Carrie N. Kline: All right. Well, my name is Carrie Kline, and you met my husband Michael Kline. And I believe today's the 21st of April, 2011. And we're downstairs in the Concord Free Public Library. And would you introduce yourself?
Ken O'Donnell: Yes, I will. My name is Kenneth O'Donnell.
CK: And your date of birth?
KO: My date of birth is May 31st, 1949. I'm 61 years old.
CK: Great. And tell us about your people and where you were raised.
KO: Well, I--. My family's originally from Massachusetts. I was raised in a number of places. I was born in Winchester at Winchester Hospital. I've lived in a number of towns, mostly in Massachusetts, but I lived for a short time in Florida. I lived in the towns of North Reading, Newton, Woburn, Pompano Beach, Florida, Wilmington, Winchester, and Concord. And then I've lived in Littleton since 1986.
CK: Wow. And what about your people? Talk about your people some too, and people around you growing up.
KO: Okay. Well, my parents are, were both from--. My father was from Medford, Massachusetts. My mother was from Somerville. And my dad was a, in World War Two. He was a Marine in World War Two, young Marine. He was 17 years old when he was in, right after Pearl Harbor. My--. He was injured on, wounded on Iwo Jima. He was with the Fourth Marine Division. And he--. After the War--. He knew my mother prior to the War, but. And they got married in the late '40s; I'm not quite--. I think in 1947. And my dad was a home builder. Different towns. Concord was one of the places where he built a lot of houses. My mother worked at different jobs, hospital in, as a dietician. And we have two sisters, older sister and a younger sister. And we both live in the area. They both live in the area. One lives in Andover. The other one lives in Ayer. I have a wife, Susan. And I have three children. I have a son, Michael, who is twenty-eight years old. And—Twenty-nine years old. He's a Lincoln fire fighter, full-time fire fighter. He's married, has one child. I have twins, Matthew and Rebecca. They are twenty-four years old. And they're both currently in college.
CK: Wow. And--.All those different places. Talk about your path to Littleton and then to working in Concord.
KO: Okay. Yeah. It's very interesting, because we did jump around quite a bit. It had to do with my father's business. He was in the home building business. He worked for a company called Kelly Corporation right after the War. And that's where he kind of learned the trade, the building business trade. He worked for--. It was a rel—actually a relative of his. And they seemed to--. My parents seemed to move to where they built houses, these companies. And eventually my dad went in to business for himself, and along the way he was also in business with his cousin. That's why the move to Florida in the early '50s. I was in First Grade when we moved there. And we moved to Pompano Beach, Florida. And his cousin was in the building business. He was older than my dad, and they built in the Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach area, Deerfield. And it was a lot different back then in South Florida than it is today. It was much smaller, much quieter, and it was many years since I went back there, and I couldn't get over the changes in those towns. It's just, the growth was phenomenal. When we lived there it was very, very low key and small and a lot different than it is now. So as he progressed in the building business we moved around, and he eventually bought some land in Concord and we lived on Dalton Road, right off of Old Bedford Road in Concord. He, we actually lived on the same street that he built. It's right near the McHugh land and the land that Bill Kenney farms. It's right in that area. And so that's kind of gave our connection to Concord. And I liked it from, right from the beginning. And I decided back then that I would try to work in the area and try to settle down here.
CK: Why did he pick Concord?
KO: Well, as a child, his family used to come up to Concord a lot for the parades this time of the year, 18th of April and all that. And he liked it then. And it was sort of I guess the same reason that I decided--. He liked the area, and he wanted to stay here.
Michael Kline: You were what age, when you came?
KO: To Concord? Eighteen.
CK: Can you see these [real time numbers on the recorder] Michael?
MK: . . . .
CK: Okay. Eighteen. So what was Concord like then? Well, it was different. It was still--. I remember Lawrence Kenney, the first winter we spent there, plowed our sidewalks on Dalton Road with a horse and walk-behind plow. And it was just amazing to see that. It--. And he did that, I guess in different parts of the town. That's--. Of course that's Bill Kenney's dad. And I knew Lawrence Kenney. He lived right around the corner from us basically. And the McHughs, they were the--. I think there were three brothers, all single men. And they farmed that land near Lawrence Kenney's farm, and they used a horse and plow too. They may have had a mechanical tractor, but they did use a horse and I recall them walking behind a horse plowing the fields.
CK: McHugh. How do you--? Do you know how to spell that?
KO: I believe it's M-C H-U-G-H. Their homestead was on the corner of--. Well it was on Lexington Road, right near Old Bedford, but it was definitely on Lexington Road. And I believe there was three boys. There may have been their sister lived in the house also. I think they're Irish immigrants. But they were quite elderly even back then in the late '60s. And but they got out there and worked every day. It was very interesting to see them.
CK: Did you have many interactions with them?
KO: No, not really. They--. I knew who they were. They didn't really know me. Because our road was right near where they farmed, we saw them all the time. It was pretty frequent to see them.
CK: Okay. Who were the other older folks around town then?
KO: Well, let's see. I remember--. Again, I didn't know them. I wasn't a Concord native. But I remember the Emersons were around, the folks that lived up on Monument Street. And I knew people who knew them. One of the Captains in the Fire Department, Bob Robinson, lived in a log cabin on their property, way out back. And I had the occasion to see it one time during a call. But when he was first married, he and his wife, Ellie, lived in this log cabin, which was behind the main house on Monument Street, quite a ways behind it into the woods. And he told me that this log cabin was built in Minnesota, disassembled, and brought to Concord and reassembled and put on the property. And as it happened, one day we had a problem up there in this log cabin. They weren't--. The Robinsons weren't living there. Was another tenant. They had a chimney fire. And didn't do any damage, but we were able--. I was able to finally see what this cabin looked like. And it was very interesting. It was a very authentic cabin, and quite old. So that was another memory I had of way back when.
CK: Do you remember it in any kind of detail?
KO: Well, we weren't there that long. I just remember going in. It was a woodstove, and it wasn't working right. It was smoky. And they got concerned about it. And as it--. Because my Captain at the time was Bob Robinson, and he was the one that actually lived in the house, he was familiar with it, so, but it was a nice, rustic building. It wasn't fancy, but it was pretty nice all the same time too.
CK: Old chinking?
KO: I'm sorry?
CK: Old chinking?
KO: Yes. Yes. And some of the other things--.
MK: Which Em--. I'm sorry. Which Emerson family was that?
KO: Well, I know the--. I know they were ancestors of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I believe. And the woman that lived there, she volunteered for years at Emerson Hospital.
MK: Remember her name?
KO: Mrs.--. I don't know the first name. No. But I re--. I know what she looked like. I remember seeing her, because my wife was a nurse at the hospital, and she knew who she was.
CK: Mrs.--? You were starting to say? Her last name?
KO: Emerson. That's her name. I don't know her first name.
CK: Wow. Who were the other--? Remember any other old timers?
KO: Well, let me think. Well, not going way, way back, but just my in-laws. They moved to Concord in the '30s. My--. They're both. My in-laws are both still alive. They're--. My father-in-law, John O'Neil, is in a nursing home. He's at Concord Health Care.
CK: John O'Neil?
KO: John O'Neil. And Constance O'Neil.
