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Cummington Fire Chief receives state accreditation

Cummington Fire Chief Bernard Forgea, standing recently by a fire engine in the Cummington Public Safety Complex, earned state accreditation as a fire chief on Jan. 15. He is one of 124 fire chiefs statewide who are accredited.
LAURA RODLEY

Cummington Fire Chief Bernard Forgea, standing recently by a fire engine in the Cummington Public Safety Complex, earned state accreditation as a fire chief on Jan. 15. He is one of 124 fire chiefs statewide who are accredited. LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

Bernard Forgea, Cummington’s fire chief for the last 31 years, received accreditation from the Massachusetts Fire Service Commission on Jan. 15 after meeting state requirements for education, training and experience.

“It’s not something you can buy,” said Forgea. “It takes training, continuing education.”

Forgea said he wasn’t surprised when he learned he had been granted accreditation.

“I was confident in my application,” he said. “I had more than enough to meet their requirements. I’m proud of it, happy about it.”

Forgea has lived in Cummington his entire life, except for 13 months when he was in the U.S. Marine Corps, and has served as the town’s fire chief for almost half of his 68 years.

He became an EMT in 1974, before taking on the duties of fire chief, he said. He said he listed his EMT experience in his application for accreditation, as well as his memberships in the Western Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association and Hampshire County Fire Chief Association.

Along with information about the amount of time he served in his positions and what training he received, the application required a letter from the Select Board and two letters of reference from people Forgea knows on a professional basis, he said. He listed three, including recommendations from former secretary of state and Cummington resident George P. Shultz and Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington.

“Bernie Forgea is a long-serving, experienced chief in the Hilltown region and very respected throughout the state for his service and knowledge of firefighting. I’m very happy to have recommended him. It is a real honor for him to secure this,” said Kulik, speaking at home Monday. He noted Forgea’s service throughout the region, to Goshen-based Highland Ambulance EMS Inc., his leadership in getting surplus fire equipment for other departments, as well as his work organizing and leading interdepartmental mutual aid training for three years.

Forgea has a bachelor’s degree in labor management from Empire State College in Rochester, N.Y., and worked for 39 years as the emergency response administrator for Western Massachusetts Electric Co. He is now retired from that position.

Forgea said being credentialed hasn’t changed his duties as fire chief.

“It raises the level of professionalism with fire chiefs, raising the bar a little bit higher, like police going to academy,” Forgea explained. “It demonstrates to other departments you can achieve this if you want to. I haven’t had time to do it before now.”

Out of the state’s 366 fire departments, 124 fire chiefs have been credentialed, according to Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal’s office. “Ten per cent of those are from western Mass. That’s a great representation,” she said. Westhampton Fire Chief Chris Norris, who works for the Northampton Fire Department, is one of them.

“You always wonder how you measure up to everyone else,” Forgea said.

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New EMTs

The Plainfield Volunteer Firefighter Association celebrated its two newest emergency medical technicians at its meeting on Jan. 10. Debbie Stevens passed the Massachusetts EMT-Basic exam, which she took in Springfield. Stevens, along with Ellen DuPont, are Plainfield’s newest EMTs. Both are working mothers who attended classes at Greenfield Community College to become certified.

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Library celebration

Come as your favorite book character during “Love Your Library,” an event held at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg on Feb. 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be scavenger hunts for all age groups, a raffle of 12 homemade meals and a concert by JMPT Quartet. Attendees can also make a valentine, decorate a cookie for a sweetheart or snack on food items donated by Williamsburg restaurants.

Tickets are $5 each or $20 for a family.

Laura Rodley can be reached at lrodley.gazette@gmail.com.

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