Forgea retires as Cummington fire chief; Dragon appointed successor

  • The Cummington Public Safety Complex SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 4/10/2019 3:45:09 PM

CUMMINGTON — Bernie Forgea has been a volunteer firefighter with the Cummington Fire Department since 1960. Now, after 37 years of serving as the town’s fire chief, he has decided to retire.

Forgea, 75, formally notified the Select Board of his retirement at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, and it was effective immediately. The board then appointed Adam Dragon as the town’s new fire chief.

“We had heard rumblings that he was thinking of retiring, but we didn’t expect it on Thursday,” Select Board member Bill Adams said, noting that elections and appointments were coming up in June.

Forgea said it was important to him to leave the position without any fanfare.

“I wanted to pick the time and the place, and to go out on my own terms,” Forgea said. “The timing was just right, and now the entire department is behind Adam.”

Dragon, 40, has served on the Fire Department for seven years and said he has been working closely with Forgea for the last three years.

“I think there will probably be an adjustment period but Bernie will still be around for help and advice,” Dragon said.

Though retired, Forgea says he plans to be available to assist Dragon as he transitions into his new position.

“I will stick around as long as Adam wants,” he said.

Forgea said he had great confidence in Dragon and that he also understands how difficult it is to be the chief of a volunteer fire department while also holding down a full-time job.

“The expectations these days are much higher than they were in the past, and it is asking an awful lot of an individual to take on all of this responsibility,” Forgea said.

Forgea said he never could have been a successful chief if he had not had the strong support of his family and the dedicated participation of fire department members.

“I want to help him. I don’t want him to flounder and fail — I want him to flourish and be successful,” Forgea said. “I know by this time next year he will have his own system in place.”

Dragon works as a motorcycle mechanic at Berkshire Cycle in Goshen, which he co-owns with his father, Brad Howe. He is married to Eliza Dragon and has two children, a son who’s 20, and a 10-year-old daughter.

His son, Michel Dragon, is also a member of the Cummington Fire Department.

“I enjoy my work with the fire department,” Adam Dragon said. “We are always learning and always trying to make it better and better.”

Select Board member Bill Adams said he is looking forward to working with Dragon.

“He is the new energy in the department,” Adams said. “He has all of the skill sets that it takes to be a good chief and it seems that he has the support of the rest of the department.”

Adams also said he thought Forgea had done a “superb job” as the town’s fire chief.

Last year, Forgea filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, shortly after Adams questioned his ability to do the job of fire chief because of his age.

The complaint was eventually dismissed in June after the commission said it had no jurisdiction over the matter because Forgea was a volunteer and not a regular employee of the town.

“I really do wish Bernie well,” Adams said on Tuesday. “I know he will do a great job mentoring the new chief through this transition.”

As for Forgea, his plan is to spend more time with his wife, Sue, who has been dealing with health issues.

“My wife has always been behind me all the way, but she needs some care now, and that is where I want to be,” Forgea said.

Throughout his tenure as fire chief, Forgea frequently sought recognition for the accomplishments of his firefighters, often notifying the Gazette whenever they received honors for their service, though he fervently shuns the spotlight himself.

Adamant that he wanted no public recognition of his departure, Forgea said he really wished the news of his retirement could have stayed out of the news.

“I don’t want any publicity or any of that other stuff, no parties, no cards, nothing!” he said, adding that he didn’t work as fire chief for accolades or parties and did not want to leave with any, either.

“Everything I did as chief I did as a public service, to serve the people of the town of Cummington,” Forgea said.




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