KO: O'N-E-I-L. He has Alzheimer's now. He was the Superintendent at the Concord Municipal Light Plant. He's been retired. Now he's 85. He was retired when he was 62. But I--. He recalls moving to Concord. He lived in Boston. He took the noontime train out of North Station, and they got off at West Concord. And he was with his mother and his--. Mother had a cat in a basket, and his dad--. The reason they moved is his dad was a correctional officer at the prison. And So t hey moved here on the noontime train and they lived right, in a house right on Commonwealth Avenue right near the Pail Factory Bridge, which is still there today. And then moved--. He met his wife, Constance Payne. She lived on Laws Brook Road. She--. Again, she moved in 1938, the year of the hurricane. And they met, and it's very interesting. They never really moved, either of them, very far away. They got married. They lived on Commonwealth Avenue, and, in one house. They rented. They bought a house on Commonwealth Avenue. They sold t hat about 24 years ago, and they moved right around the corner on Laws Brook Road. So by the time they lived—they first moved to Concord—they didn't basically move more than a quarter of a mile away. And so that's one of those things. They--. West Concord was their home. I mean it's--. And they haven't, other than the facilities they're in now, they never really moved more than a quarter of a mile from where they first set foot. So. It's kind of interesting.
CK: Moved on the noontime train.
KO: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.
KO: I don't think so. I'm not sure how they, what they brought and what have. You know, things were simpler then. But yeah, that's how they moved. Yeah.
CK: Cat in the basket.
KO: Cat in the basket. Wished I remembered the cat's name, but I don't. But, as far as the other, the old-time, I--. Not being a Concord native, I didn't know that many people. Once I joined the Fire Department in 1976 as a call fire fighter I got to know more people in town. And back in the early--. 1976 when I joined the Fire Department as a call fire fighter, we had many more call fire fighters. We only have one left now, because we're all permanent.
CK: Call fire fighter?
KO: It's like a volunteer. It's like they assisted the full-time fire fighters. And they had the two fire stations in town. And they--. Back I guess, back in the '40s and '50s they had a lot of call fire fighters. But when I first came on we had about ten. We had about five assigned to each station. And then over time we were always a full-time Fire Department, at least when I joined. They eventually, or as they retired, or moved on, they didn't replace them. We have one call fire fighter now. His name is Keith Nelms.
KO: Nelms. N-E-L-M-S. Keith Nelms. He works for the Concord School Department. And he's a call fire fighter. He's a great guy. But a lot of the old Concord fire fighters have passed on, the full timers and the call fire fighters. But there's still some of the regulars that are still around. Howie Soberg.
KO: Yes. S-O-B-E-R-G. Howard Soberg. Probably a name that you've heard often, Jack Chisolm. He's a retired full-time fire fighter. Jack is very knowledgeable about Concord and its history, extremely knowledgeable. And Ed Curran. Stanley Orpik, O-R-P-I-K. He was my Captain when I first came on the job. He's still around. He's 85 years old. Chief Cullinane, Matthew Cullinane, he's in his late eighties. He's still alive. Dick Ryan was a Fire Chief. He's still around. There's quite a few that are still here.
MK: Sounds like you could mount a whole oral history project just on the fire company.
KO: You really could. And a lot of it is, I learned from Jack Chisolm. I have an interest in it, because we do--. Myself and another fire fighter, Roddy Loynd, do the cemetery flags every Memorial Day. And we go around and we place a fire fighter flag at each grave. We have a special marker that we've had made up. It's a bronze marker. It's a nice ornamental marker. We put the fire fighter's flag in there. And we have about 60 graves now we put flags in. And interestingly enough, the oldest piece of historic artifact of the Fire Department is a big sign called Independence Court. Independence. It was one of the fire stations. And we have that sign at the Station. It's about as long as this table, so I'd say roughly eight to ten feet long. And it was placed over the Fire Station on Independence Court. It was built by Rufus Hosmer, who was also a volunteer fireman in those days. 1851, the sign.
KO: Hosmer. H-O-S-M-E-R. That's a Concord name. We found his grave last year up at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and we put a marker there. We--. I knew--. I didn't know whether he was a fire fighter or not, and Jack Chisolm, who has a lot of knowledge, looked up on his records. He said, "Yes, Rufus Hosmer was a fireman." So we've put a plaque on his grave and a flag.
CK: But some of the 60 I suppose you knew.
KO: I'm sorry?
CK: Some of the 60 you knew, I suppose.
KO: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah, some of them I did. A lot of the graves are people that were there before I came and, but there's quite a few I do know, I knew of.
CK: Well talk about your own path to being a fire fighter.
KO: It was kind of an interesting path. I--. When I first moved to Concord, I had an interest in the Fire Service. I was-. I went to Boston College, and I worked for my dad for a few years in the building business. And then I didn't want to stay in that type of business, so I took a job at the First National Bank in Boston. I worked in the Trust Division, of all things. I was in Trust and Estate Administration. And, interesting work. I knew it wasn't for me, eventually. So, but I got to know some people. Couple of the call fire fighters, the younger guys, they were about my age. And I joined the Call Department in Concord. And I got to really like it. So I decided this is the career path I'd follow. And I took two or three tests and I eventually got appointed full-time. And so it was quite a career change. But I'm glad I did it. And it's been a nice career. I've enjoyed it. So that's how I found my way into the Fire Department.
CK: Wow. And. Well, I don't want to guide you too tightly if you brought a whole sheet of things that are on your mind to talk about in regard to it.
KO: Well, yeah. Most of my notes here are about the Fire Department and it, with regard to the changes. As I mentioned earlier we had many call fire fighters in the 1970s. They were sent to both Stations. We still have two Fire Stations in town, one in West Concord on Main Street, and one on Walden Street in Concord. There was a study done when I first came on full-time about if these stations were located in the proper places. And as it turned out, they based it on where our runs are, and I remember one of the deputies at the time, Ted Finan, said they couldn't have picked two better spots for the Fire Station, so. As far as location, they're still there. They're in the right places. The West Concord Fire Station, built in 1932, ironically it was replaced because the Fire Station that it replaced burned down, that year, in 1932. It was a wood-framed station. And there was a--. It was a very windy fall day, I guess. And, I'm not sure how the fire started, but it started in the fire station. Didn't--. But it spread to other buildings right around the Harvey Wheeler Center and Church Street. And I guess the fireman were out--. They were out at a fire in Lincoln at the time, so there was nobody in the station. But the station was totally destroyed. And the--. Other area towns came to help extinguish it. So that's--.The station in West Concord now was built because, in 1932, very shortly afterwards. And the station down here on Walden Street was built in 1960 to replace an earlier station. On Walden Street also was where the--. There's a restaurant, the--. Oh, I'm not sure of the name of the restaurant, but it's a restaurant and there's another occupancy in there. I believe it's a salon.
But there's been a lot of changes in the Fire Department. The equipment, the apparatus, when I first came over open cab trucks. They were smaller. They weren't as sophisticated as the ones now. The trucks now are, they're closed cabs. They're air-conditioned. They carry a lot more equipment, more sophisticated equipment. I remembered, when I first came on we rode on the back step of the truck. We had like a little belt we just tied on around our waist to the back bar. That's totally unacceptable now. It's not used. It's not done anymore. That was so dangerous. But now we can't even--. The truck can't even--. We have to be seat-belted. If we don't have a seat belts on, warning lights go off because of your weight on the seat. So it's, there's many more safety features. The equipment's far more sophisticated. We have better air packs. We have thermal images to find people or, fire fighters that are down. There's just--. The advances in equipment in the last 30 years has been tremendous. The--. One of the biggest things is, as a result of the Worcester fire in 1999, where they lost six firefighters, are the thermal imaging cameras. Every fire department has a thermal imaging camera. We have three or four in Concord. And one of the problems in that fire, one of the tragic problems, was they couldn't find the firefighters right away. And I happened to go up there with the Fire Chief the morning after it happened. I just--. He was part of a taskforce that went up there, Fire Chief Joe Lenox. And they were just manually digging for them. I think if they had had thermal images then they would've found the firefighters sooner. They did eventually of course find them.
