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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.

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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