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Mass. fire chief resigns over town conflict; entire department follows suit

City officials said the town is protected by mutual aid and they’ll move forward with or without the firefighters

By FireRescue1 Staff

BLANDFORD, Mass. — Seven volunteer firefighters and a fire chief resigned Tuesday after they say city officials have been pushing to get rid of their chief.

WGGB reported that as of Tuesday night, the Town of Blandford does not have a staffed fire department.

“The chief has absolute power over the department. He gets appointed by the select board and gets authority from the State Fire Marshall and two members of the select board in town have been trying to usurp some of the authority from the chief,” said Capt. Tom Piper. “Every meeting they’ve had we’ve had some member of the department saying you need to follow the law and two of the members still felt obligated to get rid of the chief. They wanted to have control over who was hired. There was a personality conflict. Chief answers to the select board on a judiciary basis, but not a personnel basis.”

Members of the fire department have been trying to resolve the conflict since May, but they have not made any progress, according to the report.

Capt. Piper says they’ve contacted the town’s dispatcher and have notified neighboring communities who provide mutual aid to Blandford, according to the report.

“As far as the department goes, we were happy with the chief, and if you’re removing him because you don’t like him were obligated to support him and that’s what we’ve been trying to get across to them over the past four months," Capt. Piper said. "If we’re not broke why are you trying to fix us?”

City officials said the town is protected by mutual aid and they’ll move forward with or without the firefighters, according to the report.




Comments
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David Jones David Jones Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:08:03 AM The city officials need to learn the meaning of "mutual".
Rene Irick Rene Irick Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:38:45 AM maybe they should look at how other volunteer stations operate, and they would see they do not have any thing to do with managing the volunteers. and just maybe if they were to volunteer them self. they might have better understanding who it works.
John Palmer John Palmer Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:46:10 AM What kind of legal troubles ca this department get into if someone dies, or a house burns to the ground because the department is not operating? I understand there is mutual aid, but if there is a delay in response and someone dies would the department or the town be subject to a lawsuit? Hope they get this worked out.
Kurt Maytum Kurt Maytum Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:48:12 AM Seems to be a common theme that municipalities believe they can just call for mutual aid and all is good with life. The term mutual would indicate it is reciprocal. If Blandford can not provide service, the neighboring town should bill them for services rendered. Maybe that would get city officials off their laurels!
Mac Attack Mac Attack Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:55:45 AM This is why political people just need to leave fire departments alone. If the Chief is doing everything right and by the law, leave them alone.
Paul Schewene Paul Schewene Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:37:50 PM NONE... A volunteer firefighter... or even a PAID firefighter... is free and clear to resign their post, and walk away. Being a firefighter is NOT like being in the military. Being a cop, is not like being in the military. You can stop being a police officer or firefighter or EMT or Paramedic, anytime you please, EXCEPT in the MIDDLE of an ACTIVE emergency. So... these firefighters are under, at this point, no fiduciary obligations, whatsoever, to the people of the district. The CITY, may be held accountable, if there's a loss of life due to delay of response... if it's found that the city acted outside the law in trying to force ouster of the fire chief, which prompted the department to shut itself down. And, if the voters in that city have any brains and are even WORTH serving to begin with... they'll see what's going on, and hold their city officials accountable for their misbehavior, at the ballot box.
Paul Schewene Paul Schewene Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:40:55 PM This is why fire departments need to STOP taking tax money from governments at ANY level. Once you start sucking on the political teat... you become a SLAVE to that teat... and IF the political cow decides to stroll through a pool of liquified dung... guess who's gonna have crap all OVER them? That's right... the department.
Jerry Montgomery Jerry Montgomery Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:37:02 PM as one comic is famous for saying, 'there isn't a cure for stupid."
Carl Nunziata Carl Nunziata Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:03:56 PM If the members resigned ,it should have no barring on them. If the board is elected then those members Ex-members of the Fd should get all their family members and neighbors to vote those 2memberbs of the board out.
Charles Williams Charles Williams Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:30:17 PM I support the Firemen 100%. Let the town board go fight the fires for a while see what a fun wonderful job it is.....
Tom Kelly Tom Kelly Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:15:21 PM This seems to be happening too often!
Dale Friend Dale Friend Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:32:00 PM Looks like the city officials better go get some training and bunker gear.
Jeff Gardner Jeff Gardner Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8:03:31 PM One of our current selectmen, actually learned our job, was trained and went into live fire training with instructors, because he wanted to be able to relate to what we do. That is a man that is dedicated and supportive.
John R Eeten John R Eeten Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8:47:38 PM Sorry to disagree. There is duty to community and duty to self. I have ben in the service for years and I cannot walk away because of stuff like what has been written about above. I have seen many different ways of handling situations similar to this one and no two will ever have the same outcome with the same management. The bwest way to fund is through being an own taxing entity. However, Municipalities do not allow their Fire Departments to be taxing entities, therefore funding needs to come from someplace. Each state has their own limiting laws on Fire Departments. So the blanket statements of politics and the Fire Service do not work. Politics are in every place a Fire Department exists, inclusive of their constituents and their personnel. Each Fire Department or Fire District needs to figure out the best way to handle their respective situations within the limitations of their governing constraints.
Donald Hayes Donald Hayes Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:33:15 AM Then where does the operating budget for maintenance, fuel, and utilities come from? Thin air? How about offering a solution instead of speculating.
Bill Cartwright Bill Cartwright Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:03:52 AM Donald Hayes ...A department can become its own taxing entity. Place an initiative on the next voting ballot to become a fire district or emergency services district. That is how they can get the finances needed.
Cary Coleman Cary Coleman Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:36:59 AM I was the chief of a volunteer department for 15 years in Southern California. Built the department from nothing to 60 volunteer firefighter and several staffed stations using volunteers. I had a major disagreement with my board and offered to resign and in the end I did,. Had a bunch of firefighters including chief officer staff that wanted to resign to, however, I advised them against it. It would have left the community we took an aoath to protect, unprotected and would have erased all the hard work that we all put into making the department into the unpaid professional organization it is today. WHile I can sypmathize with the Chief and the firefighters, shame on him for letting his firefighters attempt a muntiny on his watch. And yes Governinig boards seems to have a misconception about "Mutual Aid", especially that mutual part. Just my two cents. Have a great day brothers and sisters, be safe and hope to see you on the big one.
Sissy Buecker Sissy Buecker Saturday, September 21, 2013 11:37:12 PM You have to look at an entire situation. Some Fire Departments are INDEPENDENT Non Profits. You can not have your cake and eat it too. If you are an Independent Fire Department in a Municipality, that Municipality is responsible for Workers Comp on ACTIVE Fire fighters Only. The Local Government has no say on how you operate. If that Local Government Donates Monies to the Fire Department, then the Government may ask for documentation on what the monies were spent on only. If the Municipality uses the Fire department for their Fire/Ems services, there should be documentation of this (Agreement),but many small departments do not want the government to know their business, but they do want the tax payers monies with no questions attached. So if you are an Independent Fire Department, Filing your own taxes...this is good, but when you can not make it...do not blame the local governments...like I said ...times are hard and you can not have your cake and eat it too!!! Accountability of tax payers money is very important today. The good Ole boy net work does not work today...God Bless every Volunteer out there and Thank You for what you do....Notify your State Representatives...there should always be funding out there for Volunteer Department and if it is not...your State has let you down.... There should be a pension out there and I know our State does not and I have written many a letter in support for legislation for this. It is a tough world out there now days....

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