Engine 4 Shuts Down Today Due to Dedham Fire Staffing Issues

As a result of the new policy, Engine 4 was shut down today because only 8 out of the required 11 personnel reported for duty.


For the past week, Town Administrator Keegan has been working with Acting Fire Chief Spillane, Finance Director Murphy and the Firefighter's Union to discuss the amount of overtime that was accumulated.

The town usually spends between $400,000 and $450,000 per fiscal year, according to reports.  But due to unplanned vacancies, transfers to other departments, injuries and illnesses, the department has been working with a reduced staff.  For that reason, the overtime cost to the Department can top $1 million by the end of the fiscal year.

"At full staff the Fire Department normally has a compliment of 15 personnel
per shift," Town Administrator Keegan said.

But in order to maintain all four pieces of apparatus, the department needs to have at least 11 personnel and one shift commander.

"In evaluating these situations it is always very difficult to maintain a balance between public safety and managing the fiscal responsibility of providing those services to the community," the Town Administrator said.

On Monday the Town Administrator authorized the Acting Fire Chief to implement the following program:

  • If the department falls below the required amount of personnel during the daytime shift of 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., Engine 4 will be taken out of service.
  • "The response districts will be redefined throughout the Town so that no district will be left without coverage."
  • And only two Department personnel will be allowed to take vacation on a given shift.

So because only 8 out of the 11 reported for duty today, Engine 4 was shut down. The personnel who were unable to report were on an authorized leave, according the The Administrator. But Dedham Fire hopes that they will be OK.

"We have another truck," the Fire Deputy said.  "We have enough to cover one incident and then from there we will just ask another town if they're available."

In the meantime, the town is hoping to fill the vacancies as soon as possible.  But the Town Administrator also wants to be fiscally responsible.

"Since the beginning of the fiscal year the Department has been operating with an average overtime cost of $33,000 per pay period (every two weeks)," the Town Administrator said.  "Based on the program that we have put in place we hope to reduce that cost to $22,000 per pay period for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Even with this action in place, the Department may still require additional funding from the Finance Committee’s Reserve Fund to supplement the Department’s overtime account."

The town is hoping to get new recruits into the academy as soon as January 2013.

"I fully realize that reducing Engine Coverage is never a popular action but we do hope that by taking this action, earlier rather than later, we will be able to manage overtime costs in such a way that it will minimize the amount of temporary coverage reduction throughout the community," The Town Administrator said.

The Fire Department is right now in the process of filling five vacancies.  The Department is just waiting for approval from the academy to accept Dedham's candidates.

