New Pittsfield fire chief takes reins of a younger-skewing department

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PITTSFIELD — Ten new recruits worked their first-floor shift as city firefighters Tuesday. Tom Sammons worked his last.

On Wednesday, Sammons was sworn in as the new chief.

During a news conference at City Hall, Mayor Linda Tyer said Sammons will provide the steady leadership needed to guide the department, which is increasingly youthful amid several waves of retirements in recent years.

"I know we're going to make a great team, keeping the city safe," Tyer said during the event in her office.

Sammons, 50, has been working for the Pittsfield Fire Department for 23 years. He started his new role as chief Wednesday, succeeding former Chief Robert Czerwinski, who retired in July.

He takes reins of the department after a lengthy selection process. His starting salary is $112,000, Tyer said.

The Pittsfield Fire Department has 96 firefighters spread across five buildings, Sammons said, including the Columbus Avenue headquarters and four satellite stations.

An "assessment center" under the Civil Service program provided the baseline for Tyer's selection. Once the results came back in July, she worked with Personnel Director Michael Taylor to interview finalists and choose a new chief.

Though Sammons didn't earn the top score — he came in second to Deputy Chief Daniel Garner — Tyer said Sammons demonstrated a leadership style that aligned with her vision. She said his experience in the inspection bureau also meant he was well-versed in the city's aging housing stock.

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Tyer said Sammons already has demonstrated the leadership qualities that informed her selection by developing a stress-debriefing policy for firefighters who have just handled a traumatic scene.

"We've had some tragedies in Pittsfield in recent years," Sammons said. "We were afraid it was affecting our personnel."

Sammons has been commended three times throughout his years with the department for saving lives in the field.

Of his work as chief, Sammons said: "I'm really looking forward to it."

Training is important to him, he said, as well as equipment maintenance.

"I fall back on safety, and I fall back on education," he said.

He also has been working with the team to keep the department's equipment and gear clean of carcinogens that firefighters are exposed to in fires. That will mitigate cancer risks, he said.

At the start of his career, Sammons said, he pursued two paths simultaneously — one toward police work and another toward the fire service. In the end, he said he realized that becoming a police officer meant being regularly lied to.

"I made the right choice," he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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