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Fire department walks out. Mass resignation of chief & volunteers in Blandford, MA.

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Elyisa Rodriguez, WWLP-TV:

After a major conflict with the town’s selectmen, the entire Blandford Fire Department walked off the job Tuesday night. 22News explains what will happen to the town without firefighters or EMT’s.

Tom Ackley, a volunteer firefighter, said, “We have gone as far as we can. We do not want to leave the town without fire protection and without medical protection but our options are not only limited, they’re pretty much used up.”

Tuesday night, Chief Robert DeCouteau resigned, taking the entire department with him.


“There’s going to be no fire department; the town will still be serviced by surrounding towns, mutual aid,” said Edward Laplante, a volunteer firefighter.

A move these firefighters say will increase response time from 4 minutes to more than 20.

These volunteer firefighters say Chief DeCouteau and town selectman Bill Lavakis have butted heads since he was put in the position.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Dickey

    Is this over the Chief’s criminal record? It would be nice to hear it straight from the chief’s mouth as to what is going on. Lots of politics here.

  • Billy Dinkins

    I looked this department up and their roster has 7 firefighters, one probationary firefighter, one lieutenant, one captain, and one chief. Heck, if a handful of them went out of town, you’d barely have enough to have 2 in-2out.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t be so quick to judge these men wrong for doing this, remember they live in the community as well! Sometimes it takes drastic measures to open eyes. Lets just hope it is resolved quickly and they are back protecting their friends and family’s!

  • Steve, a former Fire Chief

    The nearest mutual aid is at least 5 miles away over mountain roads with heavy snow in the winter. Don’t know what their problems are but someone better get things settled before the fire season gets there.

  • Fire21

    My first thought was how this compares to depts that operate on “pay-for-spray” basis. Is there some sort of responsibility to protect the community? The answer of course is No. There is no requirement for these guys to belong to the dept. As with any job, especially volunteer, they can quit any time they want with no repercussions. With pay-for-spray there are moral, ethical and personal considerations involved. I just wonder what these guys in Blandford would do tonight if the call was at their or a family member’s home?

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how many of these principled volunteers will still wear their VFD t-shirts around town?

  • Tom Kapolka

    Another good ole boys club mentality. It’s not your private club house to do what you want with. Do the job or get lost -children.

    • Tom Kapolka

      Unfortunately this mentality prevails in many vollie fire clubs. No one asked you to be a volunteer- do your job and stop crying about it. You have to answer to the public, not just your click of firehouse buddies. Look at this from the view point of the general public, not thru the eyes of the self absorbed members. Grow up!

  • http://facebook.comjeffreyredman jeffery redman

    This is not good they may have done the wrong thing the board may decide to close it all together! Its ok to support the chief but there are other ways to deal with it than this!

  • Tree

    I’m betting it’s the selectman on a power trip.

    He thought he could push the FD around because, hey, they wouldn’t walk out, would they?

  • Mr.Obvious

    What adifferencebetween this department and DCFD!

  • RJ in florida

    I have experience with these types of situations and they have a tendency to backfire especially if a big fire or some other emergency happens. Public support goes away then you spend years trying to get it back and if there is a civilian death god help you. The citizens should not have to live in fear of a lack of fire protection because some other department WILL step in and take it from you and anyone from the former department who tries to apply will be blackballed. Like other posters have said there is not too much detail here and I’m sure there is more to this than just a walkout. the media should have done a better reporting job

  • FLFF

    Some of these comments are unreal. If there is no compelling reason for theme to stay, they go! Those who do the work, obviously have the power. I don’t know what the deal is with their chief, whether it’s real or imagined but the guys who do the heavy lifting just voted with their feet.

    Q. Why is it that everyone needs a paid Police Dept. (I understand that’s not 100% true) but a volunteer FD is good enough? My point is, that’s the reality of living the rural life. The other realities: they aren’t walking away from a pay check, volunteers are in short supply and lastly, oh yeah, volunteers are in short supply.

    If someone is doing these guys or their chief dirty, someone’s going to have to come clean. I’m sure that the answers will be forthcoming sooner than we think.

    • The52nd

      Spot on, Brother. Some people don’t get it, and have a sanctimonious image of the fire service, both volunteer, and career. It’s just a job. The greatest job in the world, but a job. When it comes to volunteering for anything, people only stay as long as they’re enjoying it. Hell, I’ve volunteered for things and then quit on day one when it wasn’t as advertised. Something in Blanford made these guys all not enjoy being there anymore. The report doesn’t say what that is, but I’ll bet if it was a safety issue the crowd would be singing a different tune.

    • Just another firefighter

      Well said FLFF. This isn’t a case of the VFD and the community. When you are a volunteer, you are also the community and anyone in the community can step up and fill those shoes. The VFD is saving the taxpayers during tax season but my guess is the selectman has an issue with the dept. People who do not believe in volunteering their time do not understand those who do. They think that there must be something unethical going on behind the scenes. Looks like the selectman got his way and ran them off… at the expense of his communities fire service.