Safety |Audio |Terrorism| WTC/9-11|Media | Deaths  |Forums/chat  | Arson | Hot Rigs |Hot Shots | EMS| HAZMAT| Fire Photography
December 1, 2003
".....before Firefighter McNamara is buried...the "career" vs. "volunteer" stuff starts".......
 Chief Billy Goldfeder
Lancaster, MA Firefighter Martin McNamara will be laid to rest tomorrow, following services at Saint John's Church in Clinton, Mass. FF McNamara was killed fighting a house fire just a few days prior. 
We added that "welcome" part just in case there is any confusion that it is a CALL FIREFIGHTERS, or a VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS funeral and visitation only. After all-so many of our "Brothers and Sisters" get so confused on this issue.
Even before Firefighter Martin McNamara is buried-the "career vs volunteer" crap started. It's no secret that TRAINING can make the biggest difference in a firefighter, a company officer, a chief officer or an incident commander's ability to have a positive, versus not so positive, outcome at a fire. Good-glad we got that out of the way. 
It is also no secret that there are career firefighters who are much better trained than some volunteer or call firefighters. And-it is no secret that there are some volunteer firefighters who are much better trained than some career firefighters. Do MOST career firefighters get more and better training than most volunteer firefighters do, nationally? Probably. Since the majority of our nation's population is protected by career firefighters-odd's are there is more time and resources to get more training done-but not always. Sometimes-in career situations, there is no time or funding for training-or, it just doesn't happen. Within a couple hour drive of us are several large city career FD's...each handles training totally differently. Actually-some don't have any regular training-just like some volunteer fire departments. And one career FD near here-has regular and very aggressive training at the department and company level....just like some volunteer FD's...and another-has an excellent training program-and some of their Battalion Chiefs make sure the program gets done and some of them don't-and some of the Company Officers make sure it gets done-and some don't. Some actually fudge the training reports (Can you IMAGINE!?)....just like some volunteer FD's. Sounds familiar.
As far as the career, call or volunteer issue nationally-without a doubt and in my observation-the I.A.F.F. is the best organization looking out for their members health and safety. Well before it became "popular" to get into firefighter safety issues-the I.A.F.F. was working on it on behalf of their members. And even though they did it for the appropriate and understandable benefit of their Union members-ALL firefighters gained from it. Make no mistake about it-many of today's safety standards that protect career, call and volunteer firefighters got there due to the serious support and aggressive push from the I.A.F.F. There is no other "firefighter" organization looking out for call or volunteer firefighters nationally in the same manner. Most national groups or sections representing volunteer or call firefighters are too busy fighting amongst themselves to get anything directly effecting their memberships health and safety done. It's been that way for years.
Now-the headlines in the Boston area, as the start of an article (shown below) about the death of FF McNamara reads:
"Firefighter Training Questioned-Call, Volunteer Firefighters Defend Their Abilities"
It's the old issue of career firefighters, call firefighters and volunteer firefighters and their training. I can't stand this issue. Are ALL career firefighters better trained than all call or volunteer firefighters? Oh wait-we already covered that.
SO what's the point of all this? Simple. Odd's are, MOST FD's need to improve their fire training in LARGE amounts. Career, volunteer, call---whatever. You just can't label it without looking at each specific FD, region, battalion or firehouse. If at the local level, officers focused on the training needed for their members-and we are talking about STRUCTURAL FIREFIGHTING TRAINING including the RESPONSE to those incidents, we could reduce the injury and deaths. Have applicable training on every shift or drill night...train on  every occasion w/o whiney excuses. Don't drive like an idiot....wear seatbelts...look before backing....have enough staffing to get all the tasks big secrets.

