Firefighters Are at the Heart of Heat Wave

Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Transcript Staff

Winthrop Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Paul Flanagan was happy to report this week that the town’s emergency contingency plan  to provide three cooling stations during the worst of last week’s record heat wave were not extensively used by residents..

Unfortunately, that didn’t mean an easy week for local firefighters.

“At the cooling stations, they were pretty filled during the daytime hours,” said Chief Flanagan. “The Senior Center of course was full both days (Thursday and Friday), and several people utilized the station at Golden Drive during the daytime as well, but there was no need to man those shelters during nighttime hours.”

Flanagan also noted that third cooling shelter opened at the Viking Gardens complex was virtually unused.

“We had the town’s MRC (Medical Reserve Corps) on standby, in case it became necessary to staff those centers during nighttime hours,” but the people who came in out of the heat during the daytime, all wanted to go home at night, so there was no need.”

To inform residents about the establishment of the cooling stations, the town activated its CodeRed emergency notification system, and residents were notified by cell phone, home phone, text and email about the three centers early Thursday afternoon, right after Flanagan had them opened.

“I wish I could say that was all of the excitement we had,” noted the chief wryly. “Beginning Thursday, our firefighters went on 48 runs, including two small house fires in Winthrop, a mutual aid response to a fire on Congress Street in Chelsea and we had a crew that spent five and a half hours at the tanker fire in Saugus on Saturday morning.”

In the midst of it all, the department also staffed an honor guard at the wake and funeral of one of their own, retired 35-year veteran firefighter John Murphy who was buried last week.

“On one of the fires we responded to, we sent guys in their dress uniforms,” noted Flanagan. “We had the best dressed attack force on the North Shore that day.”

The two fires in town included a small fire at a single-family home and another small fire at a 15-unit apartment building. The Chelsea fire was also a large residential building and in Saugus, Winthrop firefighters were assigned to fight the tanker fire in the Vine Street neighborhood, where the fire claimed one business and damaged a single-family home there.

“Our crews did a very good job in some difficult weather,” said the Chief. “It was quite a week.”

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