Firefighters decry delay in hiring Wareham's next chief

By Matthew Bernat | Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat From left: Prudential Committee members Ron Enos, Ken Baptiste and Rick England, Jr. prepare for Wednesday's meeting, which prompted an outcry from firefighters after learning a new chief has not been chosen.

The search for Wareham’s next fire chief has been delayed by a state Attorney General’s Office ruling, prompting an outcry from firefighters who are overwhelmingly backing one of the four internal candidates.

The Wareham Fire Department has been without a permanent chief since July when Robert McDuffy retired after 18 years. Patrick Haskell has served as acting chief since then, and he is one of the candidates vying for the spot.

The other candidates are Capt. Mickey Bird, Assistant Fire Chief John Kelley and Capt. Matt Rowley.

On June 6, firefighters submitted a petition that included enough signatures to fill two pages backing Rowley. The petition was handed to members of the Prudential Committee, who are tasked with hiring the next chief.

Committee members were scheduled to make a decision that night, but informed firefighters a conflict of interest would delay the vote.

Chair Ron Enos said committee member George Barrett would not be allowed to vote because Barrett’s son is in the department.

“I know this has been a long process,” said Enos. “But we were told by counsel to reset the clock.”

Enos said the candidates would undergo a public interview process. Then, committee members would vote in a few weeks.

Some firefighters wanted to know why the state’s ruling didn’t force members to start the process over. They noted Barrett was involved from the beginning.

“Tell me how, then, this whole process is not null and void?” one firefighter asked.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Enos responded.

The process included closed door interviews with the candidates and an assessment performed by an outside firm. Enos said the results of those assessments would be released to the candidates.

When asked why the public interviews weren’t part of the initial process, Enos said: “We think it’s important to do the public interviews at this time.”

During the June 6 meeting, which was attended by roughly 25 firefighters, one member in the department said the delay was frustrating.

“This is affecting our health and our job performance. We had a three-alarm fire this morning wondering who will be the chief tonight,” he said, referring to a blaze that destroyed a home on Great Neck Road earlier that day.

Comments (28)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 07, 2018 07:20

This job should not be filled until the districts are done away with and Wareham can hire just 1 chief

Posted by: bob | Jun 07, 2018 07:42

The firefighter complaining that not having a fire chief is bad for his health and job performance,come on ,if it is its time for you to turn in your boots and get a new occupation. .

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jun 07, 2018 08:13

Sphere, you are 100%    Maybe I should thrown my hat in the ring ... I am more than qualified

Posted by: felinesmom | Jun 07, 2018 09:16

The fact that anyone on the Pru committee didn't know that having a relative on the force is a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves from hiring voting and had to have the Atty Gen weigh in says it all.  Enough with the cronism with these districts.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Jun 07, 2018 10:57

Swifts, that would make you a regular around these parts. I wouldn't be sad ;)

Posted by: cranky pants | Jun 07, 2018 12:02

Looks like the popularity contest was stopped. So sorry. Reminds me of years ago when we had a highly qualified captain that got passed up for the position of chief and someone else paved their way into and eventually out of that seat... Literally.

Posted by: yourmonkeysuncle | Jun 08, 2018 07:35

Have our Fire departments become a club for "special people"? This whole issue stinks and is an embarrassment. Let's get with the program: one chief one department. Proper management and accountability. 

Posted by: cmazcra | Jun 08, 2018 08:20

It seems like between family relationships and friendships between the Prudential Committee and candidates for the new Fire Chief position that these good old Wareham boys should step up and admit that not one of them can make a bias decision.  They need to go outside for an unbias real decision based on qualifications, and exams. This is not just a job we are talking about, it families lives and the lives of people that live in this town that depend on the Fire Chief to be able to step up and do the job. I don't know about everyone else but getting a job with that much responsibility based on who you play golf with or who your family is is nuts. Wareham Prudential Committee you need to check yourselves. Do the right thing!

Posted by: cmazcra | Jun 08, 2018 08:28

Bob, lets pray that you never have a fire at your house and the firefighters arrive and do not have clear leadership to complete their jobs, get a clue! It's a dangerous job anyone that has seen a fire gets that!


