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Barnstead welcomes Fire Chief Mark Tetreault

A day of firsts for Barnstead emergency services

THE TETREAULT FAMILY pose in front of Barnstead Parade Fire Station with Chief Mark Tetreault (center left), daughter Holly (far left), wife Cindy (center right), and son Ben (far right). Weston Sager. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010
BARNSTEAD — By all accounts, it was a historic occasion.

Barnstead welcomed its first full-time fire chief 101 years after founding the Barnstead fire department in 1909.

Selectmen Chairman Jim Barnard inaugurated new fire chief Mark Tetreault of Epsom in front of family, friends and community members at a public reception in the Barnstead Parade Fire Station Monday evening.

Although Chief Tetreault has already been serving as Barnstead's new fire department head since June 14, it was the first public welcoming of the new official and his family.

"This is a historic day for Barnstead," said Barnard. "After 100 years we finally have a full-time fire chief."

Earlier this year Barnstead voters agreed to transform the Barnstead fire department from a private entity to a municipal department with a full-time fire chief.

It was a day of firsts for the town of Barnstead, but it was also a new beginning for the Tetreault family as they were officially welcomed into the Barnstead community.

"So far, so good," said Chief Tetreault. "The people have been welcoming and down-to-earth. Everyone here really cares about their community."

Chief Tetreault acknowledged those who served in the Barnstead fire department prior to his arrival, including former Barnstead fire chief George "Rusty" Krause.

"The Barnstead fire department already has a great foundation," said Tetreault. "I want to help the fire department continue to grow."

"It's a step up," said State Representative Elaine Swinford. "It's a good thing for the town's support system and organization."

His wife Cindy, brother Bob, daughter Holly, and sons Ben and Matthew accompanied Chief Tetreault for this historic evening.

"This is very exciting for him," said Cindy. "He's been working hard for over 20 years to get this job. We're all very proud."

Chief Tetreault began firefighting at the age of 18 in Franklin. After serving for several years as a firefighter in Bedford and Hooksett, he worked for more than a decade as a fire marshal in Durham and Londonderry before accepting the position as Barnstead's first full-time fire chief.

All told, Chief Tetreault has been fighting fires for almost three decades.

"It's a good achievement for him," said son Ben. "This has been his dream for the past few years."

Fifteen candidates applied for the opening of Barnstead's first full-time fire chief. As part of the application process, each prospective fire chief had to undergo an oral examination, a real-life tactical exercise, a written test, and a series of essay questions.

"The selection was very comprehensive," said Barnard.

The tactical exercise was particularly rigorous, explained Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Mulcahy, a 34-year veteran of the Barnstead Fire Department.

"Each candidate had to perform a leadership scenario under a great deal of pressure," he said. "They had to manage personnel, equipment and safety as though they were in charge of fighting a real fire."

Those in attendance agreed the official inauguration of a full-time fire chief is a break from Barnstead's past.

"We've just closed on 100 years of history," said Barnstead Fire Department Lieutenant John Drew, a 20-year firefighting veteran. "It's not just a new chapter: it's a whole new book."

For much of the 20th century, the Barnstead fire department was two separate volunteer organizations: the Center Barnstead Fire Department and the Barnstead Parade Fire Department. In the mid-1990s, the two departments merged into the private non-profit Barnstead Fire Rescue Inc., headquartered on Barnstead Parade.

In the merger, the organization changed the color of its fire trucks from red and yellow to emerald green, which has become its trademark.

The town leased the services of Barnstead Fire Rescue Inc. annually. After a few years, efforts began to transform the privately operated Barnstead Fire Rescue Inc. into a municipal fire department with a full-time fire chief.

For four years the Barnstead Fire Study Committee deliberated about the feasibility of a municipal department. The town then formed a Fire Chief Search Committee consisting of fire chiefs from other towns, selectmen, and local firefighters that worked for seven months before deciding on Tetreault.

The entire process was even longer than that, claimed Barnard.

"It really took 10 years of work to get a municipal fire department with a full-time fire chief," he said. "A large group of people worked on this project for a long time."

Barnstead Selectman Bob LaRoche added, the credit for the current Barnstead fire department goes beyond town leadership.

"It's the voters who made this happen," he said. "Now it's their fire chief."

Barnstead Fire Rescue Inc., the private non-profit that managed Barnstead's fire operations for the past 15 years, will take on new responsibilities as a firemen's association now that its primary duties have been transferred to the town.

"We're going to be taking on a new role," said Barnstead Fire Rescue Inc.'s President Nick Rott, a 33-year veteran of the Barnstead Fire Department. "We're going to be doing fundraising and other events. That's the path we're heading down."

Although it was an evening of new beginnings, it was also a night to remember those in the community who helped make possible Barnstead's first full-time fire chief, notably former Barnstead Selectman Phil Grillo, who passed away during the fire chief selection process.

"Phil Grillo was an important part of the Barnstead Fire Chief Search Committee," said Barnard. "We wish he could have been here to see this."

Members of the Barnstead community are optimistic the inauguration of a full-time fire chief will streamline emergency services in town.

"The old system was very complicated," said Barnstead Selectman David Kerr. "The selection of a full-time fire chief is the natural progression of a town getting larger."

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

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