Fixing stuff like that makes the problem get smaller. And the problem exists. You can have a great department training program and it takes one lazy or clueless company officer to make it not happen or you can have no department training-but a good company officer has a program anyway. Saying career, volunteer or call firefighters are "ALWAYS" anything is like saying that all politicians have our best interests in mind...ALWAYS.
But, from our standpoint-the real issue is that Firefighter Marty McNamara has not yet been laid to rest...but yet his wife, kids and relatives have to read this (see 1st article below) while still trying to deal with their horrible loss. The career, volunteer and call issue isn't the issue today. If Michelle Lucey-widow of Worcester (career) Firefighter Jeremiah Lucy can "reach out" to the widow of Lancaster (call) Firefighter Marty McNamara, Claire McNamara, why do we have so much trouble doing it? Maybe only "volunteer or call windows" should be reaching out to her...and "career widows" only reach out to newly created career widows? 
Sound stupid? It is supposed to.
Self serving "feeds" to the media raising question before qualified investigators determine WHY a firefighter died does nothing to help any cause, group or interest. Some may blame the media...but the media can't create this if they are only given supportive, positive and comforting comments. Self serving poorly timed comments: It could almost lead a reader to interpret that the death of this firefighter would be a good thing to help further a specific cause. When a firefighter dies-a firefighter dies. Political or self serving stuff can wait.
Firefighter's training questioned
Call, volunteer workers defend their abilities
By John McElhenny and Douglas Belkin, Globe Correspondent And Globe Staff, 12/1/2003

LANCASTER -- Martin McNamara worked a full-time job at a drilling company, but he wanted so badly to be a firefighter that he took night and weekend classes at the state firefighting academy to hone his skills and knowledge, a colleague said yesterday.

But like other call or voluntary firefighters with full-time jobs, McNamara had not taken the 12-week training program at the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy in Stow that many of the state's firefighting recruits attend, said Lancaster firefighter Mike Hanson.

Hanson, 32, a call firefighter for 14 years who helped train McNamara, said their training had nothing to do with McNamara's death while fighting a fire Saturday.

While the president of a state professional firefighters group questioned whether part-time firefighters are qualified to do the job, Hanson and others countered that volunteer firefighters go through training that is just as rigorous, and they are just as qualified as full-time firefighters. The only difference is their off-duty schedule, he said.

Full-time firefighters "work at the station eight hours or 12 hours a day, and we're on call 24-7," said Hanson, who works full-time at a military contracting company in Devens. "When the bell goes off, we respond." Just under half of the state's estimated 21,000 firefighters are volunteer or call firefighters. Though some do not go through the state academy in Stow, volunteers have to be certified with 190 hours of training on such topics as hydraulics and how fires start, according to the Massachusetts Call Volunteer Firefighter Association.

McNamara, a father of two from Clinton whose wife is pregnant, died in the basement of a multi-unit house on Mill Street after thick smoke prevented other firefighters from reaching him. He had celebrated his 31st birthday Friday.

Two firefighters from Clinton, Edward McNamara, who is not related to the victim, and Terrence Parker, were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the blaze. They were released Saturday. A third Clinton firefighter, John McLaughlin, was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where his condition was upgraded from serious to good, a spokeswoman said last night.

None of the building's six tenants were injured.

At the scene yesterday, state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said investigators were focusing on what caused the blaze, not on McNamara's training or equipment.

There was no reason to believe that a full-time firefighter would have survived, said Steven Hilliger, chairman of the Lancaster Board of Selectmen and a call fireman since 1986.

"What happened in the basement of that house could happen to any firefighter in the state," said Hilliger.

Firefighters in Lancaster are paid per call, with their pay varying based on the length of the call and their seniority as a firefighter, Hilliger said. Officials planned to meet with the town's insurance company today to determine a range of benefit options for McNamara's family.

Coan said call and volunteer firefighters are particularly important in the state's rural areas.

Massachusetts has a high percentage of full-time firefighters compared with other states, Coan said. Most departments in Massachusetts use the EMS system that requires a high level of training. Massachusetts has no statewide mandatory training standard for firefighters.

Thomas Burnett, vice president of the Massachusetts Call/ Volunteer Firefighter Association Inc., said the 190 hours of training required of volunteer firefighters include topics studied by permanent firefighters, including sprinkler systems, hydraulics, alarm systems, water flow, and the stages of a fire.

"We do the same job as permanent firefighters," Burnett said. "We have all the same skills and the same training."