CK: How does that work?
KO: Well, it's a--. It looks like a video camera, and you hold it, and--. I'm not sure of the technology, but it's an infrared process that seeks heat. If I put my hand on the wall of this room that we're in, I could use this camera and hold it. It'll show a white outline with my, heat from my hand that's retained. So if the, somebody is underneath some rubble or something like that, you can see their body heat. And it can be used for, not just finding people. It can find people. But if there's a fire behind a wall and it's not visible, you can point the camera towards the wall, and if you suspect fire behind the wall, it, there's this bright white light that it shows up. It's a heat--. It's shown as a bright white image on the camera. And they've--. Those cameras have become more technically advanced than they were even fifteen years ago. So the equipment in the fire service is constantly being updated. Our turnout gear is way better. We had rubber coats when I first started. Now it's a highly advanced fabric made of Kevlar and Nomex to--. They've done studies and they're improving it all the time.
CK: So you're in a burning building. You're looking for bodies, and you're holding this camera walking around?
KO: Yeah, well if--. You're usually on your hands and knees, but, you know, it's--. If we suspect somebody's in there, you can, this'll help you find it. As far as down firefighters, if somebody's trapped, and we can't move, we have a device called a PASS device [Personal Alert Safety System, also known as an ADSU, Automatic Distress Signal Unit]. It's integrated to our air packs. If we stop moving because we're injured, and we can't move, this--. Once you don't move anymore, this mechanism on your air pack will start to alarm. And as soon as you move it will stop. But if you're not moving, it will just, it graduates into higher and higher alarms. It's an ear piercing noise, so we know where people are. So. That's another advancement in the fire service.
CK: Have you experienced that?
KO: No, I haven't. I really haven't. So, fortunately I haven't done--. We train. We-. If we have a situation where we can put some, one of us in there, we'll hide them in a building if we're--. We can train where we have them stop moving. And then this alarm will go off. But as soon as you turn your air pack on and go into a burning building, this PASS device is a, it's activated.
MK: PASS? P--?
KO: Yes, PS. It's--.
KO: Yes, P-A-S-S. It's--. I think the acronym is Personal Safety--. Personal Safety--. I'm not sure what the "A" is. It's Personal Safety System though. It's a PASS device. It's a--. One of the other things, as far as--. The Fire Department in Concord does the medical emergencies. The ambulances have become more advanced. When I first came out, we had a Cadillac ambulance, sort of like what a hearse looks like. They've advanced to modular-type ambulances. They're bigger. They carry more equipment. They're just far better. We can--. The old ambulances you couldn't even stand up in. We can stand up in the ambulances now. We can put people in--. Just, besides the patient, we can put two or three other people in them. We have two ambulances in Concord. They've been--. They're rotated out every five years. We get a new one every five years, so we just keep rotating the equipment through.
So, we have a paramedic service. The way we do it in this area is it's a hospital-based paramedic service. A lot of people are confused over emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Emergency medical technicians are, it's a general term for ambulance, people who work in ambulance. All of the members of the Concord Fire Department, including the Chief and the Deputy, are EMTs. We're all EMTs. We don't all work on the ambulance. The paramedics are the highest trained EMTs. They can administer drugs. They can create, put airways in people. They can do more things than the basic EMTs can do. It's a service right now. They work with Emerson Hospital. It's a private contractor. It's called professional ambulance. They provide the paramedic service to area towns around Emerson Hospital. So we bring our ambulance. We bring a fire truck to a medical emergency. If it's--. If the protocol calls for the paramedics, they'll be dispatched by our dispatcher. And they meet us at the call. They have a, sort of like an SUV vehicle. They put one of the paramedics on board, or both. And they follow us to the hospital.
And in conjunction with the advancements, we have defibrillators, which are, can, you can shock a stopped heart. We--. Those--. That's another big change. It just--.There's been so many advances, as far as emergency medicine in the last 25 or 30 years. It's better than it was before. We--. There used to be an expression, "scoop and shoot." They used to just load the people on the ambulance and just drive to the hospital. There wasn't much care given to them. It's all changed now. It's highly technical. It's highly advanced. And people are being medically treated better than they were 30 years ago or 40 years ago.
CK: Did you expect to be involved in emergency medical care?
KO: Well, I knew when I joined that--. The Fire Department had the ambulance since the early '50s in Concord at least. The Police used to do the ambulance work. And way, way back they told me that funeral homes did the ambulance work, back in the '30s and '40s, that they actually, the funeral homes would dispatch an ambulance in town. So that's changed. The Police had it for a while, and since I think 1952 in Concord, the Fire Department always did the ambulance work. But when you come into this type of work nowadays, you know, especially in the suburban towns and small towns, the Fire Department, in most cases, does the emergency medical work. If you go into the city, it's a little different arrangement. Boston, the bigger cities and towns around Boston, you might have a private ambulance service. And the Fire Department will go as a, sort of an adjunct to them. But the--. In most cases emergency service--. And Boston's a little different. They have a combined system of health and hospitals and ambulances, which is a city service; plus they're supplemented by private ambulance companies who do emergency work. Out this way, it's mostly Fire Departments. So when you come into this, when you seek a job like this, you know that you will probably, you will be working, doing emergency medical work. And usually the junior fire fighters get assigned to the ambulance. So they're there for like 10, 12 years, until they can get into an engine job or a ladder truck job.
CK: So it's less desirable?
KO: It is, because you're busier. Most of our work now is emergency medicine. We do 75 percent of our 5,000 runs a year are emergency medicine. We have a lot of healthcare facilities in town. We have nursing homes, assisted living, population is getting older. A lot goes on in Concord, Route 2 and the--. It's a busy place. We have a lot of medical emergencies in this town.
CK: I keep wondering about this new—Well, not new, but growing right-to-die movement and living wills, and advance directives—
KO: Umm hmm.
CK: --And, "I don't necessarily want to be resuscitated." But there you are in a crisis. How do you balance all that?
KO: Well that's interesting. It's a good question, because if we go to a house, and somebody's in cardiac arrest, obviously it's a younger person. We do all we can. We start CPR. We defibrillate them and all that. If it's an elderly person and they've decided beforehand that they don't want any heroic measures, there's a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, order in place. And it has to be current. It has to be updated from time to time by the person's physician. And if family member's there and somebody's in cardiac arrest, and they're elderly and they're a hospice patient, we need to see this DNR order, Do Not Resuscitate. And if it's current, then we won't do any lifesaving measures. We allow the person to die with dignity. But if we don't find that we have to, if we're called to the scene, we have to do what we can and transport them. But that's the nice part about these Do Not Resuscitate orders. If they're current, it allows us not to, to let the wishes of the person and the family be carried out.
CK: So someone basically has to hand that to you at the time?
KO: Yeah, it's usually kept in the house. And sometimes they're not updated. And they have to be updated and kept current by a physician.
KO: I think it's six months. But I'm not entirely sure on that. But it has to be a current one. They do expire after a certain time. Some of the public doesn't realize. They don't know that, and they're surprised sometimes when they say, "Well we had one." I say, "But you can't find it or it's not current. We have to at least attempt to resuscitate the person.
