MANCHESTER — The Manchester Fire Department opened its doors Monday to an interim fire chief who will fill the position while an appointed search committee spends the next 90 to 120 days choosing a permanent fire chief for the town.
Robert Loomer will sit as fire chief until the selectmen appoint a permanent chief from a pile of applicants, according to Town Administrator Wayne Melville.
Loomer, who most recently retired from a nine-year stint as fire chief in Wayland, is an instructor at the Massachusetts Fire Academy. Before his work in Wayland, Loomer had also served as a captain with the fire department in Maynard.
Melville described the interim chief as very qualified for the position, based on Loomer's prior experience.
"Wayland is a much larger community. Their department is about twice as big as Manchester," Melville said. "They have more runs, they get more involved."
Loomer was not available for comment Monday; Manchester was among the departments that provided aid and station coverage for Glocuester, whose firefighters battled a major house blaze on Ashland Place.
The town found Loomer through New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc. — the consulting firm that served as an initial clearinghouse for applicants seeking the Gloucester fire chief job, and then steered Gloucester to its acting chief, retired Needham Fire Chief Robert DiPoli.
Municipal Resources Inc. keeps a list of retired chiefs who are qualified to act as interim chiefs, and assigned Loomer from that list to the Manchester Fire Department.
Manchester selectmen, meanwhile, met Monday night to interview candidates and form a search committee for a permanent chief to succeed Andrew Paskalis, who retired at the end of June.
The committee will consist of Melville, a retired area fire chief, an active local chief, three Manchester residents, and Selectman Paul M. Barclay.
According to Barclay, two Manchester firefighters have applied for the position, but the department received applications from job-seekers nationwide up until the July 2 deadline.
"There are some that are local, there are some that are from out of state, and there are some from across the country," Barclay said.
Melville said the committee will meet today to formally kick off its duties in the search. Melville will distribute packets with information about all 35 applicants to the committee members, and the members will begin reviewing the information and prepare to interview candidates, according to Melville.
According to the town's search criteria, the chief's position requires a bachelor's degree in fire science, business, public administration or a related field, with 10 years related work experience, and a minimum of five years in a command or supervisory position.
The posting on the town's website also specifies that "any equivalent combination of education, training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities to perform essential functions of the job" will be adequate, opening the door to applicants who do not meet all of the specified qualifications depending on various department structures.
Melville estimated that more than half of the applicants for the chief position meet the job qualifications. He said the variety in experience, including some younger applicants with less leadership work, is normal and expected for this type of opening.
"People apply for a job in Manchester or elsewhere because they are climbing on their career path," Melville said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-238-7000, x34561, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.