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Swampscott fire chief settles in

SWAMPSCOTT – Fire Chief Kevin Breen is settling into his new role after a month on the job.The 34-year veteran of the department was a captain and the fire prevention officer, who was acting deputy chief before being appointed chief.”It’s a learning curve,” Breen said. “One of the things I really have to work on is learning to delegate more. I have to realize I can’t do everything myself.”On Nov. 23, Breen was appointed fire chief through June 30, 2013 but on Thursday said he plans to serve longer. Breen said one of his top priorities has been to restore a sense of permanency and stability to the department.”This is not meant as a knock to anybody,” Breen said, “but the last permanent chief we had was Chief Richard Carmody, who retired in 2008. So my first goal was to get the department back on an even keel and get some uniformity in the department. I’m not one of these guys that is out in three (years). I’m in for the long haul.”Breen admits as chief he misses going out on runs.”I’ll always miss that,” he said. “It’s been a couple of years since I answered calls on a regular basis. The thing I loved about answering calls is every call was different. It was like a new job every single time. I miss the camaraderie of the groups.”Breen said he has received a lot of support from the superior officers as well as the firefighters.”We had an officers meeting on Tuesday,” he said. “In the past the meetings were few and far between, but I plan to meet with the senior command staff on a monthly basis. Everyone has been very good to work with and I’m getting a lot of support.”Breen, who is a licensed master electrician, said he has been emphasizing the importance of sharing institutional knowledge with the younger members of the department. He has been teaching them about wiring and alarm systems.”I told my officers that old farts like us need to pass on knowledge to the younger firefighters in the department,” Breen said. “Our veterans know the buildings like the back of their hand. They know where the shut-off valves are for gas and water and things.”As for his management style, Breen said he does not make snap decisions.”I spent a long time on the School Committee,” he said. “I understand the importance of listening to everyone very carefully and taking all points of view into account before making a decision.”Breen is in the process of developing new training opportunities and computerizing the department.”There are a lot of options out there.” Breen said. “Software is expensive and we’re looking for a cost-effective way to computerize records and use laptops on the apparatus.”Breen, who has two adult daughters, lives in town with his wife Leslie. As a former School Committee member and School Building Committee member, Breen is no stranger to the budget process.”The upcoming year doesn’t look great,” he said. “But the instructions I’ve received from Town Hall are it doesn’t appear we will have layoffs.”Breen said one of his first budget priorities is securing almost $50,000 from the Capital Improvement Committee to replace turnout gear for the 34 members of the department.”The turnout coats and pants cost $1,500 a set,” he said. “The turnout gear is supposed to be replaced every five years and most of the guys have gear that is seven years old or older.”

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