Massachusetts has about 9,000 call and volunteer firefighters and 12,000 professional firefighters, according to figures from the volunteer firefighter association and the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. Some firefighters belong to neither organization. Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, said volunteer firefighters with full-time jobs in other fields don't have the same training as full-time firefighters whose specialized skills extend to terrorism and the handling of hazardous materials.

McCarthy stressed that McNamara was a hero who died trying to save others.

McNamara, whose father and grandfather were former Clinton selectmen, was remembered yesterday as a fun-loving, light-hearted man who loved his job and family. He leaves his wife, Claire, and two daughters, Molli, 5, and Elizabeth, 2.

A wake will be held today at the Philbin Comeau Funeral Home in Clinton and a funeral Mass is planned for tomorrow in St. John's Church in Clinton.


Grieving for a hero: Firefighters' widows gather to help devastated family
By Thomas Caywood and Jennifer Rosinski
Monday, December 1, 2003-BostonHerald.Com

Standing a few yards from where her volunteer firefighter husband died in a wind-whipped house inferno, Claire McNamara doubled over in unimaginable grief yesterday. 
     The new widow, whose third baby is due any day, could stand the sight of the gutted apartment house only briefly - its rafters exposed like a charred skeleton - before she rushed into the arms of a woman bystanders identified as an old friend. 
     ``The minute she is ready we are waiting for her,'' said Michelle Lucey, speaking for herself and the four other widows of the 1999 Worcester cold storage fire. 
     Lucey didn't know Martin ``Marty Mac'' McNamara, who died early Saturday hours after his 31st birthday, but she knows Claire McNamara's pain all too well. Fire claimed her husband Jeremiah and five other Worcester firefighters on Dec. 3, 1999. 
     ``The minute I heard about the Lancaster fire my heart saddened for the people who are left behind with the burden of pain I have to live with and my children have to live with,'' she said. 
     In Lancaster, Claire McNamara held her friend tightly and sobbed uncontrollably yesterday for a full minute before they slipped into separate cars and drove off. The grieving widow left with her husband's parents, Martin and Joanne McNamara of Clinton, to plan the funeral. 
     The firefighter widows who came to Lucey's side after the Worcester fire helped her realize she had to move on with her life - for herself and her two sons. 
     ``When your husband is taken away you feel like everything is over,'' Lucey said. ``It gives you hope seeing that other people have gone through it and made it through.'' 
     Meanwhile, Clinton Deputy Fire Chief John McLaughlin, who was overcome by smoke trying to reach McNamara in the blazing basement, remained hospitalized yesterday in stable condition with thermal burns and smoke inhalation, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said. 
     ``He will be there for some time,'' Coan said. Two other Clinton firefighters were treated and released from a local hospital Saturday. 
     Lancaster volunteer firefighter Michael Hanson, who had served as McNamara's training officer when he first joined the department three years ago, yesterday recalled his fallen comrade as an easy-going guy with a great sense of humor. 
     ``He'll be remembered as a great guy, a great firefighter,'' Hanson told reporters. ``He always thought about his kids and wife, and he loved doing this job.'' 
     Hanson said his fellow Lancaster call firefighters are leaning on each other to get through the tragic loss of their brother jake. 
     ``Be there for each other, that's all we can really do,'' he said. 
     McNamara is survived by children Molli, 5, and Elizabeth, 2. Claire McNamara, a nail beautician and high school cheerleading coach, is nine months pregnant with the couple's third child. 
     Throughout the day yesterday, red-eyed Lancaster volunteer firefighters stood silently on the street in front of the gutted three-story house on Mill Street while residents of Lancaster and Clinton drifted up to the scene to pay their respects. 
     ``He was an athlete and a loving father,'' recalled Jack Gorman of Clinton, who coached a young McNamara on Clinton's Legion baseball team. 
     ``It's a shock. It's a tragedy,'' Gorman said. ``He was just such a great kid. It was always about somebody else, never himself.'' 
     Funeral services for McNamara will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Saint John's Church in Clinton. Calling hours are today from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Philbin Comeau Funeral Home in Clinton. 
     The family has established The Martin ``Marty'' McNamara Memorial Fund at Leominster Credit Union in Clinton.