Mick McGinty December 06, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Millions for the square and public safety is neglected.
Kirby December 06, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The whole construct of fire fighting and town safety needs a complete review and overhaul.
Avon Barksdale December 06, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Apparently, the difference between capital and operating expenditures is lost on some people.
Paul T December 06, 2012 at 07:15 PM
"We have another truck," the Fire Deputy said. "We have enough to cover one incident and then from there we will just ask another town if they're available." They're playing roulette. Enough for one incident? And that in itself is BELOW the MINIMUM NFPA standard. Yes there's mutual aid from other communities, that only happens IF that community has apparatus available and you'll have an extended response. Do you realize that a fire increases its size X2 for every 30 seconds its left to burn? What you have to realize is when there is 1 incident, there are NO fire trucks in Dedham available to respond.
Mick McGinty December 06, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Dedham's portion of the great square project does indeed come out of the operating budget.
Dan O'Neil December 06, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Avon, what if your home was burning down and you were in jeopardy of losing everything and you had to hope another town could send a truck to save your home because the town shut an engine down? There are certain things you have to suck it up and pay for and public safety is one of those things. If they would just fill the jobs they needed to fill they wouldn't have the overtime problem that they have. That would bring the operating expenditure down and give them the capital they need. duh!
Dan O'Neil December 06, 2012 at 10:34 PM
It's all about priorities, I find it funny that the middleschool, Avery, the football field, the square, the search commitee for a senior center among other things are prioties, but public safety to be at the ready for these places if there is a real emergency and teachers to teach in these schools is not. Why we don't do what Braintree does and demand companies to fund an FTE for a fireman or policeman when they come and build here is beyond me. Like I said 2 steps forward three steps back.
Avon Barksdale December 07, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Dan, capital and operating funds never cross paths. Please educate yourself before commenting, your sanctimonious tone might not sound so ridiculous if you had any clue what you were talking about. I do thank you for your example of my home burning to the ground, that was sweet of you, you're apparently a great guy.
Avon Barksdale December 07, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Legacy Place and HSL both paid hefty mitigation fees as part of their location agreements. Probably not as much as they should have, but to suggest that they did not do so is inaccurate (surprise!). Oh look, there's an article on Patch about this: http://dedham.patch.com/articles/dedham-mitigation-committee-revises-application
steve December 07, 2012 at 04:03 AM
This town is deff going backwards no problem putting gas money and a car for the town administrator but leave our safety on the line . I don't know about anyone else but this town is going down the drain quick. We need some serious change from the top down quick the decisions being made are not in our best interests.
Avon Barksdale December 07, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Yes, if the town administrator doesn't receive a travel stipend that will magically fill open firefighter job slots that they are actively recruiting to fill. I see your logic.
Dan Teahan December 07, 2012 at 01:15 PM
If the town wants to develop route one like a city then they need to take that revenue and put it back into the public services and not beautification projects. Whats been the increase in manpower for the police and fire with the increased responsibility of Newbridge on the Charles and Legacy place.
Avon Barksdale December 07, 2012 at 03:05 PM
You raise a good point, I'd like to expound on it. There are several sources of revenue that come to Dedham as a result of Legacy Place, and the recurring sources (taxes) are the ones that should be invested in public services like police and fire. The shorter-term, non-recurring mitigation funds that were negotiated at the time of development have multiple purposes: increase capacity of public services, make physical improvements to town facilities, and also offset Legacy Place's potential negative economic impact on other town businesses. Mitigation funds that improve the economic health of the Square are vital to the overall local economy - none of us benefit of Legacy moves in and every local business closes down - and I have no problem with funds being used for projects that positively impact the vitality of the Square. How much of the recurring new tax revenues are invested in public services? That's a complex question that I don't know the answer to. It's not like there are separate bank accounts of town funds from Legacy Place and from everywhere else, and you can view line items of how Legacy Place-related tax revenues are spent. But this is a question that Keegan really should have a good answer for - it's important to know what the town has been able to do to support police, fire and public works that they would otherwise not have been able to do without additional revenue from Legacy Place.
Dan O'Neil December 07, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Avon, I've been here 30 years and this is a vicious cycle. They always do half assed backwards things. They also do a lot of great thing. I know thay Legacy funded some of these things, but those things were made priorities before public safety wwas a priority. I do payroll for a job. I deal with overtime costs in a hospital. We deal with medical leaves, industrial accidents and we deal with hiring freezes. Those things all equal more overtime. If staffed appropriatly of course you will still have overtime, but it is more managable and it frees up capital that canmaintain the numbers that are needed. My place is on the hook for 1.5 million dollars for overtime alone. As far as your house is connerned I'd feel that way about anyone's home. We shouldn't have to hope Westwood or Needham can bail us out because we won't fill jobs to use the engines we have. That's just rediculous and it's wreckless. As far as Mr. keegan is concerned though I still disagree with the insurance and gas stipend he gets taking that away doesn't get us a fireman hired. I do think the towns priorities are misplaced in a lot of ways. Remember too Keegan doesn't live here. Is fire dept in his town is probably fully staffed so what does he care. That is why the charter should never have been changed. He should have been forced to move here to have this job.
Avon Barksdale December 07, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The overtime issue and how capital projects are funded are completely unrelated.
Andrew December 10, 2012 at 05:00 PM
From the front page of the Boston Globe, dated Wednesday December 5th. "Governor Deval Patrick announced an array of state budget cuts to help cover a $540 million shortfall Tuesday, including a further reduction in the money local communities use to pay teachers and firefighters." Deval, can we have EBT reform? No he fights it every step of the way. The layabouts must be given their free tattoos and manicures. Jewelry stores and cruise ships must still accept MA EBT cards. These are Devals constituents. Deval, why must the state pay $265 million, and rising, per year for illegals to get free healthcare? Why those are Devals future constituents. Deval if you have to make severe cuts to legal honest tax payers why are you giving instate tuition rates to illegal aliens? We can't afford it. Please see the above excuse. Deval if we are in dire straights and need to slash local aid why are you so proud of the fact that you've increased the food stamp program by 400% in your 5 years? Oh that's anectotal evidence. If I need more revenue i'll just increase the tax's on the rich. You know, anyone making over 50K. God forbid that someone's home burns down due to the lack of staffing. I can only hope if it does, there's a Prius in the driveway with a Deval bumper sticker on it.
Avon Barksdale December 10, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Yes, EBT reform would generate $540 million. I see your point.
Andrew December 10, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Like usual you take a small sampling of a statement to critique. If you eliminated free healthcare for illegals then the shortfall would be halved. EBT reform would be another part of the solution. You really should have your mom change the wattage on the light bulbs in the basement. Maybe then you'll be able to read an entire comment.
Avon Barksdale December 10, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I always enjoy hearing statements like "if you eliminated free healthcare for illegals then the shortfall would be halved" as if we live in an economic vacuum. If we all of a sudden stopped admitting "illegal" patients to emergency rooms with life-threatening injuries and illnesses, there's a tangible economic cost to that decision. What, indeed, does it cost to not cure folks who have infectious, communicable conditions? How much new expense would be borne in terms of new cases (and the treatment required)? How much lost revenue from lost productivity from workers out sick? Imagine that, we live in a world of interconnected systems, each of which is significantly impacted by all of the others.
Avon Barksdale December 10, 2012 at 08:05 PM
And thanks for the advice, I read the entire comment and now I know that should have realized that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Paul T December 10, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I had a very positive and constructive meeting today with Town Administrator Keegan & Fire Chief Spillane. New ideas were presented to them to research. Hopefully within a short amount of time, Engine 4 will stay in service without the fear of a brown out.
Andrew December 11, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Flick.....flick......flick.... That's the sound of the last light bulb going out in your mom's basement. Spend your own money. Not mine.
Avon Barksdale December 11, 2012 at 03:19 AM
My mom's dead.
Andrew December 11, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Shame on you. You got the Obama phone, EBT card, I know your on SSI and your collecting yo mama's social security check. I guess the tax payers can be happy that you don't have section 8 housing.........yet. Make sure the electric bill is paid. You don't want to miss any of your silly tv shows.
Dan O'Neil December 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Here is the thing, If I entered Korea illegally I'd be put to years of hard labor, in india or Iran either imprisoned or executed, If I illegally came here I get a tax free business for 7 years, health insurance food stamps and a drivers license. There is something wrong with this country if we are giving this out to someone breaking the law and not filling jobs for people who save lives. I know Capital and overtime are tow different things Avon, but budgets don't take as big a hit if you staff properly. The less staff you have the more overtime to cover those unstaffed spots is needed. Bottom line this needs to be resolved.


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