BLANDFORD, Mass. (WGGB) — The Town of Blandford does not have a staffed fire department as of 10:00 p.m. Tuesday after the Fire Chief, along with seven volunteer firefighters, decided to sign a resignation letter.
That’s according to Fire Captain Tom Piper who tells ABC40 that they are all resigning because of a conflict with a couple members of the town’s selectboard who have been pushing to get rid of Chief Robert DeCouteau.
“The chief has absolute power over the department. He gets appointed by the select board and gets authority from the State Fire Marshall and two members of the select board in town have been trying to usurp some of the authority from the chief,” explains Piper, “Every meeting they’ve had we’ve had some member of the department saying you need to follow the law and two of the members still felt obligated to get rid of the chief. They wanted to have control over who was hired. There was a personality conflict. Chief answers to the select board on a judiciary basis, but not a personnel basis.”
Members of the Fire Department have been trying to resolve the conflict since May, but to no avail.
Captain Piper says the resignation letter will be going in the mail Wednesday morning, but officially goes into effect Tuesday evening at 10:00 p.m. They’ve contacted the town’s dispatcher and have notified neighboring communities who provide mutual aid to Blandford.
“As far as the department goes, we were happy with the chief, and if you’re removing him because you don’t like him were obligated to support him and that’s what we’ve been trying to get across to them over the past 4 months. If we’re not broke why are you trying to fix us?” asks Captain Piper.
ABC40 spoke with Select Board Chairman Mick Brennan tonight about the resignation and he told us that the town is protected by mutual aid and they’ll move forward with or without the firefighters.
The Select Board next meeting is scheduled for this Monday, August 26 at 7:00 p.m.