Oak Bluffs fire chief cutting back duties, command in transition

— File photo by Mae Deary

The command structure of the Oak Bluffs Fire department was shaken this week.

On Monday, Oak Bluffs fire chief Pete Forend notified the town he would curtail his duties immediately because of medical concerns, and would no longer respond to fires.

On Thursday, Deputy fire chief Tony Ferreirra told The Times he has submitted a letter notifying the town that he intends to retire from the fire department.

In March, Chief Forend notified the board of selectmen he did not want to be reappointed to the job he has held for six years when his current appointment term ends on June 30.

Mr. Forend said his decision to leave the job was related to his dissatisfaction with the department’s pay structure, and the town’s reluctance to make the position of fire chief full time.

In a telephone conversation Thursday, Mr. Forend said his decision to curtail his duties is not related to those issues. Mr. Forend said his medical concern is stress related.

“I won’t be responding to fires, but overall, I’m still responsible for the department,” Mr. Forend told the Times.

Town administrator Bob Whritenour said Thursday afternoon that he had only heard unofficially that Mr. Ferrerria was leaving the department.

“I’m told he submitted a letter of resignation,” Mr. Whritenour said. “I’ve asked to see a copy of it, I haven’t seen it.”

Mr. Whritenour met with Chief Forend Thursday morning. He said he is confident that the command structure is fully prepared to handle fire emergencies, and continue more routine duties such as inspections and investigations.

“My chief concern is firefighting readiness of the department,” Mr. Whritenour said. “Chief Forend is still the chief of the department. He has some medical issues to work through.”

Oak Bluffs issued an advertisement this week seeking an acting fire chief to work with the department until June 30. The town has hired a consultant to make recommendations for restructuring the department. That consultant is currently interviewing department personnel.

“There are very big changes coming for the Oak Bluffs fire department,” Mr. Whritenour said. “You’re going to see a lot of changes, starting now.”