

I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Wakefield Fire Department for calendar year 2014. The department accepted delivery on a new 100-foot, rear-mounted aerial ladder truck in May of this year. Town Meeting authorized the replacement of the 19-year-old aerial Ladder 1 in May of 2012. The new truck is a medium-duty ladder truck capable of flowing 1000 gallons per minute when its pre-piped aerial waterway is properly supplied. The medium-duty rating allows the tip of the aerial to support a weight of 500 pounds, an improvement over the former light-duty ladder truck that could only support a load of 250 pounds. The department is proud to receive this new piece of apparatus and looks forward to many years of reliable service with it.

The department completed the final phase of the reorganization of its command structure on July 1, 2014 when four firefighters were promoted to Fire Lieutenant. This move allows the department to meet federal standards for incident management protocols designed to increase accountability and control at emergency scenes. All three responding companies now have a designated officer assigned to them. 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 2015 budget was increased to make adjustments for this new command structure as well as accounting for 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 2014. This federal assistance has become essential to the operation of the department. It has been used for specialized training programs, as well as the replacement of equipment that has approached the end of its service life, no longer in compliance with government regulations and standards.

Emergency Incident Response

During 2014 the Wakefield Fire Department responded to 3,499 emergency incidents, including 3,115 Still Alarms and 384 Box Alarms. This is approximately 176 more incidents (5%) than last year and is the fifth 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 one fire in 2014 requiring a multiple-alarm response.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Paul Pronco responded to a fire at 62 Montrose Avenue during the afternoon of May 15. Upon their arrival, they found a large fire underway inside the first floor of this two-family residence. Firefighting conditions were hampered by the hot muggy weather conditions and a second alarm was quickly struck for manpower. There was considerable fire damage to the first floor with the remainder of the building suffering heat and smoke damage. One firefighter was injured as a result of this fire. The six occupants continue to be displaced while repairs are being made to this structure.

There were several other significant fire and emergency incidents that occurred during 2014.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a reported stove fire at 16 Woodbury Road during the afternoon of January 1. The fire, confined to the stove, was rapidly extinguished by responding firefighters. A serious smoke condition reduced visibility to zero within the apartment. Firefighters under Lieutenant Brian Purcell conducted a rapid search of the apartment, locating and removing an adult male who had been overcome by smoke during the fire. The victim was treated for severe smoke inhalation and was transported to the hospital. He recovered completely from his injuries. Lieutenant Brian Purcell and Firefighters Erik Cole, Sean Giampa, William Carr, John Mercurio and Nolan Curran all received a department commendation for their actions in saving the life of this citizen.

Firefighters under Captain Richard Smith quickly extinguished a fire at 6 Morningside Road during the evening of January 12. This fire started in a basement stove and was quickly contained due to the quick actions of one of the homeowners using a garden hose to knock down the fire. The fire was contained to the basement area around the stove although the entire residence suffered considerable smoke damage. No one was displaced by the fire and there were no injuries.

Captain Randy Hudson led firefighters responding to a fire inside an industrial plant at 400 Audubon Road during the evening of February 3. This fire started when waste paper from a cutting operation was ignited and dropped down into a paper collection bin. Workers were able to knock down the fire with extinguishers and were removing the burning bin from the building upon the arrival of firefighters. Fire damage was limited to the area of the storage bin and there were no injuries as a result of the fire.

Captain Hudson led another group of firefighters at a smoky basement fire at 45 Avon Street during the early morning of May 1. The fire, determined to be electrical in origin, was quickly confined to the basement but caused considerable smoke damage throughout the multi-family dwelling. There were no injuries and no one was displaced as a result of the fire.

Crews led by Captain Hudson responded to a structure fire at 7 Evergreen Street during the evening of July 11. The fire started in a concealed attic space and was attributed to an electrical malfunction in the wiring system. The fire was quickly extinguished and there were no injuries. The occupants of the residence were displaced until the necessary repairs were made to the electrical system.

Firefighters under the command of Captain Joseph Riley responded to a dryer fire on the morning of October 24 at 894 Main Street. Occupants reported a heavy smoke condition on the upper floors of the townhouse unit. Firefighters quickly found and extinguished the fire, which did not extend beyond the laundry area. The fire started when an accumulation of lint under the dryer ignited. There were no injuries as a result of this fire.

