Long Serving Belmont Fire Chief Frizzell Set To Retire In August [Update]

Photo: Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell

The cat is out of the bag on the future of Belmont Fire Chief David L. Frizzell.

Last week, Select Board Chair Roy Epstein casually mentioned at a public meeting that Frizzell “would be leaving” his position this year. The long serving member of the Belmont Fire Department confirmed the rumor before the start of the Class of 2020 Rolling Rally on Saturday.

At the Select Board’s meeting on Monday, June 8, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said it was with regret that Chief Frizzell was indeed retiring “after a long and distinguished career.”

Frizzell’s final day will be Aug. 28 or 31, according to Jessica Porter, Belmont Human Resources director.

“It’s been a great time, been a great job, the best job in the world,” said Frizzell.

Chief David Frizzell at a working fire on Trapelo Road in Belmont.

“I loved working for the town, had a great bunch of of people under me that made the department a success and I’ll be moving on to the next chapter,” he said.

Son of a Belmont Fire Department captain – David M. Frizzell – Chief Frizzell has been leading the department for the past 16 years since his appointment in June 2004, after serving seven years as assistant chief.

Frizzell’s first position in Belmont was as a part-time police dispatcher in 1985 before joining the fire department as a full-time Fire Alarm Operator (dispatcher) in 1986. He was appointed a firefighter in March 1988.

A graduate of Minuteman Vocational High School, Frizzell received two associate degrees from Middlesex Community College and his bachelor’s and a Master in Public Administration from Anna Maria College.

In February 2019, the Belmont Select Board agreed to extend Frizzell’s contract until June 30, 2021.

It is unknown how the town’s hiring freeze will impact the search for and appointment of Frizzell’s replacement.

Early Morning Smokey Fire Damages Purecoat Plating Plant on Hittinger

Photo: The Purecoat North site

An early morning two alarm fire involving chemicals used in the plating process occurred at the Purecoat North facility adjacent Belmont High School property at 39 Hittinger St. on Friday, May 28.

Belmont Fire Chief Divid Frizzell said in a press release that a call was received by Belmont Fire from Purecoat’s monitoring company at 12:51 a.m. reporting a fire alarm activation at the location. All on-duty Belmont personnel and apparatus responded. 

Upon arrival there was a large amount of black smoke coming from the building, involving equipment, chemicals and storage vessels used in the plating process. Due to the nature of the chemicals at the site – that can include solvents such as:

  • Benzene
  • TZE
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene)

a second alarm was transmitted which brought local aid from Arlington, Cambridge, and Watertown to the fire while Waltham Fire covered one of Belmont’s stations. 

The fire was brought under control in about 30 minutes. The Massachusetts District 2 Hazmat Team had a Tier 1 response to the location to check for hazardous materials. They found the chemicals were contained inside the protective barriers within the building. 

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and there were no injuries to firefighters. The cause of the fire is under investigation and a dollar loss has not been established.

One Dead In Birch Hill Road Fire That Leaves House Heavily Damaged

Photo: A Belmont Fire official examines a house at 81 Birch Hill Road damaged by a fire on Friday, April 24.

A female resident died after being rescued by Belmont firefighters during an early morning blaze that heavily damaged a split ranch house at 81 Birch Hill Road on Friday, April 24.

The unidentified victim was discovered by firefighters in cardiac arrest in the 60-year-old structure located near Lantern Road and abutting Hinckley Way, according to Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell.

The victim, described as not being the homeowner, was taken by Belmont ambulance to Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge where she was pronounced dead.

The fire is under investigation by the Belmont Fire and Police departments. As there was a death caused by the fire, the Massachusetts State Police, the State Fire Marshal, and the Middlesex District Attorney are part of the probe.

The fire was phoned in at approximately 4:09 a.m. by a motorist driving on Route 2 who reported it five minutes after first seeing smoke coming from the structure, said Frizzell.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the attic windows, which resulted in a second alarm being called. Fire personnel discovered the fire on the first floor in the area of the kitchen which had raced up into the attic, said Frizzell.

It took about half an hour to put out the fire. Firefighters remained at the scene to search for any smoldering flames. A cat was found under a bed in the basement and handed over to Belmont Animal Control, said Frizzell.

