By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Three new firefighters began serving with the Gloucester Fire Department this week.
The three, Kyle Benson, Wellington Machado, and Dean DeCoste all started on the job on Monday.
All are Gloucester residents who have served in the Marine Corps, National Guard and Coast Guard — and their hiring fills three of five vacancies in the city’s Fire Department and brings staffing levels up to a point where Bay View Fire Station will be open more regularly, department officials said Thursday.
According to the city’s Personnel Department, Machado served with the National Guard, was deployed in 2010 to Afghanistan and is also fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
Benson served with the Marine Corps for four years and was deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a certified Emergency Medical Technician, EMT, and worked for the Manchester Fire Department, according to the department release.
DeCoste served in the U.S. Coast Guard and has EMT certification.
The trio fills vacancies left by the loss of firefighter Mike Smith, who passed away in July, and two firefighters who left for other work in Boston. The remaining vacancies came from recent retirements. The two remaining positions are still in the hiring process.
The department, said former union president Phil Bouchie, needs all five filled before it’s back up to full staff and can keep all stations, including Magnolia, open. But the three new firefighters will help keep the Bay View fire station. Lately, he said, shifts have been one man short of the 16 firefighters needed to open it.
“It’ll definitely open the station more often than it is open now,” Bouchie said.
That will be the case — at least until the three have to head to the fire academy in July, Fire Chief Eric Smith confirmed. This week, the three began an internal three week training program, he said. At the end of that, they’ll be able to serve, under supervision of senior members.
Smith said he’s looking for a way to shorten the time for hiring and training.
“So we can get folks in and get them into the academy quickly so they have all the training we want them to have before they get out on the line,” Smith said.
Smith said he’s glad the three firefighters are local. He said there is an advantage to hiring firefighters who live close by. They’ll be serving a town they’re familiar with, he said, and know the people, and the streets. But, that isn’t the only advantage, he said.
“When we call back on a second alarm and I have people in town who are able to come to the station, (they get there) in some cases quicker than I can get a mutual aid company,” Smith said.
Bouchie said residents stay in the department. He added he’s glad to see three veterans were hired, as well.
“They went off to serve their country and they want to serve their city, now they’re given that opportunity,” Bouchie said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.