The met Monday night to finalize the job posting for a new town fire chief and discuss the current lack of an interim chief amongst the group and with the Suffield firefighters, about 20 in all, in attendance.
The department has operated without a fire chief since the retirement of 46-year department veteran Tom Bellmore on Dec. 31, 2011. Fire Marshal Mike Thibedeau, the department captain, has fulfilled many of the leadership and administrative roles left open after Bellmore’s retirement. But some aspects of the department’s operation, such as paying bills and distributing burn permits, require an active fire chief.
Thibedeau was recently offered the interim chief job as the fire commission searches for Bellmore’s permanent replacement, a process expected to last between two and six months. Thibedeau is still weighing the pros and cons of the employment offer presented by First Selectman Ed McAnaney.
The Suffield firefighters in attendance voiced their opposition to any sort of plan for an interim part-time fire chief, which the board stated was not a viable option. Scott Adams, a Suffield firefighter and head of the Suffield firefighter’s association, said a part-time chief is an unacceptable proposition and pointed to the need for safety in firefighting situations. Adams voiced serious concerns about a part-time chief being able to properly administrate an emergency scene and protect the firefighters under his watch.
“You’ll get my gear,” Adams said of the possibility of having a part-time chief.
The firefighters at the meeting also roundly announced their support for Thibedeau to take the interim position.
Much of the meeting was spent refining the language of the job posting for the new fire chief, with department members and the board participating in a group discussion to reach a consensus on the wording. The board hopes to have the job posting available as soon as possible, likely at some point during the week.
New Fire Commission Chairman Phil Bennett said he hoped the interim chief situation is resolved soon. When questioned about the process, he touched on the urgency of the situation.
“I’m certainly not going to sit back and wait for weeks – we don’t have weeks,” he said.