By Bill Hall
SWANSEA, Mass. — Michael Patterson was named the first full-time paid deputy chief for the Swansea Fire Department beginning Jan. 1.
Patterson has served 24 years on the department, including being named lieutenant in 2003 and then captain of Station I (Main Street) in 2011. He has served as one of the full-time dispatchers. He had most recently been working as the inspector for the department following the retirement of Alan Audet in September.
Fire Chief Eric Hajder, who made the appointment, said the combination of Patterson's skill in the fire services and administration made him the best choice. The chief noted that he had no intention of going outside the department for a deputy.
“He had the background,” the chief said. “He has been in the fire service for a long time and has served in numerous capacities.”
The new deputy chief said that among the priorities was the training and well-being of the firefighters.
“I'm excited about this opportunity, especially having been involved in the official aspect of so many things,” he said. “The priority would be the health, safety and support for the volunteers here. I am familiar with the difficulty of being a volunteer. They need support.”
Patterson joined the department in 1994 and worked as a volunteer until 2010 when he was appointed a full-time paid dispatcher.
“I did not necessarily have an aspiration to be a firefighter,” Patterson said. “I lived next to the old Fire Station II and my brother (Charles) and cousin (Carl Araujo) were in the department.”
He noted that when he graduated from college, he became a volunteer firefighter for Swansea and had a paid job working in lab science up until 2010 when the paid dispatcher position became available.
Training for fire services was an ongoing part of being a volunteer and Patterson became familiar with the various aspects. For the last eight years, he had been an instructor for the Massachusetts Fire Academy.
He has been a member of the Bristol County Technical Rescue Team since it started in 2010.
“I was always interested in advancing my knowledge in the department,” Patterson said.
The department has had a deputy chief, including Hajder, but that position was unpaid. After becoming chief, Hajder noted the responsibilities of the deputy position and that he needed someone who was going to be full-time.
“We had the position but it was not compensated,” Chief Hajder said. “We need to be able to have someone to take the time and responsibility. A lot goes on here, days, nights and weekends. This is a 24/7 operation.”
The chief went to the Advisory and Finance Board with a proposal for the position. However, after much discussion, the recommendation was to begin the position in January, midway through the fiscal year.
“He will be working on fire prevention,” Chief Hajder said. “He will be involved in the training aspect as well as assisting the volunteer officers.”
Deputy Chief Patterson was in action early as he, along with Chief Hajder and four other firefighters, took part in fighting the recent apartment complex fire in Fall River on Jan. 2.
“We were there filling air bottles,” Chief Hajder said. Swansea's heavy rescue vehicle is one of the few that has the capability of refilling air tanks for firefighters dealing with a difficult fire.
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