Frizzell said the structure while heavily damaged “was by no means a total loss” with the most fire damage in the kitchen area and in the attic floorboards.

Belmont Engines 1 and 2, Ladder 1 and Rescue 1 fought the fire while Arlington and Cambridge’s Fire assisted at the scene. Waltham and Watertown provided covered at Belmont’s firehouses.

Two New Belmont Firefighters Off To Training At Fire Academy

Photo: New Firefighter Paramedics meet the Belmont selectmen (left) Firefighter Paramedic Michael Goode, Firefighter Paramedic Justin Perino, Selectmen Chair Adam Dash, Selectmen Tom Caputo, Mark Paolillo and Fire Chief David Frizzell

Two newly hired firefighters will soon begin three months of recruit firefighting training at the Brookline Fire Academy as they start their careers with the Belmont Fire Department.

On Monday, Feb. 4, Firefighter paramedics Justin Perino and Michael Goode were sworn in by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, starting two months of orientation and training within the department. After returning from Brookline, the pair will be on shift in July. Both firefighters grew up in Belmont and still live in the Town.

“I welcome firefighters Perino and Goode to the Department,” said Fire Chief David Frizzell.

“I wish them a long healthy and safe career serving the residents of the town. Their families and friends should be proud of their commitment to their profession and community.”

Selectmen OKs Fire Chief’s New Contract

Photo: “Your Fire Chief” David Frizzell. 

It took some give and take and several executive sessions over the past five months, but on Friday, Feb. 8, the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved a new contract with the town’s longtime Fire Chief, David Frizzell. 

The town now has agreements with both of Belmont public safety heads, having signed off on a contract with Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin in September. 

According to Jessica Porter, Belmont’s human resources director, the town agrees to pay Frizzell a base annual salary of $170,000 retroactive to July 1, 2018.

Over the next two years, on July 1 2019 and 2020, Frizzell will receive either a two percent cost of living adjustment or the general COLA pay increase for fire department heads, whichever is greater. There is also a performance raise as outlined in the contract. The new total amount will be the new “base pay” to calculate further adjustments.

Porter also noted that Frizzell will continue to have:

  • a take home vehicle, a taxable benefit, consistent with the police chief and others who have assigned take home vehicles,
  • various leaves as is compatible with other contracts/department heads,
  • a first responder stipend of $2,000 in year one, with a $1,000 increase each year after, and
  • the ability to sell back 56 hours (seven days) of unused vacation time to the town at the end of the year.

While McLaughlin’s contract was structured to end on Dec. 31, 2019 to conincide with his retirement date, there is nothing regarding retirement in Frizzell’s contact.

“[Frizzell] is required per the contract to give 30 days’ notice if he wishes to leave before the term of the agreement ends,” said Porter.

Belmont Fire Praised for Action At Waltham ‘Epic’ Fire

Photo: At the Waltham fire; Lt Gerry Benoit (E1), Asst Chief Wayne Haley (C2), and FF Brian O’Neill (E1 Hydrant). (Photo Credit – Lt Rob Wollner)

Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell described the inferno his department help fight in Waltham last month was simply “epic.”

“You don’t see many of those during your career,” Frizzell said describing the 10-alarm fire on July 23  that ripped through a five building, a 260-unit luxury apartment complex under construction on Cooper Street. 

But in the past nine months, Belmont firefighters have now fought a pair of 10-alarm fires, the other occurring in December when a massive fire engulfed eight buildings in East Cambridge, destroying a city block.

“We joke about ‘over the river and through the woods’ because this fire was on the other side of the Charles River. We laid every stitch of hose we had on the truck, and we went over a bridge and through the woods to get to the back door,” said Frizzell.

An “alarm,” as in a “one alarm fire,” is different in each municipality said Frizzell; in Belmont, it would be two engines, a ladder truck, rescue team and the shift commander that make up a single alarm. In larger communities, it’s four to five engines, upwards to a pair of ladder trucks and fire rescue.

Belmont’s fast response and time spent at the fire was recognized this week by Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy in a proclamation, noting Belmont Fire’s “quick response and quality decision making” was critical in “preventing the fire from spreading, and causing further damage and possible injuries or fatalities.” 

