Freetown chief fights fire alone due to staffing shortages

FREETOWN, Mass. (WLNE) – Freetown’s fire chief had to put out a camper fire alone on Saturday due to staffing shortages and fire personnel tied up on other calls.

The Freetown Fire Department got the call for a fully engulfed camper on North Hillside Street on Saturday afternoon. The fire spread to an adjacent home due to the intensity of the fire and how close the camper was to the home.

At the time of the call, the department was handling multiple medical emergencies, and both ambulances and their crews were transporting patients to local hospitals.

“It just so happened these calls came in one after the other so basically it depleted our resources and the big one came in after everyone was already tied up,” Chief Gary Silvia said.

Silvia hopped aboard Engine 1 and headed for North Hillside Street to find the fire rapidly spreading.

“The camper was fully engulfed, the house started…it went into the attic. So the attic was on fire and the front office/bedroom was on fire. With the help of the police officers, (we) got the hose line in operation and quickly knocked down the bulk of the fire.”

Silvia said he knew help would come eventually and it did. Dispatch called Berkley’s fire department and they responded to the scene. The Lakeville Fire Department covered the station.

“Relying on some seriously aggressive one-man firefighting skills and with some help from the automated features of the department’s newest apparatus, Chief Silvia was able to successfully bring the fire under control before it spread further into the home,” the department wrote in a Facebook post.

The chief said it’s hard to find adequate staff for the summer months.

“This time of the year you’re always gonna have a lot of people on vacation, a lot of people taking time off, plus it’s a Saturday… you got kids playing their sports leagues and whatnot.”

When asked if he thinks his department needs more firefighters, he said yes.

“We’re always trying to get more call firefighters to join the fire department and we constantly campaign for them. I think most small towns do. You know you get them trained up… two or three years… they’re either picked up by another department, a bigger department, or they go to live someplace else.”

On social media, residents are calling him a hero. But Silvia said he did what any other firefighter in his shoes would do.

“I don’t think it’s anything different than any other firefighter or fire chief in any other town would do. People expect you to put the fire out, so you put the fire out. It goes back to your training, you start, it’s muscle memory… you get the pump in gear, stretch the line, put the fire out.”

No one was injured in the fire. The cause is still under investigation.

WLNE-TV 2021

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