Pittsfield Fire Department now 9 stronger

Federal grant helped city hire nine new firefighters

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PITTSFIELD — For Michael Herman, joining the Pittsfield Fire Department is about hometown pride.

The 24-year-old worked as a part-time firefighter the past three years in the Eastern Massachusetts town Manchester-by-the-Sea. There, he said fellow firefighters often discussed the honor of working where they grew up.

"More and more that started to hit home for me," said Herman, who is the son of Eagle sports reporter Howard Herman. "And that's when I knew I wanted to ... try to come home and be a part of the community."

Herman is among the largest group of recruits to join the Pittsfield Fire Department in at least a decade, according to Capt. Neil Myers. Nine new members were appointed to the department by City Council on Tuesday night. If all nine complete training, the department will have 96 firefighters.

Recruit Kyle Bailey's grandfather, the late Eugene McCarthy, worked as a city firefighter for 29 years, retiring as a deputy's aid in 1981.

"I've always sort of followed in his footsteps, so here I am," Bailey said after his appointment. Now a licensed carpenter, the 29-year-old served 10 years in the Army, including 15 months in Iraq. He said he also missed the friendships he forged in the military.

"You know there is a brotherhood out there and this is a great way of keeping that camaraderie without being in the military," he said.

Salary and benefits for eight of the nine new hires will be paid for with a two-year $1.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Myers secured the grant, which was accepted by City Council in October.

The grant program called SAFER, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, is designed to bring staffing in line with National Fire Prevention Association recommendations: 15 firefighters on scene within eight minutes at 90 percent of fires.

If the additional nine firefighters complete training, Myers said the department will meet NFPA's standard about 80 percent of the time. Currently, the department meets that recommendation about 70 percent of the time, he said.

Starting salary for a firefighter is $37,623, or $39,901 if they are a certified Emergency Medical Technician, according to Michael Taylor, city director of personnel.

At the end of the grant the city will need to decide whether it will fund the eight positions. The ninth position replaced a retiree, Myers said.

Numerous family and friends celebrated and took photographs with the recruits inside City Hall after the appointments.

Next week the men begin 240 hours of training, which is set to end March 31. They begin full-time with the department after training.

"It's gonna get crazy," Myers, who leads training with Lt. Michael D'Avella, told the recruits. "It's not going to be any down time at all this six weeks. Be prepared for heavy work outs."

While congratulating the group and wishing them all lengthy careers, Acting Chief Robert Czerwinski also spoke about the potential perils of the profession.

"We understand that firefighting is a very dangerous job," he said. "It is our belief that these guys should come home each and every day."

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo


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