‘Thrown into the fire’: Holyoke Fire Chief celebrates long career, retirement

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  • Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond, center, is greeted by Robert Barry, left, local coordinator for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Region 3/4, and Easthampton Fire Chief David Mottor during a retirement party for Pond at the Holyoke Fire Department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond, left, receives well-wishers during a retirement party for him attended by about 150 friends and firefighters at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski, right, emcees a retirement party for Chief John Pond, center, attended by Mayor Alex Morse, far left, and about 150 others at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowsk, at podium, speaks to about 150 people attending a retirement party for Chief John Pond in the department headquarters truck bay on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski, right, now acting fire chief, presents a white helmet to Chief John Pond at a retirement for Pond at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski, left, and Mayor Alex Morse chat before the start of a retirement party for Fire Chief John Pond at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • About 150 friends and firefighters attend a retirement party for Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond in the truck bay of the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Fire Commissioner George Mettey, right, congratulates Fire Chief John Pond during a retirement party for Pond attended by about 150 friends and firefighters at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, right, speaks at a retirement party for Fire Chief John Pond, center, at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski is at left. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond, kneeling, poses for a picture with Lucien Cote, 6, son of At-large City Councilor Rebecca Lisi, during a retirement party for Pond at the department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke City Council President Todd McGee, at podium, speaks to about 150 people attending a retirement party for Fire Chief John Pond in the department headquarters truck bay on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond, center, is greeted by Robert Barry, left, local coordinator for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Region 3/4, and Easthampton Fire Chief David Mottor during a retirement party for Pond at the Holyoke Fire Department headquarters on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/10/2020 5:21:50 PM
Modified: 1/10/2020 5:21:10 PM

HOLYOKE — Outgoing Fire Chief John Pond was about a week into leading the Holyoke Fire Department when the city was hit hard with a snowstorm in October of 2011.

Pond suddenly found himself as the city’s EMD, or emergency management director — a position he didn’t know the first thing about. After quickly learning what his new title’s acronym meant, Pond called together city departments and successfully helped Holyoke through the storm.

“From that point forward, I figured it couldn’t be any harder than that,” Pond, 55, said in an interview Tuesday. “Because I was just thrown into the fire right away.”

Having served as fire chief for more than eight of his 25 years at the fire department, Pond celebrated his final day of work on Friday at the department’s headquarters on High Street. Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski, who will succeed Pond as fire chief in February, will become acting fire chief on Jan. 11. Pond will take time off until his official retirement day of Feb. 11.

“We had some difficult moments over the past eight years, and through it all … John got his department and the city through those events with a sense of leadership and integrity,” said Mayor Alex Morse while standing next to Pond on Friday. “It’s in those moments of tragedy and uncertainty that leaders are defined.”

A 1982 graduate of Dean Vocational Technical High School in Holyoke, Pond joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and served as a combat engineer for six and a half years. When he came back from the military, Pond said, he worked with his brother in construction before he became a loss prevention detective for Stop & Shop.

Pond took the civil service tests for both the fire and police departments and worked as a reserve police officer in Holyoke while simultaneously working as a firefighter. He remembers a time when he responded to a domestic call as a police officer, only to be called to the same address a week later as a firefighter for someone having a medical emergency.

Pond eventually quit the police job to focus on his career at the fire department.

When Pond was a captain, he took an opportunity to be considered for an opening fire chief position. 

“To get to this spot? It’s beyond my wildest dreams to actually get here,” he said. 

As fire chief, Pond has overseen $5.4 million and federal and state grants for firefighter safety and staffing. During his eight years, Pond said he oversaw the hiring of 53 firefighters, the purchase of various equipment, the implementation of a private-public partnership with Action EMS, a new emergency vehicle technician and a new public safety radio system, among other achievements.

For Pond, it’s hard to choose just one accomplishment he’s most proud of. He said he is especially pleased with upgrades he made to the department’s front line fleet, which includes three new engines, two new ladder trucks and the purchase of a new quint, which is a combination of an engine and ladder truck.

“They’re all brand-new, within six years, which is pretty good,” Pond said. “Each typically lasts for 15 years at a minimum and 25 maximum.”

At Friday’s event, Pond received many gifts and honors, including a proclamation from Morse and another from state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke. The day’s presentation ended when Przekopowski ceremoniously gave Pond his chief’s white fire helmet to bring back home.

“He’s always very receptive to what we have to say, if we needed something, he would get it for us,” said Bill Dziok, assistant superintendent of the Holyoke Fire Department’s alarm division. “He was a great chief, he really was.”

Pond said his successes wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his coworkers. 

“It’s not about telling people what to do — it’s about having a good rapport with somebody,” Pond said. “We worked together to get it done.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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