The Belmont personnel who responded included:

  • Asst. Chief Wayne Haley
  • Lt. Gerard Benoit 
  • FF Chris Drinan
  • FF Brian O’Neill
  • Chief David Frizzell
  • Lt. Michael Madruga
  • FF Ace Elefteriadis
  • FF Ryan Keene

On Thursday, Aug. 10, the fire was determined to be arson and a $100,000 reward is being offered by the property owner and contractor for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.

One Dead in Three-Alarm Fire at Trapelo Road Two Family [VIDEO]

Photo: Firefighters inspecting the house at 606-608 Trapelo Rd. where a man died in a fire.

An early morning three-alarm fire that gutted a two-story house on Trapelo Road killed a person, according to the Belmont Fire Department.

The 4 a.m. blaze at 606-608 Trapelo Rd. located at the corner of Agassiz Street just outside of Waverley Square took the life of a man who possibly lives there, according to Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell.  

“Tragically, fire deaths do occur due to preventable causes. Fire alarms do help, but they need to in the correct location and operating,” said Frizzell at the scene. 

Fire units from Cambridge, Arlington, Waltham, Lexington, and Watertown assisted Belmont in fighting the blaze.

Frizzell said when fire units arrived at the scene, the attic and second floors were fully involved with flames coming out of the windows. 

Initially, the building’s occupants reported that everyone had escaped the fire, but it was soon determined a person who reportedly resided on the top floor did not make it out.

After the flames had been knocked down, firefighters found the man’s body in the third floor/attic space.

Belmont Fire and Police are in the process of determining the man’s relationship to the building, said Frizzell. 

Frizzell said it appeared the building had fire alarms, but it will have to determined later if they were functioning at the time of the fire. His department will also be investigating the cause of the fire as well as the relationship of the third-floor living space was to the second floor. 

The 2,500 sq.-ft. structure built in 1913 included a fully finished attic, according to the Belmont Assessing Department. 

Frizzell said the third floor was heavily damaged and there was significant water damage to the second and first floors. 

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Fire Destroys McLean’s Codman Building [VIDEO]

Photo: The aftermath of the fire that destroyed the Codman House at McLean Hospital.

A two-alarm fire destroyed the former Codman House on the McLean Hospital campus early Monday morning, Nov. 14.

The blaze, which required fire equipment from neighboring towns of Watertown, Arlington, and Cambridge, started just before 3 a.m. At its height, the glow of the flames could be seen as far as Cushing Square.

According to Belmont Fire Chief David L. Frizzell, the building is a total loss as parts of the building – located in the northern section of the 300-acre campus – will be pulled down to allow fire crews to extinguish any remaining fire smoldering in the debris.

Frizzell said a cause of the fire would not be determined for some time.

A statement from the hospital thanked the “Belmont Fire Department’s rapid response” which contained the fire “to that one building and no other areas of the McLean campus.”

“We are deeply grateful to the Belmont Fire Department, Belmont Police Department, and first responders from surrounding municipalities for their efforts this morning,” said the McLean statement.

Frizzell said Belmont Police were investigating smoke on Concord Avenue when a 911 call came from McLean of a fire in the abandoned structure. Arriving fire crews found “a heavy volume” of flames coming out of the second and third floors.

Frizzell said the blaze was initially difficult to fight as the building was mothballed and fire lines had to be stretched over a long distance. He said the crews were fortunate that the building was unoccupied and far enough away from other building in the vicinity.

It had taken about two hours before firefighters got the fire under control, said Frizzell, who said that crews would spend the rest of the day putting out the last of the fire. He said no firefighters that he knew were injured.

McLean, which has been located off Mill Street for more than 120 years, is the largest psychiatric facility of Harvard Medical School, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital and is owned by Partners HealthCare.


The Codman was once the women’s geriatric ward where “‘the ladies of Codman’ staged elaborate tea parties on silver service for [Psychiatrist Robert Coles] and other young residents in the late 1950s” wrote Alex Beam in his history of McLean, Gracefully Insane, The Rise and Fall of America’s Premier Mental Hospital.


Ohlin’s Owners Declare ‘We’ll Be Back’ After Flash Fire, Explosion Closes Shop

Photo: The rear of Ohlin’s Bakery that suffered the most damage.

