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Almost all of a Mass. town’s fire department plans to resign Friday if concerns aren’t met

Rockport Fire Department officials say they don't have faith in current leadership, among other concerns.

Lisa Poole for the Boston Globe/file

Almost all the members of the Rockport Fire Department say they’ll quit Friday unless the town meets a list of concerns they have about the department.

In a letter delivered to the town’s selectmen on Monday, the close to 30 volunteer firefighters made five demands of the town, including removing the town’s Director of Emergency Services Mark Schmink, and eliminating that position altogether. The department also asked for the removal of Assistant Fire Chief Steven Abell Jr., allowing Fire Chief James Doyle to control the department, and to allow firefighters to train again with concern for COVID-19 safety.

The training piece the town has already agreed to, according to the Gloucester Daily Times. That decision was made during a meeting of town and fire officials on Wednesday.

The letter also expresses concern that the department could be changed from a volunteer force to one with full-time firefighters. The town has since cast aside this idea, according to a press release.

If the other demands aren’t met, about 95 percent of the department plans to retire by 6 p.m. on Friday, the letter says.

On Monday this letter was delivered to the Rockport Board of Selectmen. We, the members of the Rockport Fire Department…

Posted by Rockport Firemen Assoc on Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The remaining concerns behind the demands, outside of training, include that members don’t have confidence in the leadership of Schmink and Abell, noting that they have “stripped control from our chief and captain,” and alleging they don’t care about the well-being of the firefighters or officers.

Members believe the department is also mismanaged, noting that some members have been let go without being issued a warning first.

“In addition, Director Schmink has responded to active fire-scenes, ordered fire staff around and removed members from the fire scene,” the letter said, adding that Schmink doesn’t have fire command or EMT training.

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Members also say morale in the department is low, stating that 10 or more members were “dismissed” or have left. No one was added afterward, and the letter claims Schmink hasn’t been reviewing applications.

Along with stating that there are no plans to make the department full-time, town officials took issue with the letter overall.

“Regarding the letter, the Town of Rockport and its Board of Selectmen find this method to be inappropriate and not conducive to sharing concerns,” the town’s release said. “The Town hears the concerns raised by the staff and commits that it will review the matter using its normal processes and procedures.”

While the town said it hopes the firefighters won’t resign Friday night, the town has a plan to call on the Gloucester department to help in case of an emergency.

“I think I’m gonna try to talk my guys down off the ledge but I think I’m done, I don’t think I can do this anymore unless they […] bend some kind of answer before Friday and I’ll change my mind, but otherwise I can’t do it,” fire Captain Frank Favaloro told Boston25.

Posted by Rockport, MA Town Administrator on Wednesday, November 11, 2020

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