Posted by: Rosebud | Jun 08, 2018 09:14

Bob is right.  Firefighters are the ones who are supposed to run towards the danger, and not play the victim card.  As miuch as we all appreciate our firefighters, they CHOOSE to pursue this occupation.  No one forces them to take the job.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jun 08, 2018 10:01

Oh Peaches , would that throw a  wrench in things lol.    For any firefighter complaining they can’t do their job safely without a Chief should turn in their Boots ... I worked under a guy with the nickname “Casper”  as in the Ghost ... only time you saw him was when cameras were around .... its time one Department!!!

Posted by: cmazcra | Jun 08, 2018 10:12

Rosebud thank god they do what they do.  From someone that’s needed their help before I’m thankful that they do run toward danger so we can run away. I work in the corporate world and rely on clear leadership everyday.  A job is a job and clear leadership is is needed no matter what job it is. For those you think are playing the victim card talk to the 54 year old firefighter I’ve been reading about in Wareham with occupational cancer. Your comments really surprise me.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jun 08, 2018 10:45

cmazcra , that stinks that a 54 year old has to go through what he is going through ,I pray for him and his family. But with that said it’s a profession that We chose to do , anyone doing the job knows what the risks are and if they say they don’t then they are nuts . If you don’t like what’s going on you can simply walk away . Been there done that up at 4 bagger in Lawrence  as mutual aid without your Chief and a whole block is going up ... LoL

Posted by: Linda | Jun 08, 2018 21:11

#1  Why can't people understand two fire departments and two water departments in one town?  It has always and will always be this way.  Both of these fire dept.'s are excellent.  I have watched each one fight fires and respond to horrific accidents.  If it was my life on the line, I hope that one of these dept.'s would be there for me.

#2  It is a history of Wareham and Onset. These firefighters are deeply committed and dedicated to their villages.  They know every house on every street.  They know what homes have access blocked by fences, etc.  They know a few streets that a truck can't get down but they do or find another way - maybe thru someone's yard.   They don't join for the money.  Most are a special breed, a different mind set, part dare-devil and passionate about their profession and the safety of their brothers and their villages. 

#3  Leadership is needed, I agree.  But these firefighters do what they have to do.  They don't arrive at a fire and stand there waiting for instructions, they grab a hose and do what they're trained to do.

Let's just let the two departments be.  



Posted by: yourmonkeysuncle | Jun 09, 2018 07:03

Good News Linda ; You can have anything you want ! The bad news is you must pay for it. More to the point; Everyone else pays. In order to progress it becomes necessary to review, assess and make changes where indicated . Hanging on to the past doesn't always present the best path forward.


Posted by: cranky pants | Jun 09, 2018 07:24

We have already proven as a society that history does not matter, and we can always change things we don't like. We've removed television shows like Dukes of Hazard, we're changing street names like Yaki way and removing famous statues because it offended someone. It's a great time to be an eclectic little snowflake and stand up for your movement.

Well if that's the case, I'm offended and hurt by the two district system. Let's form a line and start marching.

Posted by: NavyMan | Jun 09, 2018 07:33

Why don't we have 2 town hall's, 2 police depts., 2 dpw's, 2 school depts., etc...? Because we are 1 town, Wareham. Enough already, have 1 fire dept.

Posted by: Linda | Jun 09, 2018 13:56

YMU, CP - You will still need the same # of trucks and personnel.  Wareham people love their histories.  Like SouthCoast Hospital tearing down the Tobey Homestead.  No one agrees with that, but no one has the $ to save it.  I am far from being an eclectic little snowflake, but the two fire depts. and water dept.'s. will not change and it's just me saying leave them alone, I am not leading a movement.  Sorry, you have nothing to be offended and hurt by but you can march all you want.  Remember, not everyone wants statues down.

Navyman, please...….your post has nothing to do with my post about the history of the 2 fire departments in two old villages.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jun 09, 2018 16:27

The one department/two department debate has been going around and around in circles for years and that's all that happens it just keep going around in circles. Some want the departments to stay separate, some think they should combine, and some who are especially ambitious think combined into one department they should be taken over by the town. Around and around the debate goes, but it never moves on beyond a debate. Enter Wareham Week and the opportunity it offers for anonymous comments to be posted and the circle of debate heats up a bit, but nothing really changes. The debate just continues going around fueled by a false hope that someone, someday will take it upon them self to publicly initiate a process that "might result" in the two departments being combined. It's been clear for years, that the neither of the two departments are going to initiate the process. Town officials can't force the process; the two departments do not fall under the control of town government.


So the circle of debate goes around and around forever, until somebody who wants the two departments combined is willing to step out from behind a screen of anonymity and initiate whatever process is required in order for the two departments to become one.


