Volunteer Firefighters in Rockport Prepared to Retire Unless Changes Are Made

A fire captain demanded that control of the department in Rockport, Massachusetts, be returned to the chief, saying firefighters will retire Friday night unless conditions are met

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Families of firefighters in Rockport, Massachusetts, came together with a handful of residents Wednesday afternoon to drum up support as most of the town's firefighters have threatened to walk off the job.

A fire captain wrote a letter this week to town officials, asking that control of the fire department be returned to the chief, or else firefighters will retire Friday night.

"I think what they are asking is not unreasonable," said Katie Elwell, whose husband is a member of the volunteer force. "They're here to protect the town."

Firefighters say they want Steven Abell, an assistant fire chief, along with the town's director of emergency services, Mark Schmink, who's in charge of the fire department, to be removed, citing a lack of leadership, poor management and morale, and lack of training.

"Director Schmink has never had any direct firefighter experience whatsoever. He's never climbed a ladder, he's never operated a pump, he's never put on an air pack and climbed through a building," said Captain Frank Favaloro.

Schmink and Abell declined to comment and referred NBC10 Boston to the town administrator, who met with firefighters Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issues.

Favaloro says he was told that those who signed the letter will be dismissed from their jobs unless they remove their names.

"Morale is as low as it's been in 10 years," said Favaloro.

In a statement about the letter, Town Administrator Mitchell Vieira said town officials "find this method to be inappropriate and not conducive to sharing concerns" and that "hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the listed individuals will not resign at 6 p.m. on Friday."

The town has made arrangements for emergency coverage with the City of Gloucester, should it become necessary.

It's unclear how many firefighters are actually prepared to walk off the job Friday evening.

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