Chief Brodeur Looks Back on 13 Years as Head of Falmouth Fire Rescue
By: Brent Runyon
Falmouth Fire Rescue Chief Paul D. Brodeur will retire next month, after 13 years as chief and 34 years with the department, but he will not disappear from public life altogether.
“I’ve been thinking seriously, and people have been asking me about it, and I think I will run for selectman,” Mr. Brodeur said yesterday from his office at fire rescue headquarters.
Although it is still months away, he said he will likely run for selectman during the next election in May 2011, when Brent V.W. Putnam’s and Ahmed A. Mustafa’s current terms end.
“I think the town needs some leadership,” he said. Disgruntled citizens should be listened to and included in the political process, he said.
Mr. Brodeur turns 65 on October 9, and must retire, according to state law. His last day of work will be October 8.
Town Manager Robert L. Whritenour Jr. said Mr. Brodeur oversaw the department during a key transitional period from a fire-based department, to an emergency medical-based department.
When he became chief, Mr. Brodeur instituted a policy requiring that all the new firefighters should also be certified paramedics, greatly increasing the amount of medical expertise in the department, Mr. Whritenour said.
Mr. Brodeur also led the local emergency planning committee, which prepared Falmouth for a variety of disasters, he said.
“He was really a rock in any emergency,” Mr. Whritenour said. “I’ve been honored to work with him.”
During his 13 years as chief, Mr. Brodeur said he is most proud of keeping open communication within the department, including a participatory management style, in which firefighters of any rank could come into his office to discuss ideas with him.
“I’m not an ‘I’ person,” he said. “Egos sink many ships.”
Also as chief, Mr. Brodeur created the fire prevention office, and added a fire inspector to work with the town’s building department.
Mr. Brodeur also hired the department’s first civilian dispatchers and a full-time ambulance billing clerk, greatly reducing the number of unpaid bills and increasing revenue for the town. Falmouth Fire Rescue Department ambulance receipts brought in $1.4 million in revenue to the town’s general fund in Fiscal Year 2010, he said.
When he started as chief, the department had two active ambulances and a spare. Now, the department has a total of five ambulances, two new in the past year.
Also added to the fleet were two new fire engines and a new brush breaker, all from a $1.85 million debt exclusion.
During his tenure he also secured funding for the refurbishment of the department’s ladder truck.
He added a new vehicle to the fleet, the “Flying Paramedic,” which is dispatched to medical emergencies at the same time as an ambulance, and can then continue onto another emergency if needed.
In terms of physical infrastructure, Mr. Brodeur oversaw the renovation of headquarters on Main Street, which was completed in 2002.
He said he is also proud of supplying each firefighter with two-way radios they can have on them at all times, so they can respond to emergencies wherever they are, even when they are off duty.
One project Mr. Brodeur was never able to complete was the construction of a new opening for the garage doors at the North Falmouth station. The project was part of last year’s capital debt exclusion that failed at the ballot in May.
During his years as fire chief, and as a Town Meeting member, Mr. Brodeur has become well known for his sense of humor.
Within the department, he is credited with coining the word “geets,” which is firefighter slang for money. Mr. Brodeur said he is not sure where he picked up the word. “Gotta have the geets. I don’t know. I just picked it up. It took off like fire.”
At his last Town Meeting as chief in April, his presentation included sound effects of fire engines and sweeping animation, which lightened an otherwise somber atmosphere.
“Plan your presentation and talk with a true-minded heart,” he said, as way of advice to other presenters.
Mr. Brodeur is also the elected chairman of the Falmouth Retirement Board, a position he will hold at least until the next election in 2011.
Mr. Brodeur is from Holyoke originally. He served in the United States Navy from 1967 to 1971 as a second class aviation boatswain’s mate. After that he worked for New England Telephone for three and a half years, before passing his civil service exam and being hired as a Falmouth firefighter in 1976.
He decided at that point to stay in Falmouth until his retirement, but now he will stay “until the cows come home,” he said.
He rose through the ranks, being promoted to acting lieutenant in 1981, and captain in 1983. He became a paramedic in 1984, and was the first officer in the department to achieve that certification. He was promoted to deputy chief in 1987, before becoming chief in 1997.
He met Virginia Anderson, who is a nurse at Falmouth Hospital, while working as a paramedic. The couple married in 1986. They do not have any children together, although she has two children from a previous marriage.
Mr. Brodeur is an avid bicyclist and has two American cocker spaniels, JimmyB and Bailey of the Rumpole, a takeoff on the name of a British television series.