Fire Dept. Responds To HazMat Incident At Star Market Monday Night, One Taken To Hospital

Photo: Belmont Fire’s ladder truck at the scene at Star Market on Monday, Oct. 11

A refrigerant leak in the basement of Star Market on Trapelo Road on Monday, Oct. 11 resulted in the state’s hazardous materials team being called to the scene by Belmont Fire officials.

In a press release from Belmont Fire Department Chief David DeStefano, Belmont Fire personnel responded to a call from the supermarket located at 535 Trapelo Rd. at 8:45 p.m. where they found an active leak of refrigerant filling areas of the store. Firefighters safety removed 18 employees and contractors in addition to customers while the incident commander requested mutual aid from Waltham Fire and assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Team.

“We chose to house the Technical Operations Module or TOMS truck operated by the state here in our [Trapelo Road] Headquarters station for just such an incident,” said DeStefano. “The team was able to assemble and respond rapidly to our request for assistance. Working with neighboring agencies and partnering with the Commonwealth to leverage our capabilities provided efficiency and greater safety for our firefighters and the community in general.”

With assistance from the Haz Mat team and guidance from the refrigeration contractor at the scene, the system was made safe and the area ventilated. One employee was transported to Mt. Auburn Hospital for evaluation. While Belmont Fire companies operated at the incident Cambridge and Arlington fire departments provided station coverage.

Belmont To Observe 9/11 At Fire Department HQ, Saturday, Sept. 11; At The Beech Street Center On Sept. 9

Photo: Observance at Belmont Fire HQ recognizing those residents killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2014

Belmont will observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at two locations in the coming week.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, the town will hold its official observance at the Belmont Fire Department headquarters at 299 Trapelo Rd. with the reading of the names of Belmont residents who were killed in the terrorist attacks. There will also be the tolling of the bell for the first responders who died in the line of duty and the lowering of the flag to half-staff.

The Beech Street Center members to honor and remember this important day in history on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 1:15 p.m. 

Participants will have an opportunity to share their own stories and memories about this day after we’ll watch a special documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary. Bob Upton Belmont’s Veterans’ Service Officer and officers from Belmont Police and Fire Department will attend and the Belmont Public Library will provide books and movies for those interested.

To register for the Beech Street Center event, leave a message on our programs and events line at 617-993-2976.  

No Injuries From B Street Duplex Blaze

Photo: An early morning house fire on B Street was quickly extinguished by Belmont Fire crews. (Credit Belmont Fire Department)

A house fire that broke out in a B Street duplex was put out without injuries to residents or firefighters early Thursday morning, Aug. 26.

Belmont Fire Department companies arriving at the scene at approximately 1:30 a.m. encountered a blaze in the kitchen of one of the condominiums and rapidly extinguished it confining damage to the room.

“Belmont firefighters confirmed that all residents had escaped by conducting a search of the entire duplex,” according to a press release from Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano. “Firefighters also conducted smoke removal activities and monitored the occupancy to ensure the atmosphere was free of harmful products of combustion.”

Mutual aid came from the Cambridge, Arlington and Watertown fire departments.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

First fire responded by the department’s new pumper engine.

Belmont Fire Dept. Dedicates New Engine 2 Then Responds To Alarm Minutes Later

Photo: Belmont Fire’s new Engine 2

It didn’t take long for Belmont Fire to get to use its newest apparatus. Just minutes after the department placed the 2021 E-One pumper in service on Aug. 19, the newly dedicated Engine 2 responded to its first alarm from its new home on Leonard Street in Belmont Center for a flooded basement.

And the department has a pretty versatile truck. The pumper features a 1,500 gallon per minute pump, integrated foam delivery system, and has been configured to support the diverse missions of the modern fire service. In addition to its firefighting capability Engine 2 has the capability to support hazardous materials responses, technical rescue incidents, and provide advanced life support medical care.

“Together with a crew of skilled firefighters this truck optimizes our service capability and keeps our residents safer with the latest technology,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano at the dedication, joined by the Select Board’s Roy Epstein. “Based here at Station 2 this company protects half of the entire town with rapid response and efficient service.”

DeStefano thanked the firefighters for their commitment to the department, especially those who served on the committee that wrote the specifications for the apparatus: Assistant Chief Wayne Haley, Capt. Andrew Tobio, Capt. Robert Wollner, Lt. Gerrard Benoit and firefighter Ross Vona, as well as Belmont residents for their support in funding the purchase of the truck.

Trapelo Road Condo Building Evacuated Friday Due To Structural Issues, 70 Left Homeless

Photo: The condominium building at 125 Trapelo Rd. evacuated Friday afternoon, Aug. 13 due to structural issues.

A seven floor 40-unit residential building in Belmont’s Cushing Square was evacuated at 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13 after a cautionary inspection Thursday discovered large cracks in apartments on the top two floors that made the 58-year-old apartment block structurally unsafe for occupancy.