Any volunteers?

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jun 10, 2018 11:44

Well stated Andrea, whether from anonymity or not, stepping up and initiating such a disruptive process would truly be akin to stepping out in front of a steaming locamotive.  I have used that comparison before on lesser things that didn't deserve it.  This is a biggie!


Who from either district would?  Would one district peacefully submit to the other?  Doubt that.  We are talking about two hierachies of well paid well respected officials.  Who goes?  Who gets demoted, who gets a pay cut.  What a huge complicated nightmare!  Has it been done in other towns?  If so, how did they handle it?


High school civics class was 30 years ago so I don't know how it works.  I  don't recall learning about such a scenario in small town government.  Hindsight is 20/20 so I'm sure little 20,000 person towns aren't establishing it like that anymore.  What a complicated, top-heavy, self-preserving system.  I grew up in a town south of Boston with triple the population of Wareham.  One fire department and one water department both run by the town has always worked fine there.



Would it be someone from the Town.  Could it be?  TA and or Selecmen??  What power    does Wareham have over the dual fire districts?  Very little to  none from what I understand.


Would it be someone from above the dual districts and the Town?  That would be the State.  Would receivership be an only way  for that to happen?


Yet above all the pissing and moaning, I know that the Fire officials in Wareham and Onset are here for me and my loved ones in an instant!  Over the years I have seen a few things that involved calling them.  Everytime they have been on scene amazingly fast and handled the situation amazingly well.  If safety and response time were the only judging factors, upsetting the applecart  may not be good idea.

Posted by: Linda | Jun 10, 2018 21:27

Andrea and WBTS, thank you for your posts.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 11, 2018 07:57

Linda, You do not need the same number of trucks. The ones they have are barely used for their intended purpose and there are far fewer fires nowadays. They run up their truck rolls chasing ambulances and responding to fender benders. Two districts is the biggest waste of money imaginable.

Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jun 11, 2018 11:23

Sphere, you are correct ... the biggest waste of money ....

Posted by: Linda | Jun 11, 2018 11:26

SB, I was told years ago that your homeowner's ins. was lower if 2 trucks arrived on scene.  Where they get that info. is unknown to me.  I am sure some state dept. tallies how many house, grass, woods and car fires we go to, and accidents, etc., etc.  There may be fewer fires because we are building more houses where woods used to be.  We just had a terrible house fire on Gt. Neck Rd.,  If this happened during the wee hours of the morning, both ladder trucks from both villages could have been saving lives.  Note:  Wareham & Onset worked together on this fire, with mutual aid from other towns.  When we do mutual aid, we have trucks here in case our village has a fire.  Maybe they aren't used often, but God forbid the day something happens that every truck is needed and...oops, we got rid of the barely used ones.  I often wonder why the ladder is sent to an area of 495 that is straight, for an accident - it's for the jaws!  I hope they never have to go to Otis or Myles Standish for forest fires like they used to when I was young.  During the night, from the beach you could see the glow from Otis or the woods fires from East of McA'rs Blvd., or from your bedroom window the glow from Carver's fires, always wondering if your dad would come home.  I wish I could gather up these Wareham men from the past, but it's an era gone by.  Two are left, one won't speak the other can't remember.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 11, 2018 13:39

When I saw the picture from the great neck fire it appeared that a ladder was used and not a ladder truck. With the ground being unstable and time involved for a large truck to set up a ladder renders it useless unless it has a good base. I would rather have a pickup truck and ladder than a ladder truck. Much faster to respond and deploy ladder. Now all the big boys want their fancy toys and firehouses with fancy chili kitchens.  

Posted by: bluebird | Jun 19, 2018 18:01

Combining the two Departments into one, might not mean a reduction in the number of trucks or the number of personel responding to a call, but where the cost savings might come from is that the number of administrative positions could be reduced, we would only need one Fire Chief, one Clerk/Treasurer, one Prudential Committee, etc. Number af Stations would most likely remain the same, but the Town would only need one Fire Department Office ,not 2. Makes sense to me, but maybe I'm missing something?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 20, 2018 08:25

Bluebird, It makes too much sense. Doing away with the districts would save the town MILLIONS. Don't forget all the duplication in the water departments. MILLIONS! EMS management could be cut too. MILLIONS!

Posted by: cranky pants | Jun 20, 2018 09:53

All this talk and no actions.

Andrea already challenged anyone to stand up and make the first motion, but it seems all we want to do is talk about it.

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