Fire Department – 2021 Annual Town Report

The year 2021 was a year of change in the Ashfield Fire Department. Under Fire Chief Del Haskins, the year began with the whole department involved in research, documentation, and meetings to provide information to a third-party review and recommendation report writer. The report was completed and submitted to the town by early March. Highlighted in the report, written by West Barnstable Fire Chief Joseph Maruca, was the top-down list of items that both the Fire Department, and the Town leadership, should address to keep Ashfield Fire current and successful in its mission to provide high quality emergency services to the residents of Ashfield. This report is available, in its entirety, on the town website.

Chief Haskins lead the Fire Department through June, and officially retired from the position on June 30th. Then Assistant Chief Alan Taylor was in charge for the first week of July, until the Select Board made the decision as to who would take over the Chief position, in its newly formed full time position. At the meeting of the Select Board on the evening of July 7th , I (then Fire Lieutenant Kyle Walker) was chosen to take charge of the department effective midnight that night, July 8th. I am honored to have been chosen by the Select Board and humbled by the outpouring of support for this decision from towns people, boards, departments and from the Ashfield Firefighter’s Association.

Another of the biggest changes that came from 2021 was the high call volume. In the calendar year this department responded to 285 calls for service. This included 128 fire/safety/smoke invest/fire prevention/other calls, and 157 medical/rescue related calls. This represents a nearly 60 call (or an approximate 25%) increase over the previous calendar year. To put this in perspective, there were a total of 226 calls in 2020, and 181 total in 2019. Some of this increase can be attributed to the pandemic, but much of it has very different causes. Ageing population, inclement weather, and an increase in service calls/ life safety inspections have had a big part as well.

In the first six months of 2021, Chief Haskins over saw and/or assisted with the completion and submission of 4 grants. Three of the four were approved and granted. One was a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant that was done in conjunction with Shelburne Falls FD, this grant awarded Ashfield Fire more than $60,000 in September to completely replace our SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) equipment. AFD received it 8 new packs, 8 masks and 16 air cylinders in December and placed them into service. A second FEMA AFG grant was not granted to AFD, this grant was written to replace our 30-year-old tanker/engine. Third, the Commonwealth’s DFS SAFE Grant for fire education, life safety and fire prevention in schools and in the senior community was granted to AFD, in the amount of $5974 in February. In August, AFD received the approval on a nearly $17,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Security Trust Fund. This grant was approved to be used to purchase 5 new sets of structure fire gear.

Knowing who is called and who will come to help when someone calls 911 is important in rural communities like ours. Please let me take this time to tell you who your Ashfield Firefighters are as of the end of 2021. Assistant Chief Matthew Haskins, 1st Captain Colleen Walker, 2nd Captain Michael Purcell, 1st Lieutenant David Christenson, 2nd Lieutenant Timothy Williams, FF Alan Taylor, FF Malik Johnson, FF Raymond Szewczyk, FF Tiertza-leah Schwartz, FF Donna Sarro, FF Amanda de los Santos, FF Lucas de los Santos, FF Raine Leue, FF Del Haskins (retired Chief), Aux. FF Deb Craven, Aux. FF Bill Burnett, Aux. FF Bill Perlman (retired in August). This incredible group of dedicated, trained, selfless, and ready to act firefighters make this department what it is.

We believe that it is vital for Ashfielder's to see and connect with the firefighters that serve their town, therefore we have strived to be leaders, and supporting cast when called upon by the residents and many active groups in town. This is why the Ashfield Fire Department is proud to continue to sponsor and participate in organized events in town. Halloween activities, Ashfield Baseball, children’s Christmas parties, Fall Festival, holiday and birthday parades, and Boy Scout occasions. Some of our own events like movie nights at the fire house, and fire education field days just to name a few.

If you are interested in joining our department as a firefighter, medical first responder, junior firefighter, or auxiliary member, talk to one of our personnel or contact the Fire Chief by phone or Email. We are always looking for more help. We meet every Wednesday evening, the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 pm for a business meeting, and each subsequent Wednesday at 6:30 pm for a training or drill.

As a department we wish to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to the towns people, boards, departments, town hall personnel and voters for your continued support this past year and years to come. Please know that we are here for you in your time of need and for any comments, questions or situations that arise. Call 413-628-4441 x2 anytime for non-emergency assistance or email firechief@ashfield.org. For emergencies or urgent assistance, call 911 or 413-625-8200 to speak with our dispatch center.

Respectfully Submitted,

Fire Chief Kyle Walker