Mass. fire dept. hires 4 new firefighter-paramedics with help of grant

A federal grant will pay for 75 percent of the costs of the four firefighters for two years and then 35 percent of the cost in the third year

By George Austin
The Standard-Times

SOMERSET, Mass. — The selectmen approved of the appointments of four additional firefighters last week, with much of the cost for them being paid for by a grant.

The new firefighters include Derek DeMelo, Matthew Fournier, Thomas Remy and Samuel Finney.

"They're excited," Fire Chief Scott Jepson said of the new firefighters. "We're excited. This is a huge change. History is being made here."

The addition of the four firefighters/paramedics will bring the total at the Fire Department to 35. The department had had 31 firefighters since 1977.

Chief Jepson said he had 18 applicants for the job. He said 12 of them were eligible for the positions. Chief Jepson said that he and the Fire Department's medical director, Wayne Chistiansen, interviewed 11 of the applicants. He said one applicant did not show up for the interview. Chief Jepson said that he and Town Administrator Richard Brown interviewed six finalists for the jobs and chose the four that were recommended last week.

The appointments are effective Dec. 30. Chief Jepson said the appointees have already passed physical examinations and criminal background checks.

Remy, a 2006 graduate of Somerset High School, has worked for Fall River Medical Service as a paramedic since December of 2016. He also has worked for Rehoboth Ambulance, Eascare Ambulance and STAT New England. At Charlton Memorial Hospital, he specialized in patient care and blood draws, electrocardiograms and vital signs, splinting and wound care. He has also been trained to care for psychiatric patients.

Fournier has been a paramedic for the Fall River Fire Department since 2016. He has also been an emergency medical technician for Eascare Ambulance, a volunteer firefighter in Swansea and a corrections officer for the Bristol County Sheriff's Department. He has skills in advanced life support, fire prevention, ice rescues, emergency response procedures, cardiac monitors, emergency driving, medical terminology and hazardous materials training.

DeMelo has worked as a paramedic for EasCare Ambulance since 2009, for the Fall River Fire Department Emergency Medical Service from 2010 to 2013 and for the Dartmouth District One Fire Department from 2006 to 2016. He has attended the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. He is a nationally registered emergency medical technician and paramedic and is certified in advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and as a hazardous materials first responder.

Finney has been a call firefighter in Lakeville and Freetown. He has been a paramedic for Brewster Ambulance Service since 2015. Finney was a fire and emergency medical dispatcher for the Swansea Fire Department. He was a member of the Junior Firefighters Program in Dighton. Finney has experience working in fast paced 911 emergency medical services in the cities of Brockton, Taunton and Fall River. He is a nationally registered paramedic and is currently studying at Bristol Community College for an associate degree in fire science.

A federal grant will pay for 75 percent of the costs of the four firefighters for two years and then 35 percent of the cost in the third year. That Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant of $731,032 has been awarded to the Somerset Fire Department by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Voters at a Special Town Meeting on Dec. 3 approved of $46,000 that is the town's matching funds for the grant to pay for the four firefighters for the first year. The town is not required to keep the four firefighters after the grant is up.

For the appointees who have not attended the Firefighting Academy, Chief Jepson said they can perform all emergency medical services with the rescue truck and can do outside firefighting, but can not do interior firefighting.

Chief Jepson said the next Firefighting Academy they can attend is not scheduled to start until July, but said they would be given priority because the town hired them with the SAFER grant. But he said another Firefighting Academy may be held in Fall River before that time.

Selectmen Chairman Holly McNamara said the Town of Somerset is in a financial transition but feels the four new hires is feasible because of the grant.

Selectman Steven Moniz said the Somerset Fire Department always gets a lot of applicants when there are openings for jobs.

"Everyone wants to come to our town and there's a reason for that, because we are the best," Moniz said.

A group of firefighters from the Somerset department came to the selectmen's meeting last Tuesday to see the four new firefighters get appointed.

Chief Jepson has said that the additional firefighters/paramedics will help the Fire Department to run its second rescue truck more which will bring in more revenue from ambulance fees. The town pays for the cost of 11 of its firefighters through ambulance fees. Chief Jepson has also said that hiring the additional firefighters will save on the cost that the department pays for overtime and also will mean that firefighters will have to go out on calls by themselves less.

Chief Jepson said a pinning ceremony for the new firefighters will be held at a selectmen's meeting after the first of the year.

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