Acting Captain Sean Curran led firefighters at the scene of a chimney fire at 8 West Park Drive on the evening of November 15. The fire was contained to the immediate area of the chimney and there were no injuries or displacement of occupants as a result of this fire. A second chimney fire occurred at 11 Pine Hill Circle during the evening of November 22. This fire was quickly contained to the chimney area by firefighters led by Captain Randy Hudson. There were no injuries at this fire and the homeowners were able to remain in the residence.

Captain Thomas Purcell led crews that responded to a dryer fire at 58 Water Street on the evening of December 29. The fire was discovered by the crew of Engine 1 led by Lieutenant John Mercurio as they were returning from another call and spotted smoke coming from the building. The fire was contained to the area of the dryer and quickly extinguished. There were no injuries or displacements as a result of this fire.

Wakefield was fortunate not to experience any fire deaths in 2014.

The Wakefield Fire Department responded to 62 mutual aid requests during 2014. Lieutenant Sean Curran and a crew from Engine 4 assisted the Lynnfield Fire Department during an extensive brush fire in that community during the afternoon of May 5. Crews from Engine 1 and later in the day Engine 2 responded to Melrose and Saugus to assist those communities with multiple simultaneous incidents after a violent thunder storm moved through the area during the early evening of July 7. Lieutenant David Shinney and a crew from Wakefield Engine 2 provided coverage to the Cambridge Fire Department during an eight-alarm fire in that community during the early morning of July 27. A crew from Engine 2 under the command of Lieutenant Philip Preston assisted the Chelsea Fire Department at the scene of a 5-alarm fire located at 253 Arlington Street involving six homes during the early evening of August 31. A crew from Engine 2 led by Lieutenant Robert Taggart responded to a two-alarm fire at 66 Water Street in Saugus during the morning of November 20. Wakefield Engines 1 and 2 responded to numerous other fires in Reading, North 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 at 480 Bay Road in Hamilton during the afternoon of January 25 to participate in the successful rescue of a horse that had fallen through the ice at that location. Captain Pronco responded to another activation of this technical rescue team to 4 Nautilus Road in Gloucester however the activation was cancelled prior to his arrival at the scene. 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 2014. The first incident occurred on March 8 when the team was called out to the Mount Auburn Health Care facility at 262 Trapelo Road in Belmont. This incident involved the discovery of a mysterious white powder at the facility that was eventually tested and found to be non-hazardous. The team was called out on November 28 to handle an incident on Blossom Street in Wakefield involving a small release of muriatic acid. 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 2014.

Despite a relatively wet spring, ground vegetation dried out in April due to the large number of windy days during this period. The department responded to 13 brush fires in April including a large brush fire in Breakhart Reservation on April 11 requiring additional resources from the Saugus Fire Department and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to extinguish. There were brush fires at Harts Hill and Blueberry Lane on April 24 as well as several smaller fires during the first week of May.

The area around Wakefield was hit by a violent thunder storm during the evening of July 3 followed by the arrival of Hurricane Arthur on July 4. The combined storms caused considerable damage including downed wires, utility poles and trees. Trees were down on homes at 7 Hanson Street and 50 Kendrick Road. Several residences on Kendrick Road and Kingmont Streets sustained damage to their electrical services and Kendrick Road was completely blocked by a fallen tree at the intersection of Kingmont Street. 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 our 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. Sadly, the Hometown March and other Fourth of July festivities had to be cancelled as a result of the storms. Wakefield executed its emergency plans for this event flawlessly and all Wakefield residents should be proud of the way their town employees pulled together and handled this storm.

Severe thunder and lightning storms moved through the area on July 7 and July 28. The storm on July 28 was particularly severe, causing widespread flooding as several inches of rain fell in a matter of minutes. A tornado touched down in Revere and Chelsea affecting entire neighborhoods in those communities. A crew from Engine 1 rescued a stranded motorist who had stalled their car out in deep water at the intersection of North Avenue and Church Streets. Several residences suffered considerable flooding and had to be pumped out. The lightning from the storm tripped several fire alarm systems as well. A heavy rain storm hit the area during the evening of December 9-10 causing widespread flooding. The department responded to more than 30 requests to assist residents with flooded basements. The department also assisted two motorists who had driven into deep water on Quannapowitt Parkway and New Salem Street and become stranded.


As of December 31, 2014, the Wakefield Fire Department consisted of fifty-one (51) personnel: the Fire Chief; five (5) Captains, including a Captain assigned as Fire Prevention Officer twelve (12) Lieutenants; thirty-two (32) firefighters; and one (1) civilian administrative secretary.

