Mutual aid keeping Saugus firefighters busy

SAUGUS – Fire Chief James Blanchard said people often ask him what firefighters do with their time since fires aren’t fought daily within town lines.”We go out of town,” he said.Over the last week or so, Blanchard said firefighters have traveled to Lynn three times, Everett once and Melrose once to fight fires or cover stations on neighboring turf.Firefighters covered the station for their Everett brothers on Sunday, Jan. 27, and pitched in on a fire in Lynn on Monday, Jan. 28. After three days off, the jakes spent the next three days on the road fighting fires in Lynn on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2 and in Melrose on Sunday, Feb. 3.”We go to Malden and Revere too,” Blanchard added. “If we go to Lynn or Melrose we usually go to the fire. If we’re called to Everett we usually cover the station. We do a lot of mutual aid.”Blanchard said much of the reason they do a lot of mutual aid is due to their location. Saugus is situated in the middle of Revere, Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Lynnfield and Lynn and within easy reach of another dozen North Shore communities.But all that mutual aid comes at the expense of Saugus taxpayers, which Blanchard said has raised some complaints. Still, he is quick to remind naysayers that without giving mutual aid, the town doesn’t get it either.”Mutual aid was a real bone of contention with the former chief and he decided at one point he wasn’t going to give it,” Blanchard said.It wasn’t long before then-Chief Walter Newbury received a letter from the Association of Fire Chiefs warning him if he didn’t give aid, he wouldn’t get it.”And it’s unlimited help,” Blanchard said.When a fire broke out in a multi-family home in Melrose just before the Super Bowl kickoff Sunday, Blanchard said Saugus was called in. The fire had spread to the roof of the Victorian-style home and the crew needed ladder trucks.”They had five ladder trucks on the scene fighting that fire,” he said. “Melrose only has one. They put out a call for ladder trucks. You call for what you need and, if they call, you have to respond.”Considering the town’s budget and the shortage in public safety manpower, Blanchard said he wouldn’t consider giving up mutual aid. He said knowing he has that kind of back up at his fingertips is a worthy trade off for putting his firefighters in harm’s way for another community.”It’s well worth it,” he added. “They do it for us and you get help right away.”

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