BLANDFORD, Mass. (WWLP) - Some people in the Town of Blandford told 22News they are concerned about the increase in response time to emergencies now that they will now have to rely on surrounding communities instead of their own fire department.
Marcia Fellow’s mother is about to turn 89 years old until now Fellows felt her mother was in good hands since the town’s volunteer fire department included several trained medical responders and was just around the corner.
“Mother is doing well but it’s only a matter of seconds if she falls… and they’ve come a couple of times because she’s fallen,” Fellow’s said.
Chief Robert DeCoteau resigned Tuesday following months of disagreements between the town’s Board of Selectmen and the fire department. All 10 volunteer fire fighters to also resigned after the Chief did.
Many of those fire fighters were trained medical responders too, according to members of the fire department.
Now people in Blandford will have to wait for either Otis, Westfield, or Russell to respond to a 911 call in town.
One Blandford firefighter told 22news this move was a last resort to respond to several un-resolved issues between the department and the Board of Selectmen
In the fire Chief’s letter of resignation he argues that the selectmen made several false accusations including calling him a fire setter, stating that he “set cars on fire then fled to California.”
22News asked Adam Dolby, both a selectmen and firefighter, if these accusations were accurate.
“I think they vary by perspective. I wouldn’t say any of them are untrue. I think many of them are employment matters that I can’t really discuss,” Dolby said.
Another issue the fire fighters and Chief claim is that the board was showing disregard of the “Strong Chief” law, meaning firefighters report solely to their chief, and the chief reports to the town officials.
The firefighters told 22News they were told they needed to submit resumes and applications to the board to be part of the department
Dolby said the request was to simply meet the members of the department the Chief appoints.
The fire department in Blandford is responsible for a section of the mass pike as well as the town.
Selectman Bill Levakis held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening to appoint a temporary fire Chief. He told 22News that the temporary chief has 17 years of experience as Deputy Chief in the town. He also said there are about four new volunteers with fire department pagers that will assist responders from surrounding towns on emergency calls.
They will also hold a special meeting Friday at 7P.M. at Town Hall. The only topic on that agenda is to discuss the next step following the Chief’s resignation, according to Dolby.
Hilltown Community Ambulance, which has provided service to the town for the last 10 years, will continue to provide services to Blandford, and residents should still call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
“When people in Blandford call 9-1-1, they will still get an ambulance,” Hilltown Community Ambulance Director Stephen Gaughan told 22News over the phone.
Gaughan said that Blandford firefighters had provided first responder service to people in the town, and they will make use of mutual aid from surrounding towns as necessary.