Fire Department


A request for help from Fire Chief Walter R. Tibbetts

Many of you may not realize this, but the number of members on the Shutesbury Fire Department has been on the decrease. The change in the town’s demographics, work and family responsibilities, and other time commitments have drastically reduced the
number of people that apply to the Fire Department.

At the same time, State and Federal mandates, training requirements, increase in incident volume, as well as the previously mentioned reasons, are putting more pressure on those that are here presently doing the job. The big problem is that there
are not enough of us.


If you are over the age of 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent, and a valid Massachusetts driver's license, you are eligible. Other requirements are:

*You must obtain certifications for First responder and Health Care Provider Level CPR. (This training will be provided by the department.) EMT and Semi-Automatic External Defibrillator certification is desirable.

* Have the ability to do prolonged and arduous work under hazardous, adverse emergency conditions.

* Have the ability to react quickly and calmly in an emergency.

* Have the aptitude for mechanical work.

* Have the ability to work as a member of a team and to understand and follow oral and written instructions quickly in a crisis situation.

I will be the first to tell you, being a member of the Shutesbury Fire Department is a bit of a challenge. Fire fighters are committed to being as available as possible, but it is also understood that work, travel, and home and other commitments may prevent them from responding.  Training is conducted every Thursday night from 7:00 -10:30pm. There is other training available from the Massachusetts Fire Academy, Meadowood County Area training facility, as well as the Tri-State recruit training course.

While the job is challenging, it is also rewarding. Some of the benefits of being a member are:

* The experience of being of service to the members of your community.
* Valuable training in how to handle and respond to emergencies.
* Being part of a skilled, well trained, close-knit team.

It takes a certain kind of person to fill these boots. Are you one of them?

This is your department. Your neighbors need you. We need you. Please join us. For more information call the Shutesbury Fire Department at 259-1211 or the Chief at home at 259-1286, or stop by the Fire Station on Thursday night. You may also stop by
the Fire Station, Monday thru Thursday, during the day.

Thank you all so much for the support you have given us in the past. I and all the members of the Department appreciate it. Hope to see you here.



Brush burning:  What everyone should know

A new high-tech twist has come to an old low tech activity: Brush burning permits are now available on-line.
The Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association has contracted with an individual to create an on-line brush burning permit web site. This site was up and running as of the start of brush burning season, January 15, and will run through May1.

The on-line permits are available from 7:30 am to 1:00pm on any day that burning will be allowed. If burning is not being allowed on any particular day, the website will inform you of this and not allow you to obtain a permit.

The web site is

You will first come to a welcoming page that describes the brush burning rules and regulations. To get a permit, click on the "click here to apply for a permit" line. You will see two lists, one of the towns that are allowing burning that day, and one for those that are not.

Click on your town, "Shutesbury," and fill out the form. When you submit the form a record of the permit will go into the system and a copy of the permit will be e-mailed to you at your email address. Print this permit out and sign it. It should be kept with you
while you are conducting your burning.

For those of you without a computer or Internet access, do not worry! You can still call Shelburne Control at 625-8200 to get your burning permit, just as you have been doing for the last several years. They will in turn enter the information into the system.

Now that we have covered how to get a permit, let's talk regulations and safety.

The season runs from January 15 through May 1. The hours for burning are from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Fires are to be located at least 75 feet from any building, and are to be attended at all times by a person 18 years or older. Permits are good for one day, so you must get a permit for each day that you want to burn.

As a reminder, once we lose the snow cover, and the surface fuels dry out, there is a high risk of the fire getting out of control and spreading. If this happens, don't delay, call 911 immediately.

Keep in mind that in these conditions there is a strong possibility of burning being shut down. So don't wait till the last minute to burn your brush, or you might be out of luck. Also remember that this is for the burning of brush only. The burning of grass, leaves, stumps, building materials and trash etc. is prohibited. Please use care in starting your fires. Use a small amount of paper and kindling to start the fire if possible. Using flammable liquids should be avoided because of the risk of personal injury. If you feel you must use an accelerant, use small amounts of kerosene. Never use gasoline to start the fire. 