The brick and mortar building at 125 Trapelo Rd. across from the newly constructed Bradford apartments is not a threat to fall or see significant portions fall away, said Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s town engineer who was at the scene along with Belmont police and fire and several broadcast crews and three new helicopters overhead.

“But it’s not ready for residents to return,” said Clancy, saying that two independent building inspectors will be on the site Monday, Aug. 16, to begin a survey of the structural integrity of the site. “It will be up to those engineers to determine if the structure is safe for occupancy,” said Clancy, who will sign off on any new certificate of occupancy.

The Trapelo Road evacuation comes less than two months after the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida killing 98 residents. “[The Florida] event is one reason we are proceeding with extra caution here,” said Clancy.

The inspection by a Maine-based firm Thursday was prompted by a resident of the top floor who found large cracks in the walls and ceiling and alerted the landlord, said Clancy. The structural engineer observed the breaks and wrote a report to the building’s management company, Great North Property Management of Exeter, NH.

Clancy said the engineer told him she suspected the large number of cellular antennas and wireless electronic equipment on the roof to be the likely cause of the damage.

40 residents evacuated

When the severity of the report was known on Friday, the management company notified the town and Belmont Police and Fire responded. ”Firefighters searched the entire building and evacuated at least 40 residents home at the time of the incident,” said Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano. “The natural gas service to the building was shut by National Grid and it was ascertained from the engineering firm that there was no risk to nearby buildings,” he said

According to assessors records, the building was completed in 1963 and at the time was the largest residential premises in town. It was bought in 2015 for $5,275,000 by 125 Trapelo LCC located on Clarendon Street in Boston. Town officials said about 70 people live at 125 Trapelo.

With the building closed for at least the weekend and likely longer, the concerns of town and state officials turned to the residents who were suddenly made homeless during a mid-August heatwave.

Pearl Risberg and Calvin Heimberg moved into their apartment on Thursday and were out of the building early Friday only to arrive back to their new home to find the door blocked by Belmont firefighters.

”Everything looked great when we moved in so we’re a little bummed,” said Risberg.

Another resident who thought it best not to give his name was watching Netflix on his couch on his day off when someone knocked on his door saying they were from Belmont Fire. “They told me there was a problem with the structure and we need to evacuate.” He would relocate with the other residents across Trapelo Road, some staying inside the lobby of the Bradford to get out of the 90 degree heat to hear updates from Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.

“I’ll be staying with a friend for tonight, but after that … “, he said.

But for several residents new to the area or whose families are overseas, the prospects of finding a place to relocate to did not appear promising. The lucky ones were able to grab plastic bags filled with clothes or suitcases with computers and documentation. Several were carrying hot and scared pets wondering where they would be going. By 5 p.m., the MBTA supplied a bus to allow residents a chance to rest in an air conditioned space.

The Red Cross arrived only to determine the building was not closed due to a “natural disaster” before leaving.

The one thing in common with all the residents was their collective scorn for the property management firm.

”It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. It’s been six hours and no-one has told us anything,” said one resident who was traveling with her cat, Oreo. “This is not our fault. [Great North] should be working with us but they are doing nothing.”

As the afternoon turned to evening, Great North’s on-site representative, senior property manager Robert Linney, would not provide the residents any information on alternative housing or compensation for other lodgings. Linney referred all inquires to the main office in New Hampshire. By 7 p.m., Belmont Police were leading some residents into building to retrieve computers and clothes they would need for the weekend.

State Rep. Dave Rogers arrived at 3 p.m. and coordinated with assistant town manager Jon Marshall, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Salvation Army to provide shelter for the newly homeless. By 11 p.m., those remaining took the bus to a hotel to spend at least one night indoors.

“There is a core group that really needs help,” said Rogers. “There are long term issues with the building but right now we just want to solve the short term and that’s getting people a place to stay.”

Fire Department Ups Fees For Ambulance Service Adding $290K To ’22 Budget

Photo: Belmont Fire Chief David DeStefano

A jump in the fees to call a Belmont Fire Department ambulance will add more than a quarter of a million dollars to the town budget after the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved the cost hike at its virtual meeting on Monday, May 11.

The changes to what was called an out-of-date fee structure came after Chief David DeStefano compared the costs being charged for ambulance services in neighboring and comparable towns and finding Belmont should bump up its fees.

“Certainly it’s a forecast at this point, but it will come to fruition one day. I think that would definitely put us on the right path.” said DeStefano, who came before the board with an initial proposal three weeks earlier and was asked by the members to return with a more flushed out draft.

The new fee structure will be:

Service Former feeNew fee
Basic Life Service (BLS)$1,850$1,999
Advance Life Service 1 (ALS)$2,350$2,475
Advance Life Service 2 (ALS2)$2,800$2,950
Source: Belmont Fire Department

What does BLS, ALS all mean? Here’s a short explainer.

The per mile charge will rise to $40.

According to DeStefano, the estimated annual revenue in fiscal 2022 using the new fee structure – using historical data from 2020 – will bring in $953,000, compared with $662,000 in 2020. The change will result in an additional $291,000 coming into the town’s coffers.

