Deputy chief sworn in to lead Hatfield Fire Department

  • A cake for new Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty rests on a table before his swearing-in ceremony Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • New Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty is sworn in by Town Clerk Lydia Szych, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • New Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty, watches as his wife, Kerry, attaches collar pins during a swearing-in ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • New Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty, gets a hug from his daughter, Shannon, 7, after his swearing-in ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The wife and daughter of new Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty, who are Kerry and Shannon, 7, show the fire chief badge to onlookers during a swearing-in ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • New Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty is congratulated by Select Board members Ed Jaworski, center, and Brian Moriarty after being sworn in by Town Clerk Lydia Szych, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • New Hatfield Fire Chief Robert Flaherty, poses for pictures with his wife, Kerry, and daughter, Shannon, 7, after a swearing-in ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 at the Emergency Services Building. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The wife and daughter of new Hatfield Fire Chief Robert J. Flaherty Jr., Kerry and Shannon, 7, pin the fire chief badge to his shirt during a swearing-in ceremony Thursday at the Emergency Services Building. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2020 11:15:28 PM
Modified: 2/13/2020 11:15:17 PM

HATFIELD — After nearly two decades as a Hatfield firefighter, and most recently serving as its deputy chief, Robert J. Flaherty Jr. has taken the reins of the 26-member department.

Flaherty officially began his tenure as fire chief just before 4 p.m. Thursday following a swearing-in ceremony at the William Belden Training Room at the Emergency Services Building.

“I’ve been here just under 20 years and was looking for a new challenge and to see if I could lead the department,” Flaherty said of being named to the position by the Select Board.

Town Clerk Lydia Szych handled the swearing in, after which the badge and collar pins were affixed to his uniform by his wife, Kerry, and daughter Shannon, with guests celebrating with a cake.

Flaherty succeeds Stephen P. Gaughan, who led the department for the past four years before announcing last fall that he would be stepping down.

A one-year contract with the town will pay Flaherty $71,000, Select Board Chairman Brian Moriarty said.

Though the department relies on on-call members, as well at least one part-time deputy chief, it has handled, on average over the past three years, 325 medical calls and 135 fire calls annually.

Flaherty said the members of the force include three people trained as Advanced Life Support level paramedics, including himself, and eight others who can provide EMT medical care on board the ambulance.

The department has one ambulance, with a new replacement ambulance expected to arrive later this month, three front-line fire engines, a brush truck, a tanker and various support vehicles.

As he begins his new job, which will require him to leave his position at the Amherst Fire Department, Flaherty said he will be focused on bringing back consistent Monday through Friday office hours, and working additional hours as needed.

Flaherty said a lot of his focus will be coordinating with Town Hall staff, including the building and electrical inspectors and colleagues in the police department on training, such as for CPR, and handling a variety of smoke detector inspections and inspections for businesses with liquor licenses and other commercial establishments.

The fire chief is also the emergency management director for Hatfield.

“As emergency management director, I will work with the town and MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) to create continuity and contingency plans,” Flaherty said.

In his leadership role, Flaherty said he hopes to provide professional development opportunities for other firefighters, including offering fire officer training, and allow them to take on administrative roles, which will help them learn more about how the department runs.

Flaherty said while the department is well staffed, and most of the time enough members respond to calls to get the fire engines on the road or the ambulance to respond to medical emergencies, more are always needed.

The town, he said, has the ability to sponsor people to train to become EMTs, with a commitment of two years to the department following this education.

Flaherty said those interested in joining the call force can drop by the station anytime, with training occurring most Thursdays at 7 p.m. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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