Be safe on the ice

With the lakes and ponds frozen over, now is a good time to talk about ice safety. There are many factors that affect the strength of ice, so it is hard to set any hard and fast rules about how thick it should be to be considered safe. Areas that have moving water or strong currents will have considerably thinner ice. Objects located below the surface such as stumps and rocks can affect the strength. Also, the structure of the ice greatly affects the strength. Clear or black ice is the strongest. Snow or frazzle ice is the weakest. One inch of clear ice can be as strong as six to eight inches of frazzle ice. Snow and contaminates on the surface can also greatly effect the strength.

One generally agreed-on formula for determining strength in clear, solid lake ice is P = (50) T squared, where P = the load-bearing capacity of the ice in pounds, and T = the ice thickness in inches. Example: If the ice is 8 inches thick, 50 X (8X8) = 3200 lbs.
This is the maximum short term load in motion.

Ice Maximum Load Table

Ice thickness          Maximum Load

2 inches                     One person
4 inches                     One person fishing or a small group walking
5 inches                     A snowmobile
8 inches                     A car
10-12 inches               A light truck

Remember this is for clear, solid lake ice; all factors that weaken the ice must be factored in for safety. Use caution especially early and late in the season. If you see standing water on top of the ice, it is a good indication that the ice may not be safe.
If you see someone fall through the ice, act quickly. Call 911 immediately. Give the dispatcher as much information as you can as to the location, number of people involved, best access for rescue personnel, etc. Do not go out on the ice. Many times would-be  rescuers become victims themselves. Remember someone already fell through. This holds true for pets also. If the ice would not support a 45-50 pound dog, it will not support a fullgrown person. Call 911. The Shutesbury Fire Department has special equipment and training to safely deal with these situations.

Be safe while staying warm

Finally, I would like to talk about heating safety. Be sure your wood stove and chimney are in good condition. Make sure your stove does not have any cracks or other defects in it. Check your stove exhaust pipe. Over time and use the metal becomes
rusted and weak. Look for rust, holes, or other defects.

Have your chimney cleaned regularly and if in doubt of its condition, have it inspected by a qualified mason or chimney swift. A cracked or damaged chimney could allow smoke, carbon monoxide and other gasses to enter your house and allow creosote to build up between the high temperature liner and the structure of the chimney. In the event of a chimney fire, this creosote will burn also and transmit intense heat to surrounding materials. This usually results in a "structure fire."

Allow at least 36"of clearance around the stove from combustible materials, including stacked-up fire wood. This holds true for the area around the cleanout door for your chimney. The cleanout door is relatively thin cast iron and conducts heat very well. If you place combustible materials near or against the door, they can ignite if hot embers or burning creosote drops down from the
chimney. We have seen this many times, with disastrous results.

Careless disposal of ashes has been a leading cause of many area fires. Ashes removed from a stove or fireplace should be shoveled into a heavy metal bucket with a metal lid.  They should be placed outside away from the house and other combustible
objects (dead leaves and grass are combustible objects). The ashes insulate the hot embers and the embers can stay hot for
days and ignite combustibles. Never place them in a paper bag or cardboard box.

As a reminder, a permit must be obtained from the building inspector before installing a wood, coal, or pellet stove, or building or repairing a chimney.

With the cold weather and with rising fuel costs, some people may be using more portable space heaters.

A few safety tips should be remembered. When buying a space heater look for one that has been tested and approved by a recognized testing company. Keep the heater at least 36” from drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Seventy percent (70%) of fires caused by portable space heaters were from combustible materials such as bedding, rubbish or furniture too close to the heater. Place it on a level surface in an area where it will not get bumped into or knocked over.

If you have to use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy duty cord rated at least as high as the amperage rating on the heater itself. Fifteen percent (15%) of fires from portable heaters were caused by over loaded extension cords. Also, you should not leave the unit running while unattended, or while you are sleeping.

        Please have a safe winter and spring.   

                   Sincerely, Walter R. Tibbetts