PEABODY — Twenty-seven new recruits were sworn in as reserve firefighters in a ceremony at the Higgins Middle School.
Fire Chief Joseph Daly said this is only the first step toward getting back to a fully-staffed department.
“This is such a big boost to our department,” said Daly. “We’ve been working at this for 10 months and it’s so exciting to see these kids embarking on new careers. Even before the pandemic, we were short, and then it got worse with COVID. There was so much fiscal uncertainty, the academies were shut down so today will go a long way toward getting back. This is a fantastic group of kids, a really special group.”
“Honestly we didn’t intend to put this many on but as the interviews went on, one kid after another was so special. We kept thinking there has to be one who would be subpar, but everyone we interviewed was incredible,” Daly continued.
Six of the recruits are related to current department staff, while one, Tanya Lopes, is on track to become only the second female firefighter in the department’s 154-year history.
“I haven’t met her yet, but I am thrilled to have another female in the department after 24 years of being the only girl,” said Captain Tracy Collins. “I don’t know if she’ll be in my group, but I look forward to sharing some of the things I’ve learned over the years, things that I really had to learn on my own as I was the only female. I hope to be able to make it easier for her.
“I’m also thrilled that the department has so many new reserves as we’ve been very short-staffed. The new recruits are a good thing for everyone as we’ve been so short-staffed, so this will take a lot of the burden off the rest of the staff,” Collins continued.
Daly said due to a backlog at the Massachusetts Fire Academy, most of the recruits’ training will take place in-house under the supervision of Capt. Russell Lewis, Capt. David Limongello and Lt. Ryan Gill, who are MFA instructors. Daly said the department hopes to resume MFA training in February 2023. In the meantime, Daly is confident the recruits will be ready to go soon.
“I’m expecting it will take about five weeks of in-house training before they are competent enough to go on the line,” he said.
In addition to Lopes, the new recruits are Ryan Fanning, Vincent Villani, Timothy Kurkowski, Matthew Soucie, Scott Gover, Andrew O’Connell, Michael Soltys, Anthony Robinson, Frank Melito, Bryan Pasdon, Chris Paolini, John Cannatella, Matthew Hosman, Alex Dewsnap, Kevin Mulvey, George Tsonis, Joseph Maguire, Evan Braz, Daniel Mello, Steve Leavitt, Eric Razney, Amir Karaj, Bernard Joseph, Tanner Moquin, Nicholas Marotta and Patrick Maguire.
“It’s exciting to see some legacies continued and new legacies being born,” Daly said. “The addition of such a special group is a great thing and will bolster the ranks.”
During the swearing-in ceremony, Daly gave a shout out to the city.
“Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. and Human Resources really worked hard to get us and the Police Department up to full staff,” he said. “We … still have about 14 openings, but this is a momentous day for the department and the city of Peabody. Just to get our staffing levels up is immense.”
Bettencourt said the swearing-in was a “good day for Peabody.”
“We have an outstanding group of reserve firefighters who have chosen to dedicate their lives to public safety,” said Bettencourt. “They join the men and women of the Peabody Fire Department who are renowned throughout the region for the skill and professionalism they demonstrate every day on our behalf. Today represents a big step toward restoring the department to its pre-COVID days. I’ve been telling the department that help is on the way and today we have that.”
Bettencourt, the son of a police officer, said while it’s wonderful to welcome new members into “our ranks,” the day also marked an opportunity to “pay tribute to all of the outstanding men and women who make up the Peabody Fire Department. I have a deep understanding of demanding your jobs are … being a firefighter or police officer becomes your life.”
Daly said he still remembers the day he was sworn in as a new recruit 33 years ago.
“I [still have] that feeling of excitement, pride, and honor to soon be a member of this unbelievable department and unbelievable city. I hope that 33 years from now you will have that feeling.”