CK: So you will actually look for something in a crisis?
KO: Yeah, we do. It's usually posted in a place where they keep their medications, or common place in the house. But it is, it can become a problem if it isn't a current one.
CK: Sticky. Did I let you go where you wanted to go on your list?
KO: No, we're doing good here. One of the interesting things that happened in 2007, is we got a Federal Safer Grant. And what that is, is it's a grant. We were allowed to—
KO: Safer. S-A-F-E-R. It's. I don't' know whether it was from Homeland Security, or FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But it was federal money that was given to the town to add four new fire fighters, which we did. It's a graduated program where the, you're initially given money from the federal government. And it becomes less and less over five years. And it allows you to sort of ease into adding new personnel and preparing a budget over time. We added four fire fighters, one for each group. We have four groups in the fire department. That was the first time we added people since the early 1950s. And we have about five times as many emergencies as they did back then. So we were operating for years with the same amount of fire fighters as they had in the early to mid-'50s. And many of the Fire Chiefs over the years have requested more personnel. They wanted more personnel. And we finally got it. So we have a--. We went from eight full-time firefighters on duty to nine. And it was a long time in coming.
CK: Do you look within the realms of Concord residents when you do that?
KO: No, not--. No. it used to be that. They used to hire right from the call department. The call fire fighters were given the first selection, but because that's not possible now, they go on the outside. They advertise and they--. We're not a civil service department. We're a--.They do it themselves. So most of the fire fighters [that] are hired now are from other departments, that want to come to Concord. Concord is considered a desirable Fire Department to work for. So.
CK: So then they move here?
KO: Well, no. That's the other thing. It's very difficult for a fire fighter to buy a house in Concord. I was the last fire fighter hired in 1979--. We had to live in town back then. If you were hired by the Fire Department, you had to live in town. You had to move within a year. And I was living in Concord at the time, but everybody after me did not have to live in Concord. They just--. They established a radius. At first it was 15 miles. And now it's grown to 35 miles, border to border. So we have--. Some of our fire fighters live so far away. But because of the schedule, it's, it can be done. We work 24-hour shifts. We work a 24-hour shift. We have 24 hours off, work another 24 hour shift, and we have five days off. Most of the people--. Most of the fire departments, about 95 percent of them, do a 24 hour shift. So you work 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, five days off. So you squeeze in 48 hours in a 72 hour period. Most everybody in the Fire Service likes that type of schedule. I'm one of the very few that doesn't like it. But I only have a week and a half to go, so. I'll live through it.
MK: And you don't like it because--?
KO: It's--. We're a busy department. We're up most of the nights, just--. Again, not--. We don't fight fires all the time. We go out on medical emergencies and alarms. It's--. Considering my age, it's catching up with me. I'm a Captain. I really don't--. We're allowed to sleep down there. I never really get any deep sleep. If--. And I just kind of--. Because I have to make decisions. You have to be aware of what's going on. But this is where the Fire Service has moved, into 24 hour shifts, for full-time department.
CK: And so, why was there a residency requirement, and why not now?
KO: Well, the residency requirement was because you--. If we had something, if you were living in town, you could get back to the stations. Because if we have a fire, we call back all personnel in. We request that they come back in through a series of--. I have a pager here, an Alpha pager. And we have mini-tours. It's a small radio.
CK: Alpha pager, did you say?
KO: Alpha pager. Yeah. They're--. It's kind of an outdated technology now, but if there was a fire right now in Concord, they would alert the off-duty fire fighters two ways. They'd go into the computer, send a message over the Alpha pager. They would say, striking a box for fire at, you know, 500 Sudbury Road. And it would--. Just takes maybe 15 seconds once they activate it. This would go off--. This Alpha pager would make a little tone. And then there would be a digital message on the screen. In addition to that, we have these small radios called mini-tours, which is, it's a radio, it's a two-way, not a two radio, but it's a receiver. And they would announce where the fire is. So that would be--. That's the request for off-duty fire fighters to come back. Back when everyone lived in town, they got a lot more response. But because they saw the reality of full-time fire fighters not being able to buy property in Concord because of the high price of housing, they had to change. They had to allow us to live farther and farther away. We have some people that live pretty far away, right now.
CK: And you decided go move at some point yourself?
KO: I did. I lived in Concord. I lived in West Concord. And when our family started to grow we decided we couldn't, just realistically couldn't afford the type of house that I wanted, so I moved to Littleton in 1986. As far as other changes on the fire stations, we just had our fire station down here on Walden Street renovated as far as the living quarters, the administrative offices, the day room, the kitchen. And it took nine months to renovate it. It's beautiful. It's--. The facilities are second to none. And they've changed--. They've renovated the West Concord Station. It's the 1932 station. They've made some nice changes down there. About the only thing, problem--. I don't really have a problem with it. The apparatus areas, the floors, they haven't changed as far as the dimensions of the door and all that. And these stations were built in an era when the apparatus was much, much smaller. So it's very tight, as far as where the vehicles are parked, in both stations. But as far as the living quarters, they're beautiful.
CK: Why don't they expand the doors?
KO: Well, they're kind of, in both cases, kind of landlocked. It's--. There's an organization called the National Fire Protection Association. And it's a non-profit organization that tells the Fire Service where it should be in many different areas, as far as training, and fire prevention, building new fire stations. The--. Their parameters are that doors in fire stations should be at least 14 feet high and I don't know the width. But ours don't even come close to that. Our vehicles barely--. In the West Concord Station there's about an inch and a half clearance on the mirrors as you leave the door. I think Concord, it's a little bit, downtown here it's a little bit better. But it's too bad that the, where the vehicles are parked couldn't be--. But it's not that easy, because the--. They'd have to build a whole new station to meet the NFPA requirements. So. But, for now we'll have to live with this. But, it's very, very tight, as far as the apparatus.
CK: And which station are you in?
KO: I'm in the Walden Street Station, which is more current. It's 1960. It isn't as bad. As far as the changes in the Fire Service, those are what I wrote down in my notes.
MK: I wanted to ask you about the overall emergency plan for Concord. Isn't there a fairly recently established emergency plan? And how are the Fire Departments connected with other emergency services? And is there an overall sense of--. In other words, there's been some proactive planning along these lines to coordinate--.
CK: Neighborhood work?
KO: Yeah, there is--. There's a--. I'm not involved in that. The Fire Chief is also the emergency management planner. And Steve Kelsey is the Assistant Emergency Management Planner. Martin—Marty Powers is also involved in that too. And what it--. The emergency management--. If there's a crisis in town, like a flooding like we had last year, different town departments, they meet in the emergency operations center, which is in the Fire Station. And it involves the Police Chief and Fire Chief, the Deputy Fire Chief, certain Police personnel, Steve Kelsey, various Town department heads. And they all meet in the Communication Center. And if there's a crisis, like a flooding, or an unusually big storm, or something like that, a hurricane, they meet. They've been very proactive in the last several years about getting more organized, more formalized. I'm not actively involved in that. I've sat in on a couple of their meetings for smaller type things, like blizzards and things like that. But it is, it's a group of people that get together when there is a crisis or a potential crisis and they plan out what they need. And it involves all town agencies and public safety and Concord Emergency Management Agency. It's called CEMA. C-E-M-A. It's sort of like a cousin to the Massachusetts, MEMA. When the emergency op--.
