The Worcester Fire Department and city leaders are diving deep into the uncomfortable, at times painful conclusions of an outside review of its department following the 2019 line-of-duty death of Lt. Jason Menard.
It was the department's ninth line of duty death in 20 years.
"We have to make this right for the next fire," Worcester Fire Department Deputy Chief Martin Dyer said.
Worcester City Councilor Kate Toomey, who's the chair of public safety, said, "We all need to work together to make sure that this doesn't happen again."
The 248-page report by Emergency Services Consulting International, found 10 opportunities for change that require "immediate intervention."
"Worcester firefighters are subjected to a series of obstacles, including inconsistent training, lack of career development, varying levels of supervision and accountability, and the challenge of 'shipping out' to different fire stations across the city," ESCI found.
Dyer said that the "report actually gives us a little impetus, holds the mirror up and says, man, we maybe need to change our direction."
He added that it was important to get an honest view of where the most serious gaps exist, even though a survey of firefighters showed 62% rated morale as poor.
"It's incredibly disappointing to see that. You know, I feel it's a personal failure, to be perfectly honest with you," Dyer said.
Worcester Firefighters Local 1009 President Michael Papagni said, "Some of the shortcomings are because we don't have the manpower on the line to appropriately do our jobs, and we need more training."
The rank and file has been sounding the alarm on many of these weaknesses for years, the firefighters' union said, and they hope this report will lead to serious changes.
"It's something that we've discussed and fought for at the fire department for a long time," Papagni said.
The report made dozens of recommendations and set a goal for achieving most of them within 2-3 years, which will take a considerable amount of funding from the city to achieve.
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Menard died in the line of duty on Nov. 13 when his "heroic efforts" helped two fellow firefighters escape from a burning home after they responded to a report of a person and baby trapped on the third floor.
The 39-year-old firefighter led a probationary firefighter to the stairs and returned to the burning scene to help another firefighter out of a window and was ultimately unable to escape, Worcester fire officials said at the time.
The firefighter helped his crew escape from the blaze before he succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. Menard was a 9-year veteran of the Worcester Fire Department, a husband and father of three children who was planning to take his family to Disney.