North Providence Fire Department -
Development of the Career Force
The first 10 permanent firefighters were hired in 1971 to ensure that each truck could respond more quickly during the daytime hours, when many of the volunteer firefighters were finding it difficult to get to the station rapidly for alarms. The philosophy was to have drivers for each apparatus Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m., and volunteers would arrive on scene to complete the manpower requirements. At the time, the following stations and apparatus were in service, to the best of my knowledge:
Centredale - Engine 1, Ladder 1
Fruit Hill - Engine 2, Rescue 2 (heavy)
Geneva - Engine 3, Engine 4
Lymansville - Engine 6, Rescue 1Ambulance, Rescue 1A heavy rescue
Marieville - Engine 5, Ladder 2
When Rescue 1 (Station 1), Rescue 2 (Station 2) and Rescue 3 (Station 5, now known as Station 4) were created around 1977, the Fruit Hill heavy rescue, Lymansville ambulance and Ladder 2 were discontinued, and the career manpower applied to the medical rescues. By then, manpower had been increased to two career men per truck.
Two men from each fire district were appointed as the first 10 men :
|Bernie Digiulio (Centredale) *||Bernie Charello (Geneva)|
|Ernie Digiulio (Centredale) *||Tony Caccia (Lymansville) *|
|John Mollo (Centredale) *||Tom Rossi (Geneva)|
|Pete Philips (Fruit Hill) *||James D'Amico, Sr. (Marieville)|
|John Silva, Sr. (Marieville)||Leroy Calise (Fruit Hill) *|
These became the first members of IAFF Local 2334. Gradually more men were added so that there would be two career firefighters for each truck on weekdays. The salaries of the additional men were funded initially through the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program to ease the budgetary shock for the town. When you think of how intimidating it can be to operate with two men per truck at a working fire, the words dangerous and courageous come to mind. The NFPA today recommends four men per company.
Nights and weekends were still covered by volunteers, and in fact, some of the career men remained active volunteers. In 1975, control of the volunteer force was relinquished by the five fire associations to the town, completing the consolidation of the North Providence Fire Department into one entity, under the first town chief, Chief Joseph Morrissey. At this time, the volunteers were organized under the call system, and assigned to rotating shifts to man the stations on nights, weekends and holidays. The position of Deputy Chief as a call firefighter was created, as well as the District Chiefs being in charge of the call firefighters at each station. Shifts were on a 4-platoon (A thru D) rotating basis, and weekends and holidays were 24-hour shifts, as the career force worked only on weekdays then.
The call system operated well from 1975 to 1986, insofar as the apparatus was well-manned 24 hours a day, ensuring about a 3-minute or less response time throughout the town. Company rivalries and friction were prevalent, and inhibited operations at times from running smoothly. In 1986, however, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act decreed that town employees could not volunteer a function to the town for which they worked, without overtime pay. So the career firefighters who happened to serve willingly as captains and lieutenants on the call system were forced to resign from the system overnight, which depleted the call system of valuable experienced leadership. It also removed the opportunity for firefighters who held the rank of private on the career force to serve as officers at night, which provided them with good training opportunities to further their careers by gaining experience in charge of fires.
The call system never recovered from this blow, as firefighters were then appointed to vacant positions of captain and lieutenant without the usual training and experience they would have had to earn. Also, frustrated call firefighters who saw town officials postponing the inevitable creation of a full-time career force, quit and were hired by other towns and cities. These further losses resulted in a manpower crunch that could not be alleviated by some members doing extra shifts, and for the first time since 1975, trucks were not always manned and were out of service frequently. It was not uncommon for four men to try to cover three trucks, or for an engine to roll out the door with one or two men. Rescue 2 was shut down around late 1987, and the district assigned to Rescue 1.
As a partial solution to the problem, several firefighters were hired to create two shifts of career men, A and B platoons, to work four days on, four off, seven days a week from 0600 to 1800. This alleviated the problem of unmanned trucks at the beginning and end of call shifts, when men were coming on or off their regular jobs and trying to get to the stations on time. In June 1988, the town hired a group of FF-EMTs to man the rescues 24 hours a day. For the first time, career firefighters were working in the stations alongside call firefighters. This resulted in a lot of friction, as the chain of command was not well-defined or respected. One year later, in August of 1989, about 60 call firefighters out of about 100 were hired to the career force, and the call system ended.
Today the career force operates 3 engines, one ladder, 2 rescues, a marine company, and a squad truck. The number of calls is greater than ever (7,000), and the apparatus fewer than ever before. The members of Local 2334 face this challenge and others with professionalism and determination to provide the best protection of life and property possible to the citizens of North Providence.