KO: C-E-M-A. Concord Emergency Management Agency. The State has a similar one, MEMA. And they talk to each other if there's a--. During the flooding last year in March of 2010, the Massachusetts MEMA was activated. They talk with all the different town emergency management people. So it's a well-coordinated organization. As far as the Fire Service, we have mutual aid. That's very well organized. If we have anything, we can request mutual aid for ambulances, for a fire, for brush fires. The State has a very sophisticated hazardous materials response. The State is divided into different districts for different things, for hazardous materials incident. There's six hazardous materials districts, and there's resources housed in certain fire stations. Many of the fire fighters in the State--. We have two in our Department, that are HAZMAT technicians. And if there's a HAZMAT spill or something like that, they go through a series of notifications through Alpha pagers, radios, cell phones. They get those people to come if they happen to be off-duty. They go to where these vehicles, HAZMAT trucks are housed. They're usually housed in--. They're sponsored by certain fire departments and they go and get them. So there's a sophisticated system in place for hazardous materials, incidents, HAZMATs. If there's a large brush fire, like there's a very large brush fire in Oxbridge about three weeks ago, there's taskforces in places that are made up of different fire departments, again in regions. They'll activate the closest region to where the emergency is, and they'll pull resources from the fire departments there.
On a day to day basis, fire ambulance was tied up, they went into Boston, we needed another ambulance, we have mutual aid. All this area towns around, Lincoln, Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Sudbury, we get their ambulance in here. So we--. Mutual aid is a big part of the Fire Service. We couldn't operate without it. And it's all in place. It's--. If we have a working fire right now, let's say in Concord Center, we would have the two stations from our Department respond, and we would have--. They would be automatically called. There would be Lincoln and Bedford would come. They would send an engine company. So we would have four engine companies on the scene, and initially, our ladder truck and if we needed to go to second alarm, as a-- we just keep adding more mutual aid. So it's a good system. It's all in place. We don't have to think about what we have to do. Our dispatchers, they notify people by radio, so it's a good system.
CK: It would be nice to hear you talk about certain key fires or other emergencies that stay in your mind.
KO: Well, there have been quite a few over the years. I'd say my most memorable one.—There's a couple. There couple of very tragic ones, but the most memorable fire or fires happened in December of 19, I think it was 89. we had two three-alarm fires that night. I had just got into work. We had a fire very close to the Library here on Sudbury Road. It was very cold that night. It got down to about 13, 14 below zero. The first fire was in a house right here on Sudbury Road. We were there. It was bitterly cold. It was a--. Didn't burn the house down. House was still there. Had to be renovated, but. We were there until about 1:00 o'clock in the morning. The fire came in about 5:30 at night. We were there until about 1:00 o'clock in the morning. We got everything back as best we could in the Station. There was a lot of ice on the trucks. I remember at the time, again Captain Bob Robinson, he was my Captain that night. And he said--. The ladder truck had all ice chunks on it. He said, "As far as I'm concerned, that truck's out of service unless it melts overnight." So we went to bed. That was about 1:30. At about 4:00 o'clock in the morning, the dispatcher alerted us; the house lights went on. He said, "I got a house on Fair Haven Road that's fully involved in fire." So, we headed up there. Again, it was a huge house on Fair Haven Hill. There's no town water up there. Very hard to find. It's a very remote area. A lot of beautiful old homes, but there's all very, down narrow driveways. We got there, and the house was about 75% involved in fire. The folks got out okay. We--. There was a fire hydrant down on Arena Terrace down on Route 2.
CK: On what?
KO: I'm sorry?
CK: On Arena Terrace. And it's on, right off of Route 2. Fair Haven Hill Road is, it's a private neighborhood. We tried to get some hose up there. We had a hose wagon from the Town of Boxford. Carries over a mile of hose on it. But by the time he, we got the hose in place, from the hydrant down there, the house had burned completely down. It was 13 below zero. And that was the longest night I can remember in the Fire Department. We got back to the Station about 10:00 o'clock in the morning, and it was, again, it was the longest night in the Fire Department I ever had.
CK: Outline it a little bit. What was going on during all those hours?
KO: Well, we were trying to get some type of water supply established. We brought in a couple of tanker trucks. I believe Carlisle had a tanker truck. The town has no water, so they carry large amounts of water. There's not much we could do. If you don't have a good, reliable water source right away, if the fire gets a head start and you're--. Very little you can do unless you have a sustained water supply. We carry water in the trucks, but only 750 gallons. And it just took too long to get that hose, the water up there. And the hydrant was frozen. So, we got everything going against us that night, the location of the house, the frozen hydrant, the weather. It was just--.I just remember it was just so cold. And unlike the fire down here on Sudbury Road the same night, we had a--. We had plenty of hydrants, plenty of water supply. That had a better outcome than this one. Both [those] two things stood out the most as far as fires.
As far as medical emergencies, a very tragic thing I remember--. I was only on the job one month as a full-time fire fighter. It was early in the night. [Sighs] And we were called to go to Lincoln, Town of Lincoln. And what it was is a car had just left the Fire Station. It was a gentleman. He was a Scout leader. He was, brought them down to the Fire Station to have the fire fighters down there, three Scouts, teach First Aid and CPR to these kids. They were probably 14 years old. Now they finished their First Aid class. And it was a brand new Saab. And he left the Fire Station to bring the boys home. And something happened to the car. The accelerator stuck. It was--. As it turned out, we--. I had to make a deposition in court about a year later. But what happened was, something happened to the car. It was a defective accelerator. He couldn't stop the car. He hit a tree on Codman Road in Lincoln. They figured he was doing about 68-70 miles an hour. And all three Scouts were killed. And the driver survived. But we went over there. We took one of the Scouts, and we took the driver of the car in our ambulance. Lincoln had already left with two of the other Scouts. We brought them to Emerson Hospital, but none of the three boys survived. That's probably the most vivid memory I have, because they were in their Scout uniforms. And it was just a, just a terrible night. I'll never forget it.
CK: It seems awfully hard to be the one who's supposed to keep functioning when all—
KO: Yeah. Yeah
CK: --your emotions must be flowing.
KO: It, ah--Yeah. You do. You have to kind of--. It's something that you don't--. I've learned over the years is to, you kind of--. You have to keep your emotions down, because they're. we're the ones that are called to help people out. And if you get your emotions caught up, you can't function as well. And it's something I've had to learn. It hasn't always been that easy for me. And it, it just takes time. And you know, none of--. Sometimes facing death and sometimes it's a very grim type of thing. It's many times what the public doesn't see. But it's a--. But we're called to do it, so we have to do it. And you have to, kind of have to detach yourself from it. At the same time, do your job. It's not always easy.
CK: Does it catch up with you when you have time to rest?
KO: It does. And it has, over the years. And there's a network in place to help public safety people. It's--. There's a place up in Gardner, Massachusetts called the On-Site Academy. And it's--. It was created to deal with people who have sort of like this, the syndrome of the people, soldiers in combat. It's for fire fighters and Police who--.
MK: PSTD [PTSD]
MK: Oh, P--!
KO: Yes. And it's--.
MK: Can you say that? Can you say the PTSD? Put it in a sentence or something
CK: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
KO: It's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And they've, they recognize that Police and fire fighters do have problems after they see an unusually grim or difficult scene. And there's a, there's people that are trained to either come to your fire station, or, if it's an acute case, an individual has to go to Academy, to the On-Site Academy. They can spend some time there and deal with counselors. We've used it in Concord. We've used it very recently. We had a--. Right on the Acton-Concord line, just about a week and a half ago, there was a very tragic accident. A man was outside his truck on Route 2. It was during sunset, because the driver of the other car had solar blindness, solar glare, and she hit--. He was outside his truck securing a load. And unfortunately she hit him, and she killed him. And it was a very bad scene as far as the trauma of the body. And the fire fighters that were there, they were affected by it. So they, what they had a post-incident debriefing. They invite everybody back that was there at the scene to meet with these folks that are trained. Again, a lot of them are fire fighters and officers in the public safety sector. Police and fire fighters. Sometimes there are people from the clergy. I've sat in one with a call fire fighter from the Town of Georgetown, and he's also a minister. He was a Congregational minister. And that was several years ago. It was for a suicide we had. Woman stepped in front of a train behind Walden Pond. And I--. At the time, I was the Captain, but the other fire fighters in that group, they said, "We don't need this." But I needed it, so, but--. So I invited everybody that was on the group. I said, "You can sit in. You don't have to participate." But it was just such a traumatic thing to see. I felt as though I needed it, being the shift commander.
CK: Good for you. That's kind of gutsy.
KO: Yeah. I--. You know, it's--. Some of them are just so detached from it, but this was an unusually tragic, because there was a little history behind it. We--. This woman had gone to see her counselor that day. And it wasn't a good meeting. So she went to Walden Pond and stepped in front of the train. Anyway, it's--. Those are the ones you don't forget. We've had--. The suicides are especially tough. And most of the time they're younger people. And they're very tough, because in a couple of cases they're outside again on public way, in front of a train. But most of the time they're in homes, and their families find them, and that's--. You're walking into a house where they've called for help, and it's almost surreal to see this type of a--. The family members are there. Somebody has taken their life, and that's--. That's probably the most difficult part of being a fire fighter or Police officer. I can't speak for Police of course, but for fire fighters, we're the, we see these things, and to deal with it. But fortunately there's a network in place to help us out with our feelings and how we cope with it, so. So these--. And the people that do it are well-trained too. So, that's kind of comforting to know that there's a safety net in place for us too.
CK: So, unless the fire fighter is clearly experiencing ongoing trauma you just have the one group session?
KO: Most the time there's one group session. If it continues--. Sometimes there's an accumulative affect. They've, somebody have seen several things, they--. You know, if the person's willing to go to this On-Site Academy, as they call it, they'll arrange for them to there.
CK: On work time?
KO: Yes. They'll make the time available to them. Yes.
MK: You might if you didn't know the situation, looking at it from the outside you might suppose that there was a lot of macho attitude among firemen that would discourage participation in this kind of--
KO: It still exists. It's still there.
MK: What is? What are we talking about?
KO: We're talking about seeing something as far as tragic scene, something that is unusually difficult, and the fire fighters not acknowledging that they might need help. And that's something that the supervisors have to deal with. They have to see it. In a couple of cases, the Fire Chief insisted that the group that had the bad incident do go through the post-incident stress de-briefing, even though some of them did not want to do it. I've run into a couple of them that way. There's a couple people in my group that they don't seem to be affected by this. They said, "Unless it was my family, doesn't bother me." But you can't--. I think you can't ignore that, because I think they're suppressing their feelings and it's--. I've read where an accumulation of many tragic things over time takes a toll on a public safety responder. And you have to recognize that. We're not psychologists; we're not--. But that's why they--. Usually an unusual, unusually bad incident, most of the time we have a post-incident debriefing session. They make it available to the fire fighters.
CK: As Michael says, it does seem challenging, and you were saying it sounds like they almost fight you on that.
KO: Yeah, there's resistance. It is--. It's--. Michael was saying it's the macho thing. It's--. Men can't always admit that they're feeling something. And you have to recognize that and at least make it available to them, make help available to them. But it is--. That macho thing is still there. It may be not as pronounced as it used to be, but it is--. I feel it's still there, in my opinion.
CK: And yet--. I mean, you're a fire fighter too. Theoretically you would be on the same side of the fence. And you're called to a trade that requires a lot of maybe machismo, I don't know, but it's interesting.
KO: Yeah, I mean, it is. It's an interesting combination. You do--. We do things that require a lot of force and strength and all that. But you know, at the same time we're dealing with emotions of people, and it isn't always easy to combine the two and deal with something successfully.
CK: Talk about that in your role as Captain.
KO: Well, yeah, as a Captain I'm a shift supervisor. I supervise eight people. There are nine people on a group, each group. And most of our stuff is routine. The alarms, the medical emergencies. The--. A lot of our stuff is routine. I worked yesterday. We had medical emergencies. We had a couple of routine calls with alarms and all that. But as a shift supervisor, we live together, we eat together, we bunk in the Station together. It's a family. And many of the problems in the Fire Service among the personnel, among the fire fighters, are not because of problems on the fire ground or medical emergencies. It's things that happen in the Station. And the--. And it's--. If you're around somebody that often, sometimes everybody doesn't get along. And we live with each other for 24 hours. And they're--. Problems come up from time to time. And the fire academies don't teach certain things about how to be nice to each other most of the time. And sometimes the kidding can be taken too far, you know, the joking among each other. And you have to know when you've reached that line. And as a shift supervisor, we're constantly--. We have training on sexual harassment, and treatment of people, making fun of people, and creating a good work environment. One of the key words nowadays is "hostile work environment." We have to prevent that from happening. And as a supervisor, if you see it and it's under your watch, and you don't do anything about it, we can be held responsible for the problem. So we have--. This Town is very good in that respect. Concord is very good. They have training that they provide us from time to time on different things, and, as far as workplace environment.
CK: The shift supervisors are trained?
KO: Yes. Everyone is. Everyone is. They bring in an expert in workplace environment, and each group--. We have four groups in the Fire Department. Each group is trained, and the same for the Police. And the officers are held to a higher standard than the fire fighters, because if they see something, it's their duty to do something about it. They can't let it go. They can't ignore it. Even though they didn't cause it, if you see it, you have to do something about it. It's not tolerated anymore. It's--. In the past, they may have said, "Well, that's just--. You know, boys will be boys." That's not the way it's done anymore. And we're held to a higher--.The officers are held to a higher standard. We have to see it and recognize it, and do something about it.
CK: How do you train a group of people to be nice--
CK: --that work together?
KO: That's not that easy. I've always--. My philosophy is I try to lead by example. As a sup--, shift supervisor, I try not--. I'm not supposed to be doing, you know, washing vehicles, cleaning the Station. But I do. I participate in those things, because I've often held that I'm not going to ask anybody on my shift to do something that I'm not willing to do. So, sometimes that does--. The previous Fire Chief didn't like me doing things, but he finally accepted the fact that he, if I wasn't going to do it during the day shift, I was going to do it on the night shift when he went home, so. But it--. I think leading by example as a shift supervisor, as an officer, whether you're Lieutenant or Captain, is, with the type of people that we are and what we do, it's probably the best--. In my opinion it's the best way to teach people.
CK: Well, I sort of wondered how the whole work ethic thing works out. I mean obviously people come to the job with a different sense of ethics. And you're sleeping some of the times, officially. I mean--.
KO: Umm hmm. Umm hmm. That's right.
CK: --how does that play out?
KO: Well, again, we have 36 fire fighters in the whole department. We have four groups with nine. You have 36 different opinions on a lot of things. It's very hard to--. And the groups develop their own identity. We have four groups. They each have their own identity. And the personnel, they'll try to seek out, over time, as an opening becomes available because of retirement or whatever, if they feel as though they'd work better with another group, they'll try to bid for that position. We have, to our contractâ€¦.positions. And I'll tell you, it's--. Over the years, the groups of--. My group has a certain identity, as opposed to Group Two. And Group One has a different identity. And it's just the way it works out. And I think it's pretty universal in the Fire Service. They--. People find their own comfort zone.
MK: Different identities?
KO: Yeah. There's a--. Our group is known as a very quiet, serious group. Not serious, but--. And there's another group that's--. They're just constantly joking and bantering with each other. And then there's--. It did. It is. It's--. We're doing the same thing, but there's just, they are different personalities.
CK: Are there official times of day when there aren't emergencies when you're to work—
CK: --and when you're to have leisure?
KO: Yeah. We have a definite schedule. We have a--. We do a roll call in the morning. We start our shifts at 8:00 o'clock officially. We get in earlier. About 7:15, 7:30 we're--. I--. We do roll calls.
CK: You get in 45 minutes before you need to?
KO: Yeah. Yeah. We do. Because most of the fire fighters, they come in in their civilian clothes. They change in to their uniforms in the Station. So it's a time to--. And then you ask the other group what happened during the overnight shift or your 24 shift. So. We start at 8:00 o'clock. We have a roll call. And we have certain things we have to do in the morning for the first hour and half or two hours. We have to check the vehicles, make sure everything is, has fuel on it, there's water. The ambulance is equipped properly. And we have house duties. We have, we clean the Station. Then there's usually training done every day. And then if something—emergency comes up, you have to, obviously you have to go on the emergency. Then you come back and you finish what you were doing. There is a routine. Certain days are, we check certain vehicles. Like yesterday we checked the two brush fire trucks. There's one in each Station, the smaller trucks. Wednesday is check Engine 5 and Engine 6. So. Usually Monday is check the two main pumpers. Tuesday is check the reserve pumpers. Wednesday is do the brush trucks. Thursday is check the ladder truck. And Friday is check the ambulances. So there's a routine. There's a schedule for everything. So.
Lunch hour from 12:00 to 1:00. If we have a emergency in the middle of it we just leave. Of course incidents take precedence. You just leave whenever you have. But yeah, there's a certain schedule. We're allowed to go into the bunk rooms at 10:00 o'clock at night, not before. And--.
CK: Not before?
KO: Not before.
CK: So you're working until 10:00?
KO: Well, you're up. You're not necessarily working. But you're not allowed to retire until 10:00 o'clock at night.
CK: When can you start playing cards?
KO: We don't play cards.
KO: No. I've been on 34 years. I've never seen a card game in the Fire Station.
CK: What do people do?
KO: They--. There's television and there's some misconceptions about the Fire Service. We don't have a pool table. We don't--. I've never seen a card game. There's always something to do. I find the--. I'm the overtime coordinator. We have a lot of overtime. I hire the people off duty. There's a training officer. We have an equipment officer. There's specialists. We have a, we have two emergency medical coordinators that take care of the ambulances and all their training for that. We have radio specialists. We have all kinds of specialists. We have computer specialists. There's all types of work to be done. It's a different type of job than a lot of people perceive. We--. There isn't a lot of--. There's no card game playing. There's no shooting pool. There is some down time. I admit, television is--.We're only allowed to watch TV on weekends, okay, at night, after 5:00 o'clock, not during the day at all. Television is not on, at least in Concord. It may be different in other towns, but not in Concord. We do have some traditions down there, as far as rules. So.
CK: So from 5:00 on--?
KO: Yeah. 5:00 on is really your own time. But usually the officers have something to do. Like I'm hiring people. Overtime is a big part of the job down there, so I'm doing a lot of hiring. You call people off duty, and there's different shifts and different details, and so it's a busy place.
KO: Overtime. The way we're set up, as far as overtime on the Fire Department, we have nine fire fighters on the shift. We can go down one fire fighter. If a fire fighter's off for vacation or sick, or personal or whatever, we can go down to eight. And what we do, we always keep three fire fighters in the west Concord Station. We always keep five fire fighters downtown. But if we go bel—if another person, if more than there's one off, we have to hire. And that happens quite often. So. And you have to try to get somebody off duty. We can't work--. We work 24 hour shifts. The most somebody can work is 48 hours in a row. You can't work beyond 48 hours, according to our contract.
KO: 48 hours. In other words if you're on your second 24 hour shift, and there's a overtime available, if there's another 24 hour shift available, you can work that. You cannot work--. In between your two 24 hour days, you can only work either the day shift or the night shift. You can't work it all, because that would be 72 hours, and that's not allowed. So you could only work up to 48 hours in a row. So, we hire for--.For example there was a--. A lot of times you take four hours off. And those have to be covered. So we try to find somebody in that rank, off duty, to work four hours. And we have special details for like Fenn School. They're a private school They'll have a football game. They'll need an EMT on the scene. So we'll hire for that. Lots of things like that. Welding details in certain buildings in town, they'll need a fire watch. And we'll hire for four or five hours. Always on off duty person. You can't touch the duty crew, but it's always off duty personnel.
CK: And that's a different pay scale?
KO: It's time and a half. You get time and a half. And you get minimum of four hours, even though it might be a two hour detail, you get four hours. Again, that's a--. A union contract has been bargained for that.
KO: We're union. Yes, we are. We belong to the International Association of Fire Fighters. That's a federal--. It's a national organization. IAFF. It's been around for years. And we're also members of the PFFM, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. Obviously, it's a Massachusetts-based organization, so it's really two unions we belong to. We pay dues to them.
MK: What's the state one again?
KO: The state one's PFFM, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.
CK: Part of the--. Is the other one part of a larger union?
KO: International. It's part of unions in the United States and Canada. It's--.
CK: Just fire fighters.
KO: Just fire fighters. The Police have their own. They have their own unions. But the IAFF is the International It's made of the U.S. and Canada. And the PFFM is Massachusetts. And there's other state union organizations too, in the different states, but we belong to those two.
CK; Can you talk about their history?
KO: Well, I'm not sure when they started. It--. They assist fire fighters as far as, in their collective bargaining, their benefits. They assist in--. When fire fighters die in the line of action, they offer their services in organizing the funerals. They played a huge part in New York City during the World Trade Center, that incident. And then they played a--. PFFM and the International played a big part in the 1999 fire in Worcester when they lost the six fire fighters. They helped to organize--.They kind of bring everything together. But their biggest function is in your collective bargaining and getting the benefits that they feel as though you should need as far as salary and benefits and wages.
CK: Have there been any exciting incidents in the collective bargaining?
KO: No. Not really. It's--. We have a contract we're negotiating right now. They're almost done. We do it every three years. And it's--. For the most part, dealing with the Town of Concord is pretty good. They take care of us. Concord is a good town to work for. There might be some little bumps along the road, but basically working for Concord is a great town to work for. And I don't recall any—anything unusual. I recall way, way, way back, when I was on the Call Department, there was a move to combine the Police and Fire Departments into a Public Safety Department, consolidation. And it wasn't popular with either the Police or the Fire. That never really got off the ground. And so the departments stayed separately. But they did bring in the International people for that from Washington to try to convince the Town that that wasn't a good idea. And that never really got off the ground.
CK: Well here you are in the brink of some changes for yourself. How did they get lined up?
KO: As far as my retirement? Yeah. Well, I--. You can retire at age 30—at 32 years of service at 55. And of course I've met that. I've been thinking about it. And, I do have some health issues. I'm a Type 2 Diabetic. And I--. It was time. I--. Just, you kind of know when you're ready. I'm having--. I guess it's sleep deprivation. It hasn't gotten any better over the years, so it's something I've always had to deal with, but. It just kind of occurred to me that before I have a medical event or something like that, I should retire while I'm relatively healthy. I've got all my time in. And there's been some changes in my family, as far as, we take care of our grandson. And my son and his wife have another child on the way, so we take care of our grandson a couple days a week. My wife recently started another job. She's a nurse at Emerson Hospital She had her hip replaced, so she can't do floor work. So she's going to go to work for a physician in an office. So, that--. Her schedule makes it more important that one of us be around to take care of our grandson. Like I said earlier, my son is a fire fighter in Lincoln. His wife is a nurse. So the schedules are really kind of difficult. So this is the right time. I had to go at age 65. I'll be 62 in the last day of May, so. I can't add to my pension. I've maxed out. So, it's the right time. It's the right time. I'm ready.
CK: How does it feel?
KO: It's a little strange. It's a little mixed feelings. My group took me out to dinner a couple weeks ago at the Wayside Inn, and yeah, we're a really close group. And it was a really nice night. And I'm going to miss them, and they're a great group of guys to work for. It's a little strange, because this is all I've known for the last 34 years, and to just suddenly not, you know, not go in. Even the two 24 hour shifts, it's going to be different, but that's something I'll have to learn, that's--. I've talked to other retirees. And they said it's the best. They said, "You'll love it, once you get into the groove of retirement, so." But I've got a couple other little part-time job offers through the family. So we'll--. I'll have to weigh those out. But for the next couple months I think I'll just sort of sit back and see what it's like.
CK: . . . Thank you so much.
KO: You're welcome. I enjoyed this . . . .
MK: Is there any--?
END OF TRACK ONE 1:20:00
BEGINNING OF TRACK TWO
KO: I guess on conclusion, I--. We talked about a lot of the changes in town, as far as the Fore Service and what I've seen, but one of the nice things about Concord is that if you're driving to town from Lincoln onto Lexington Road, the Town really hasn't changed. And if you come into the center, it looks the same as it did 30, 40 years ago. And even my dad, when he was alive, he said the Town really hasn't—it looks generally the same, as far as the center and the Lexington road historic area. I think that just adds to the stability of the Town and the quality of Town. It's a unique place. It's not just another place on the map. It's a unique place.
KO: Because they have the traditions here, the--.For example, I participate in the flag retirement on November 11th. I've done it--.
CK: In the what?
KO: Flag retirement. The veterans' flag retirement, in the cemetery, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. And it's been going on since 1965. And that's one of the traditions the Town has kept going. And every November 11th, at 8:00 o'clock, at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, they retire flags. And it's a f--. They burn them, but in a respectful way. And I've done that for thirty-three years in a row. And that's one of the things about the Town is they honor those traditions. They--. The Minutemen are there, the Scouts, veterans groups. The Town has a very good celebrations committee. And just--. What we just went through recently, the April 19th, the April 18th things, the parade, the reenactments, the Concord Independent Battery participates. Miriam's Corner.
CK: On what, did you say? Miriam's Corner?
KO: Miriam's Corner. It's a, where, it's one of the sites of the skirmishes in April 18th, 1775.
CK: Is the Fire Department required to be part of this?
KO: Only--. We have an EMT present if they--. Concord Independent Battery fires the cannons. They're required to have an EMT on the scene with a radio and an emergency kit. But those are the type of things. The traditions, the--. Those things don't change. And that's what I like about the Town. It's--. They've kept the things, the sacred things, the historic things in place. They haven't changed those.
MK: This is great. And it feels to me like you've covered an awful lot.
CK: Yeah. Anything else coming to you, Michael?
MK: Umm umm.
CK: I think your guys are going to miss you a lot.
KO: Well, I will miss them too. And--. Yeah, it's going to be funny on Thursday! But you
MK: Go fishing.
KO: I--. Yeah. Fishing. Yeah. I've--. I never was a fisherman, but I like to hike. I like to explore conservation lands. I've hiked I think every trail in Concord and Acton and Littleton and I try to find other places. And I just, I love the outdoors, and I--. I'll find plenty to do, believe me.
CK: You're a rare mix on--. The Town and the Fire Department have been fortunate to have someone who's so capable and so capable of looking at personnel issues, and—
KO: Thank you. Yeah.
CK: --from an emotional sense.
KO: Yeah, I've--. I guess, if you look at the four Captains, I'm probably the least technical. As far as my technical--. We have Don Prentiss, you know, you had him [for an interview]. He's a jack of all trades. He's an electrician. He can build--. He built an antique truck. He can do--. He can build a house. He can do that. He's very talented. He knows antiques. He's--. David Curran, one of the other Captains, he's a HAZMAT--.
CK: David who?
KO: David Curran. He's about five years away from retirement. He's another interesting guy. He grew up in Town. He--. Very interesting guy. He was with me on that run to Lincoln, that tragic run. He was only a--. He as a call fire fighter then. He actually came on board that night, with another guy. There was three of us. He's a HAZMAT specialist. He's a--. He knows the equipment backward and forwards. He can--. He's a real good guy. Owen Neville, one of the Captains, he's our training officer.
KO: Neville. Owen Neville. He's our training officer. He's very good.
MK: How do you spell his name?
KO: N-E-V-I-L-L-E. He's a few years away from retirement. He'd be a very interesting guy to interview. Extremely interesting. He's a . . . gentleman farmer. He lives in Boxboro. His family grew up in Lincoln. He'd be a very interesting guy to interview.
CK: Why is that?
KO: Well, he has a real sense of history and the past. He has like a small little farm in Boxboro. He's a--. He remembers the changes in Lincoln when the National park--. They bought his family farm out, and they had to move to Boxboro. But he just--. He's a very interesting guy. Owen Neville. And the--. I'm drawing a blank. Okay, David, myself, Don Prentiss and Owen Neville. Yes. So four Captains, yeah.
CK: But you were saying you're the least technical.
KO: Yeah, but I--. Exactly. Of those four. But I've always tried to sort of focus on the people issues. Tried to think of myself as I can handle people, not necessarily any better than the others, but I try to be aware of people's feelings and how to treat them and all that. So I've always tried to be a people person first and then--. I mean I have enough technical knowledge, but nothing like the others, not quite as much as the others. But, I try to concentrate on the people issues.
CK: That's a special gift.
KO: Well, I think it is. And like I said earlier, the problems that occur in the Fire Station are not where the fire, the National Fire Academy or the State Fire Academy teaches you. It's human relations things. And that's where most of the problems among the people occur, is in the Station, not related to what we do on a day-to-day basis. It's just clashes of personality and try to resolve those. And you try to--. If you have a problem with somebody, try to fix it. Don't let it fester. Don't let it linger. Because if you don't talk to anybody, and you have to work with them, that's not a good mix.
CK: Do you facilitate these sort of mediations?
KO: N--. Well the--. They do bring me in on certain things. If there's a problem I'll, they'll try to get my perspective, the Fire Chief. And he's consult me on certain things. He's about ten years younger than I am. And he has brought me in on a couple things, said, "What do you think we should do here, and how do you think this--? What do you think--? You think we should be strong in our discipline or not?" So he will consult me. So I am kind of proud of that, that they think of me as somebody they can go to as a resource.
CK: Lucky them.
KO: Well, thank you.
CK: Thank you.
KO: Okay. You're most welcome. I enjoyed it.
END OF TRACK 2