The chief and volunteer firefighters in the Western Massachusetts town of Blandford have all called it quits. They say they’re upset over interference from the select board in this town of about 1200 residents.
The select board and Chief Bob DeCouteau have been at odds for months, over whether he deserves to be reappointed and also over whether the board gets a say in the selection of new volunteer firefighters.
DeCouteau resigned Tuesday night and his number-two in the firehouse, Tom Piper, says the seven other permanent members decided to follow the chief.
“We’re volunteers,” Piper says. “We leave our families in the middle of the night when the tones go off to go and help people. And that familial connection that we have to each other is something that you can’t just say, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m putting this person into that unit or I’m taking that person out of it.’”
Piper says the firefighters recognize the seriousness of this decision and hope a deal can be reached. Call response times for fire and first-responder medical care that used to take 12 minutes, he claims, will now take a lot longer from fire crews in neighboring towns.
Selectman Adam Dolby, himself a probationary firefighter, says he talked to the select board chair and they’re calling a special meeting on the issue for Friday.