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Fire Chief Rips Watertown Public Safety Study, While Police Chief Welcomes Findings

Fire Chief Mario Orangio disapproved of the recommendation of having a minimum of 16 firefighters on duty, and said an early draft recommended 17.

The Public Safety report examining the Fire and Police Departments received mixed reviews from the two departments – one welcomed the review and the other blasted the findings.

Representatives from The Matrix Group presented their findings to the Town Council Tuesday night at a special meeting. Because it was a special meeting, input from the public was not allowed.

Among the recommendations for the Fire Department was for a 16-man minimum per shift, said Travis Miller of the Matrix Group.

“I don’t think this community can safely provide service with less (staffing),” Miller said. “Unless you look at service changes.”

Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio said he saw the final draft of the report in January and it had a minimum staffing of 17. He asked if the 16-firefighter minimum is a typo, or if the 17 in the final report is a typo.

Richard Brady, who was the project manager for The Matrix Group for the report, said the draft number was a typo.

Orangio was upset by the recommendation, as well as the response.

“Somebody lied in the Council Chamber and it wasn’t me,” Orangio said after the meeting.

He added that he had many other problems with the recommendations, but did not elaborate.

Other recommended changes for the Fire Department include:

  • Manning two ambulances at all times
  • Changing the number of vehicles sent to some calls
  • Split the Fire Fighters union in two – one with firefighters and one with lieutenants and captains - and removing the four deputy chiefs from the union.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom McManus said having two ambulances staffed with only 16 people on duty could make it difficult to cover a house or building fire. He said the National Fire Protection Association recommends sending 15 firefighters to fight a structure fire.

“If we are at 16 we will have a problem if we respond and rescue is out, we have only 14 (firefighters),” McManus said.

On the other side of the spectrum, Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau said he was pleased with the findings in the report.

“Our goal is to be the best Police Department in Massachusetts,” Deveau said. “When they said we are an exceptional police department in the Commonwealth and the country I was extremely pleased.”

The Police Department has very fast response time on all calls, according to the report, and all officers, not just detectives are encouraged to follow up on calls.

The report recommended a number of changes, including changing from three 8-hour shifts to two 12-hour shifts each day.

“I didn’t agree with everything in the report,” Deveau said. “I have not been totally sold on the 12-hour shift.”

Town Council President Mark Sideris said the recommendations would be discussed by the Public Safety Committee, and fire and police officials would be invited to give input.

Tom Thibaut, president of the fire fighters union, said he was upset that he could not speak at the meeting, especially because Miller, who did the fire department report, will not be there.