Calendar year 2014 brought significant personnel changes to the Wakefield Fire Department.

Three new firefighters, Nathan Bleu, Arthur Fennelly and Darren Stead were appointed to the department in 2014. Firefighters Bleu and Stead started their recruit training class with the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy on June 16, graduating with the other members of Recruit Class 216 on August 29, 2014. Firefighter Fennelly started with the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy on November 3 and graduated with Recruit Class 222 on January 16, 2015.

Firefighters David Shinney, John Mercurio, Clifford Silva and John Walsh were promoted to Fire Lieutenant on June 30, 2014 as part of the second phase of the department’s reorganization of its command structure. As a result of these promotions all fire companies (Engine 1, Engine 2 and Ladder 1) will now have a designated company officer in charge of them with the Shift Commander, a Captain, in charge of the on-duty group. These promotions were made without adding any new positions to the department as part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Town of Wakefield and the firefighters union Local 1478 IAFF.

Lieutenant Brian Purcell and Firefighters Erik Cole, Sean Giampa, William Carr, John Mercurio and Nolan Curran received department commendations for their actions in saving the life of a resident at 16 Woodbury Road during a fire in that building on the afternoon of January 1, 2014.

Apparatus and Equipment

The department received delivery of a 2015 Ford Explorer 4WD utility vehicle in December of 2014. This vehicle was assigned to the Fire Chief and designated as Car 1. The 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD utility truck was turned in and the 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD utility truck formerly assigned to the Fire Chief was re-designated as Car 3 and assigned to the Fire Prevention Officer. The department took delivery on a 2014 Seagrave 100 foot aerial ladder truck in May of 2014. The department trained extensively with the new truck before it was placed into service on June 6. The old 1995 Seagrave ladder truck was traded into Seagrave to help defer the cost of the new vehicle.

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 did not receive a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) award during the calendar year 2014; however, an AFG grant totaling $210,000 has been submitted for the replacement of the department’s inventory of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as well as a personal protective gear washer/extractor and dryer. This proposed grant will fund 90% of the cost of the breathing apparatus and washer/extractor and dryer with the remaining 10% local match coming from a Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Outlay request. The department received 2015 Capital Outlay funding in the amount of $40,000 for the purchase of a new Chief's car and $20,000 for the purchase of a thermal imaging camera, an air-chisel for vehicle extrications, four pumper suction valves, and three cold water survival rescue suits. The department also purchased as part of the ladder truck allocation a set of new vehicle rescue jacks for use in stabilizing overturned motor vehicles and a hydraulic generator capable of allowing for the simultaneous operation of two rescue tools (Jaws of Life and rescue cutters).

All the department’s pumper engines, fire hose, ground ladders, air compressor and breathing apparatus were inspected, tested and certified during 2014. The aerial ladder for Ladder 1 was also inspected and certified.


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

Firefighters Nathan Bleu and Darren Stead graduated from the nine-week Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Recruit Training Program on August 29, 2014. Firefighter Arthur Fennelly started with the same program on November 3 and will graduate from the Academy on January 16, 2015. All three firefighters will be 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 2014. As a result, 535 business fire inspections were conducted in the community between March and December of 2014 by on-duty firefighters operating on a ready-to-respond basis. An additional 78 quarterly inspections of school buildings, nursing homes, hotels and boarding homes were also conducted. Another 44 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 140 compliance inspections during 2014 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 worked closely monitoring the Festival Italia fireworks and several blasting projects around the town.

New housing units were inspected as they were completed including a large development of apartments located at 14 Audubon Road known as Everly Apartments and the new condominiums in the building at 100 Nahant Street formerly occupied by the Franklin School. New single family homes were inspected on Winship Drive, Nazareth Drive and Carriage Lane as well as many other locations in town. The new Cumberland Farms facility at 200 Lowell Street also received its final inspection during 2014. Digital Realty continues to extensively renovate its data storage facility at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway. The department‘s Fire Prevention Bureau continues to monitor several large construction projects in town including the remaining phases of the Galvin Middle School and the new Dollar Store building formerly occupied by CVS.

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 2014.


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 ladder truck that the Town agreed to purchase is in service, having met or exceeded all expectations associated with it. As the Town enters 2015, my goals are to continue to expand code enforcement activities in the department, provide quality training programs for department members and advocate and request funding for a new fire department pumper truck.

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: