Southington fire board defends appointment of Heath as interim chief

Southington fire board defends appointment of Heath as interim chief


FILE PHOTO June 2015 -- From left: Lt. Glenn Dube, fire fighter Bob Moquin, Captain Eric Heath, fire fighter Rick Molleur, fire fighter Ed Crandall and fire fighter Jasen Zarcone. The fire crew inspects solar panels on the roof of the Southington Target store on Wednesday. They were training to handle fires and other emergency calls involving solar panels. (Lauren Sievert | Record-Journal)

SOUTHINGTON — The Board of Fire Commissioners defended their appointment of Eric Heath, a battalion commander, to the role of interim chief following Harold “Buddy” Clark’s retirement earlier this month.

Wayne Stanforth, the board secretary, said Heath had the qualifications to lead the department until a permanent chief is found. Volunteer captains questioned the appointment of a career member of the fire department in a letter to the board a week ago.

“Please don’t judge Chief Heath on your preconceived notion that Heath has an agenda,” Stanforth said during a meeting Thursday night. “Let’s work with him to make this department the best it can be.”

Volunteer captains said they were concerned about Heath’s ability to impartially lead the department. Heath said he’s no longer part of the town’s firefighter union.

Kevin Munson, a volunteer, said the concerns weren’t directed at Heath specifically.

“That letter was drafted before the chief was appointed,” he said. “We have great respect for the chief. It was not directed at him.”

Munson asked if assistant chief Thomas Wisner was considered for the interim position.

“If not, we’d like to know why,” he said.

Stanforth said statements in the volunteers’ letter concerning Heath’s objectivity were untrue and contributing to a further deterioration of morale in the department.

He said the town depends heavily on the volunteers and had implemented some of their requests, such as stipends for training time.

“The volunteers are an integral part of this department,” he said. “We probably don’t say thank you enough.”

An outside candidate for interim chief was not pursued due to “time constraints,” Stanforth said.

Thursday’s meeting was the first for Heath as chief.

Mary Baker, the board’s vice chairwoman, said the board had put faith in Heath asked for the help of all department members.

“We’re here to ensure the success of the Southington Fire Department,” she said. “We ask for your patience. We endorsed Chief Heath. He’s fully credentialed.” 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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