Sonny Beaches April 18, 2012 at 10:54 AM
The key WFD finding contains a typo...obviously the Town Manger got the best recommendation that money can buy.
John MacNeill April 18, 2012 at 12:08 PM
The original "final" report had staffing at 17. Then after the "delay" in releasing the report that number is cut to 16. And we're led to believe that it was a "typo?"
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) April 18, 2012 at 02:03 PM
John, the firefighters were very suspicious of the change in the minimum staffing from 17 to 16.
John MacNeill April 18, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I imagine so. How do they feel about splitting the union?
K Coyne April 19, 2012 at 01:44 PM
I believe that the Matrix group recommended splitting the 'upper' level management/jobs from the union for both Police(Captains and up) and Fire. According to the Matrix group this is because the Captains(police case) are part of the bargaining unit(thus their conclusion conflict of interest?) I'm wondering if it is a similar case for the fire?
Eddie April 19, 2012 at 03:09 PM
The Matrix Group?! Really? What do they know about firefighting? Go on their web site and look at what unique insight they have. Their qualifications for employment are public administration and political science college degrees. What could they possibly know about public safety staffing? I’ve read a number of their reports done for other fire agencies. They never include NFPA in any of their studies and why would they? It is irrelevant to what they are supposed to do. This is a 6 person business with an educations geared toward being a politicians… oh now it makes sense. What company in the world would commission an efficiency study done by people with no knowledge of what it takes to work in that industry? Would you run your business that way? So the town council spent money on company to create a report telling the council exactly what it wanted to hear. WHITEWASH.
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Yes, that was what Matrix Group said, WaterInfo. The deputy chiefs and the union president, Tom Thibaut, said they opposed the idea of splitting the union up.
B. Murphy April 20, 2012 at 02:16 AM
what are they cooking up here? are they trying to lead the lemmings off a cliff?
Ellen Bojorquez April 20, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Don't understand? I see there are at least three new condo conplexes going up on Pleasant St. You can't cut short your minimum man allowance. Someone's home or life is in jeopardy. Wake up!
John MacNeill April 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Watertown's entrenched political class is biased against unions. They'll jump at any recommendation that supports their bias, and shrug off any argument they see as "self-serving" from a union member. How else can you explain their pro-growth agenda coupled with their eagerness to cut fire protection services?
Mara April 20, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I know that technology can increase the amount of work one individual can do. Could this be the reason that lower staffing is required? I'm sure that what one firefighter can do now is much more than when my grandfather was one. Feel free to educate me on this issue.
Pat McKroch April 21, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Whitewash the final draft said 17 and the the manager got a hold of it and strong armed to 16. The firefighters should not accept the survey. The firefighters should not split the union. Ask the police if they like the split union. Most of them don't. As a union, Firefighters have stuck together and the manager doesn't like that. He has always tried to split them up, and the firefighters don't back down. I have never seen so much DISRESPECT shown to a fire chief from town council before this one. I don't see any cuts from the council members that involves them as a whole. where are their cuts (insurance for council members) that would be a start.
hereandthere April 22, 2012 at 06:18 PM
let me ask you why the cuts do not start at the top? Manager Driscoll is eager to cut everyone but himself! Even Gov Patrick has taken all the state vehicles away from most city agencies. why does Driscoll continue to recieve the vehicle perk? especially with the fuel prices now, he still gets to fill up at the Town yard (on our dime) I,m pretty sure there is no Town business on the weekends. He should at least be restricted to business hours for the use of a Town Vehicle! And who is the only person employed by the Town who is not on the G.I.C. insurance, but remains on BlueCross/Blueshield! If the council was serious about cutting expenses, they should start at the TOP!
Scooby 37 April 23, 2012 at 01:05 PM
How silly to cut from the top. You see, Watertown is nothing more than a small Kingdom. Like the days of olde, the King and his Court feast while the indentured servants toil in the fields. They do the work and get crust and mutton for their reward. The King is savvy though. He uses others to do his bidding so he doesn't lose the support of his loyal subjects, who do have the power to oust him. But watch out sheeple, for if you heap much praise on the King, he may feel bold enough to invoke "jus primae noctis." Then we're all "screwed."
Mara April 23, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I see no good explanation for why dropping to 16 is bad. With specifics, that is. Just attacks on Driscoll or the company that produced the report. Exactly why is it a problem (and don't just say "we won't have enough" - say "why we need 17 is because...." Thanks. This is the only way residents will learn what's at stake.
Donald Rimgale April 23, 2012 at 03:33 PM
No. It's a labor intensive, hands on job. There is no technology that lets you drag a 2 1/2" charge line up a flight of stairs. You need bodies.
Donald Rimgale April 23, 2012 at 03:46 PM
What I don't understand is that the town brings in a company with no public safety experience that I can see. They make no mention of the NFPA ( National Fire Protection Association) standards in there study. The NFPA is reconized WORLDWIDE and the standards to adhere to and coincidentally they are headquartered about 30 minutes away from Watertown in Quincy... but no mention of them in a 'professional report' NFPA (the company that specialized in fire protection and studies) recommends 4 firefighters to an apparatus. Now The Matrix Group would like us to believe that at a 16 man minimum and 2 full staffed ambulances, the town which now has two ladder companies (which are understaffed as they are) would be safe with only one ladder company with 2 men on it? I would like Travis Miller to explain when both ambulances are at the hospital and the town is now covered by only 12 men... how it can respond to any incident let alone a house fire. Bottom line: IT CAN'T This study reeks of the manager's hatred of the fire department and is a total bag-job.
Scooby 37 April 23, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I think it's already been stated that 16 leaves one two person ladder company. Watertown has too many multi-story buildings to run a single two person ladder company. This isn't Mayberry with nothing more than one and two story homes. Look around. Watertown is a small, densely populated city. Not a rural community.
Donald Rimgale April 23, 2012 at 11:42 PM
A few years ago there was a 19 man minimum and the council passed a resolution to continue to man that. The manager changed that by dropping the budget which in effect left the Chief with no recourse but to lower it or run out of money. The firefighters can say "We need x amount" because they are the ones who have been performing the job. They know what it takes to do a search and rescue. What's the experience of the Matrix Group to say 16 is safe... why not 15? What's their rationalization there? Hey... why not 14! Every think we haven't had an major fires or incidents because we have a well trained aggressive dept and not because... hey there are too many guys? If you have an honest interest into why the dept doesn't agree with the study... stop by a station and I'm sure someone will be glad to explain to you how cuts will put the public and the firefighters at risk. The town is playing Russian Roulette. Are they going to keep dropping the manning until someone gets killed?
Pat McKroch April 24, 2012 at 02:49 AM
@ Mara, when operating on a fire ground certain tasks have to be performed that's done by MAN POWER in a timely fashion or people die and or your property is gone burned away. Hoses have to be laid out, hydrants have to be set up, ladders have to be set up around the building, entry has to be made, searches have to be performed, ventilation has to be performed. You need firefighters to run the fire engines, aerial ladders. They have many different kinds of fire trucks. If they all did the same things they would all look the same (they don't). Before this study started the chief welcomed the study. (As long it was done by NFPA(national fire protection agency) guidelines). (It wasn't).. Driscoll has it out for the fire dept its been like this for YEARS. He has made it personal. It's funny they call it a type O. When it was brought to the firefighters with 17 on the paper everything was ok, the manager gets a hold of it and its called a type O. lets just put into scenario, 2 medical calls come in (ambulance = 2 Ff's) so -4 that's 12 FF left to fight a fire if one comes in during the medicals (happens frequently). If the rescues are on a call and another call comes in we send an engine or ladder =3Ff's on each piece. we send them on All medical calls. Because of the lifting, equipment, multiple floors, the size of the patient. as well as the delay in time when both ambulances are out. are you getting the point yet every body counts. YOU need them(bodies) and so do they.
Pat McKroch April 24, 2012 at 03:29 AM
They say the police fire and public safety dispatchers are the most exspensive out of the budget after education. Ya ok they are ALL 24hr OPERATIONS. its not a 9-5 job like Driscolls yet he makes more then us all. Driscoll plays to the beat of his own drum. He gets his raises, his own personal car. when he lives in town driving around on weekends weeknights on your money. Has blue cross blue shield for health insurance. while the firefighter and everyone else were basically forced into the GIC health plan. no one is picking on Driscoll. he doesn't play fair. He's spoiled, and a sneak
B. Murphy April 24, 2012 at 04:26 AM
thanks sonny, that's a lot of good information. you're posts are allways well managed and well planned
Tim Hill May 03, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I think people believe that modern buildings, built to current code, are better equipped to prevent the spread of large fires and are less drains on the fire department than older buildings are.

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