“Clearly … the rates that we’re using are outdated and we need to get to higher rates so I’m full steam ahead,” said Board member Mark Paolillo.

Using a conservative estimate of $250,000 in new revenue coming to the ’22 budget, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the board the added monies could be used to fill critical personnel holes in several departments. “Any additions would have to have recurring revenue behind it, at least that’s my guiding philosophy on the budget,” said Garvin.

One such need is reinstating a Building Automation Systems Manager for the new Middle and High School who will oversee the efficient running of the building beginning in September. That post was set aside after the Proposition 2 1/2 override was defeated at the April Town Election.

The second position is a diversity coordinator the town could share with the Belmont schools. While there are “further discussions on how to develop and incorporate this position, either with the schools, the town or both,” Garvin would “park that position in the town’s budget” for now. Both positions would run between $105,000 to $110,000 in salary and benefits.

Dash said the two positions have been discussed in detail with the facilities department “having a dire need for sure” for the systems manager. “If we don’t maintain our [buildings], we’re just going to pay more later,” said Dash.

Paolillo did push back on the hiring of a full-time diversity director for the town suggesting the schools assume financial responsibility initially for the position and the town wait for the town’s diversity task force to make its recommendations before committing to a hire. He suggested diversity training for all employees could be a more impactful use of the new revenue.

Resident Bill Anderson told the board that new employees add to the town’s pension and OPEB obligations “and those could very easily add up.”

“There needs to be taken caution when adding permanent employees to a town that claims to be in a structural deficit,” he said.

Driver Killed In Single-Vehicle Truck Accident on Common Street [Video]

Photo: An accident on Common Street involving a box truck left the driver dead

The driver of a box truck was killed in an early-morning one-vehicle accident on Common Street on Thursday, March 4.

According to Belmont Fire Capt. Rick Nohl, Belmont Police and Fire arrived at the scene near the World War 1 memorial triangle at Dunbarton Road after receiving a 911 call at 2:50 a.m. They found a white box truck on its side and a 45-year-old man dead inside the severely damaged diver’s compartment.

It is believe the driver lost control of the vehicle and rolled it over while driving on Common Street, said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a press release.

Nohl said his department began a recovery operation which took some time to retrieve the body. By daybreak, two large recovery trucks uprighted the truck, which was fully loaded with produce, before it was taken from the scene around 8:30 a.m.

The accident is under investigation by Belmont Police and the Massachusetts State Police’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit, according to Nohl.

Select Board Approves Contract With New Fire Chief DeStefano

Photo: David DeStefano, Belmont Fire’s new chief.

It’s official. Belmont has a new fire chief as the Select Board agreed to a contract with David DeStefano at this Feb. 8 meeting.

DeStefano, a battalion chief with the North Providence (RI) Fire Department, was selected by the board at its Jan. 21 meeting, replacing long-time chief David Frizzell.

DeStefano’s contract will be for three years starting March 15, 2021. His starting salary is $152,000. As part of his employment, he must establish primary residency within 15 miles of Belmont’s border in the next six months.

The town will provide DeStefano with an unmarked fire vehicle.

On July 1, 2021, DeStefano will be eligible for a minimum cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 2 percent or a general COLA pay increase for department heads, whichever is greater. On July 1, 2022 and July 1, 2023, he will be eligible for his current base salary plus a COLA minimum of 2 percent or the general COLA pay increase for department heads whichever is greater. There is also a merit increase based on his performance review.

DeStefano will accrue four weeks of vacation and three weeks of sick leave annually along with 12 holidays. He will be offered the normal health, dental and life insurance benefits of all employees of the town.

DeStefano must submit his application for Massachusetts Fire Chief credentials within the first three months of being hired.

Vehicle Slips, Slides Into Art’s Specialties As Belmont Gets Hit By Storm

Photo: A vehicle took out two window at Trapelo Road’s Art’s Specialties. (Credit: Belmont Fire Dept.)

The National Weather Service said today’s snow storm would cause hazardous driving Monday night.

And a slick roadway under nearly six inches of snow resulted in a Toyota SUV slipping off the roadway and into Art’s Specialties at 369 Trapelo Rd. around 6:10 p.m., Feb. 1, according to the Belmont Fire Department.

No one was reportedly injured in the crash.

“Slick road conditions have caused several crashes this evening. Please stay off the roads unless necessary,” said a message on Belmont Fire’s Twitter feed.

Credit: Belmont Fire Department.

DeStefano Selected To Be Next Belmont Fire Chief

Photo: David DeStefano (Linkedin)

David DeStefano, the Battalion Chief for the North Providence Fire Deptartment in Rhode Island was offered the position of Belmont’s next Fire Chief by the Belmont Select Board on Thursday, Jan. 21.

DeStefano, who replaces David Frizzell at the post, will now go through contract negotiations for being sworn in the next few weeks.

A veteran of 31 and half years on the North Providence force, DeStefano is also an instructor and coordinator at the Rhode Island Fire Academy and is the author of a number of publications and manuals on fire services.