The flash fire that rocked Ohlin’s Bakery early Tuesday morning, March 15, sent the family who’ve owned the store since the 1960s reeling.

“We are still in shock,” said Marybeth Klemm, who with her husband owns and runs the century old Belmont institution in the heart of Cushing Square.

But even as they start the difficult work of getting back on their feet, the Klemm’s have been the recipients of a steady stream of support from their loyal customers.

“It warms our hearts to know the community is rallying behind us,” Marybeth told the Belmontonian Tuesday afternoon, March 15.

Belmont has been following closely the news of the early morning explosion that knocked down both Klemm and his assistant that came from an oven that was turned on to start a long morning of baking the store’s award-winning baked goods including its famous donuts.

“I’m extremely grateful that Paul and Nouri [Hessasta] were not hurt! They have angels watching over them!” said Marybeth.

David Frizzell, Belmont Fire Chief, told the Belmontonian dispatchers received a call at 2:47 a.m. for an explosion and a fire at Ohlin’s at 456 Common St. near the intersection of Trapelo Road.


“When the fire companies arrived, the fire was out,” said Frizzell. Fire personnel found two people at the scene, one, the owner Paul Klemm, had been “engulfed” in the flash fire that followed the explosion. While singed by the flames, both he and Hessasta declined medical attention.

Frizzell said his crews found the back of the operation, where the baking takes place “suffered significant structural damage” with a portion of the roof and a part of the back wall collapsed.

“Right now it’s unsafe to be in that portion of the building so the owner needs to get an engineer in there to do a structural analysis of that section to find out what repairs need to be done,” said Frizzell.

In addition, the front window of Jerry’s Barber Shop next to the bakery was blown out.


While first indications point to natural gas as the culprit, Frizzell said the incident remains under investigation. As a precaution, gas and electrical service were shut off to surrounding businesses so town inspectors could inspect the infrastructure.

Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development which includes the Building Department which handles inspections, said initial inspection determined the back space of the bakery is “unsafe for occupancy.”

It will be up to the landlord to pull building permits to begin repairs. Clancy’s office will need to inspect the work while other town departments, such as health, will be involved as the business readies to open.

Clancy said he could not say how long the work will take but the retail portion of the building will remain closed until the bakery section is approved for occupancy.

Marybeth said the family is moving forward in reopening the business, although it will be later than sooner before the business opens once again.

“We are in the process of talking with the insurance company. There was a lot of structural damage; so we are not sure how long it will take to fix,” she said.

Marybeth wanted the public to know; “We will try and be back in business as soon as possible! Thanks for your support!”

Fire Heavily Damages Two Family on Russell Terrace, Occupant Taken to Hospital

A two-alarm fire heavily damaged a 105-year-old two-family house at the end of Russell Terrace, sending an elderly occupant to the hospital this afternoon, Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Flames and smoke were billowing from the first and second floor windows of the wooden Colonial when the first fire crews arrived at the dead end street off of White Street near the Watertown line, Belmont Fire Chief David L. Frizzell told the Belmontonian at the scene.

The call came into Belmont dispatch at 12:06 p.m. and was quickly upgraded to a second alarm, said Frizzell.

A haze hung over a blocked off White Street as firefighters worked inside the building to douse flames that worked their way into the awes. The exterior was blackened by the blaze.

A Russell Terrace resident who did not want to be named said her husband saw smoke coming from the second floor window just after noon.

“He yelled at me to call 911. I’m surprised I didn’t have a heart attack running to the phone,” she said.

Frizzell and the resident told the Belmontonian an elderly occupant was seen exiting the building’s rear extension as the fire department apparatus arrived. The man was picked up by a fire fighter and placed into an ambulance and was taken to an unknown area hospital.

It took firefighters an hour to knock down the fire which destroyed the front right of the building and melted the aluminum siding of the neighboring house.

Frizzell said it was too early to determine what started the fire. He said while heavily damaged, about two-thirds of the structure did not suffer fire damage so it would not immediately be seen as a total loss.

Mutual aid came from Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington, Waltham and Weston.

The 2,228 sq.-ft. house, built in 1910, was assessed at $142,000 with the total property valued by the town at $430,000.