Norwood Fire Department (Scoop McLean photo, colorized by the Norwood Historical Society)

Ask To Be Relieved Of Chore As Of Oct. 15th

Selectmen To Call In Chief For Conference Next Tuesday

Chief Alonzo Earle of the Norwood Fire Department advised the Board of Selectmen last night that members of his department have submitted to him a petition requesting that they be relieved of all ambulance duty as of October 15th.

With the exception of three men1 of the department qualified to drive and man the ambulance, all other members were stated as in agreement on this point and had signed the petition.

This would leave the town, if the men hold to the point that the request be complied with, without ambulance service as of the date specified in the petition, unless before that date arrangements could be made to transfer the responsibility of the service to another department of the town, or employ extra men. for this duty alone, or make any other adjustment of the problem.

Two members of the Fire Department were summoned before the Board last night to explain “how come.” They proceeded to do so, and when they had concluded, the Board voted unanimously to issue a similar summons to Chief Earle, who was not present last night, to appear next Tuesday night and explain somewhat in detail the operation of his department.

“What,” asked one member of the Board, “do these men want to do, other than sit and play cards? Do they want to leave this town without the use of the ambulance? Have they no civic responsibility or regard for public safety and welfare? Do they feel that their duty consists of watering the lawn beside the firehouse?”

He was severely critical of the attitude of the firemen that they be relieved of ambulance duty.

One of the firemen appearing before the Board stated that ambulance service was not the duty of a fireman, adding that it was a police job.

SERVICES NOT USED

Another member of the department, who was called in, charged that although he had training in first aid and had been taught the subject, and that he also had a good record as a driver of the old ambulance, he was never used after the new vehicle was purchased.

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“My superior was ordered not to assign me to the work,” he asserted. and he went on to say that a possible reason for this was the fact that he received too much favorable publicity to suit a certain official, who in fact, ‘‘did not want anyone who knew anything to get too prominent.”

He said that he took orders now from men with years less service because “I took the training qualifying me as a First Aid man, which I believed would lead to my advancement and which ordinarily would have if I had been treated fairly.”

One of the firemen maintained that the operation of the ambulance was entirely a police department forte, inasmuch as the appropriation for its purchase and maintenance came under the police department appropriation and budget.

The Selectmen had been considering offering the use of the ambulance free to firemen and police officers and their families when the firemen’s petition was brought to their attention last night. In fact, the general manager informed the Selectmen that after talking with the town council, he recommends that the police officers and firemen be given free use of the ambulance when occasions arise. Chairman Charles F. Holman indicated that the Board was planning to give its O. K.

The Selectmen were assured by one of the firemen last night that this matter had little or no bearing on their request to be finished with ambulance duty. “We can well enough pay when we want it.” he said, “although it was understood years ago that in return for our voluntary service, we would not be billed if we had occasion to call for its use by ourselves or our families.”

Selectmen that after talking with the town counsel, he recommends that the police officers and firemen be given free use of the ambulance when occasions arise. Chairman Charles F. Holman indicated that the Board was planning to give its O. K.

The Selectmen were assured by one of the firemen last night that this matter had little or no bearing on their request to be finished with ambulance duty. “We can well enough pay when we want it.” he said, “although it was understood years ago that in return for our voluntary service, we would not be billed if we had occasion to call for its use by ourselves or our families.”

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Members of the Board, after listening to the firemen’s side of the story, seemed for the most part in no tolerant frame of mind to treat lightly a matter so vitally affecting the public as the loss of the ambulance service even for a single hour.

WANTS WHOLE STORY

“Let’s find out what goes on,” urged Selectman Herbert Anderson. Sture Nelson suggested that the matter be referred to town counsel for an opinion as to just what the duties of the men are.

Chairman Holman was for an amicable adjustment of the entire matter if it was possible. “These men have pointed out,” he said, “that the ambulance detail has been objectionable for years. Perhaps we can divide the responsibility and duties, or make a more satisfactory adjustment of the ambulance detail. We can even divide the appropriation in order to place definitely the responsibility on both the police and fire departments.”

Chairman Holman did finally gain an “opinion” from one of the men that he felt that the men would not flatly refuse to take out the ambulance after October 15th. This was somewhat offset by a statement by the other that he had driven the vehicle for the last time and that he had so informed the chief.

That members of the Board were far from happy about the whole situation was evidenced when a Selectmen asked: “Do we have to kiss these people to make them do what is their simple duty and obligation to the public who pays them? Let’s have the head of this department in and find out who he assigns to certain duties, and why he permits a situation of this sort to arise.”

TERMICO “KID’S PLAY”

Selectman Harry Butters opined that the entire matter was “kid’s play.” He pointed out that ambulance duty comes under the division of public safety, just as firefighting does. “This is their job in Norwood, at least by custom.” he said, “and every member of the department must have known when he applied for a job on the department that he might be called upon to drive the ambulance. Never mind if it is in the book or not . . .it’s part of the job in Norwood.

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“It is getting to a point in this town,” he added, “where no one will do anything for the public good and as a civic duty. Do men want to be paid for every little extra service they may be called upon to contribute to the public welfare?” he inquired.

It was stated that the firemen had said, “and every member of the squad is seeking extra compensation for ambulance service.”

That Norwood will not be without ambulance service after October 15th, no matter what stand the firemen may take, was pretty clear before last night’s session ended. If the firemen are not going to drive it, the Selectmen are going to know why, and the General Manager was ordered to obtain the answer today.

If the stand of the firemen is sound, and much doubt was evidenced that it was. other arrangements will be speedily made. Meanwhile. the ambulance will be manned by the firemen until October 15th. Thai much was certain at the end of last night’s session.

October 9, 1945- The Norwood Messenger