BLANDFORD, Mass. (WWLP) - After a major conflict with the town's selectmen, the entire Blandford Fire Department walked off the job Tuesday night.
By Wednesday morning, the doors at the Blandford Fire Department are locked, the building empty, the radios off. It's not clear when it will be active again.
"We have gone as far as we can. We do not want to leave the town without fire protection and without medical protection, but our options are not only limited, they're pretty much used up," volunteer firefighter Tom Ackley said.
Tuesday night, Chief Robert DeCouteau resigned, taking the entire department with him.
"There's going to be no fire department; the town will still be serviced by surrounding towns, mutual aid," said Edward Laplante, a volunteer firefighter.
It's a move these firefighters say will increase response time from four minutes to more than 20.
"I've never heard of anything like this happening, there's no reason for it,” Ackley said.
The volunteer firefighters say that Chief DeCouteau and town Selectman Bill Lavakis have butted heads since DeCouteau was put in the position.
"Usually they're so happy to find somebody to take the job, doesn't appear to be the case right now," Ackley said.
DeCouteau's job will be up for appointment during Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting, and members of the department fear he will be replaced; something they believe is beyond their power.
“Again by this individual, who I think would like hiring and firing power over the select board, which is not right, it's not legal.”
That individual, Selectman Lavakis, did not want to go on camera, but told 22News over the phone that there is more to the conflict than he can speak publicly about because of personnel rules.
His colleagues say that DeCouteau does have a minor criminal record from an incident years ago.
"I don't believe that what happened 20 years ago has any bearing on what's happening today," said Bob Costello, a Blandford EMT. "You've got a person who's totally dedicated to the job to the town, to the people and they want to throw it away."
Lavakis said he is disappointed in the firefighters' decision, and is in talks with surrounding communities to help staff Blandford's fire department.
The now-former firefighters plan to show up at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday in protest.