Hyannis Fire Chief Reflects on 44 Years


CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle

HYANNIS – Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle is looking back at his tenure with the department in his final days before retiring Monday.

Brunelle, who grew up in Hyannis, has spent the last 44 years with the department starting as a junior firefighter and serving as chief for the last 19 years.

Brunelle said the biggest difference since when he started has been the continued increase in call volume.

“When they built the fire station here in 1965 the department responded to 530 calls, but last year we were over 7,000,” Brunelle said. “SO that’s basically the difference. Every year the call volume keeps going up and up and up and up.”

Since taking over as fire chief, Brunelle said he is most proud of integrating the department with female firefighters.

“It took 113 years I think but we finally have female firefighters. Now we have three of them and they are doing a tremendous job,” he said. “They are great to have on the department and it’s really good for the community to see women on the job.”

Another highlight of his tenure as chief was working for the last decade to help secure a new fire station.

“This [current facility] was never ever designed for what we are doing, the type of work we are doing, the volume of work we are doing,” he said. “So that was a long journey but a necessary one.”

Brunelle credited the support from the community for making the new station passed.

“We’ve always had the citizens support us. When we said we needed a new tool, or a new piece of equipment, or apparatus, or man power or personnel they supported us,” he said. “And even though it took four votes to get the super majority, we always had the majority behind us by good numbers.”

Another accomplishment Brunelle is proud of is raising the department’s Insurance Service Organization rating. The service rates all fire departments and communities for their ability to protect property from fires.

The system rates the departments from one to 10 with one being the best.

When Brunelle became chief the department had a class five rating and he is leaving them with a class two rating.

“That’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “What that does is it helps all the home owners and businesses in Hyannis.”

Top ratings lower the cost of fire insurance.

Brunelle said he will finally be able to experience Hyannis as a regular citizen for the first time in a long time.

“Just going to the Fourth of July fireworks and just being able to watch them and not have to be concerned about what could go wrong,” he said.

He would also like to be able to watch a Fourth of July parade instead of being a part of it.

Brunelle also plans to travel with his wife, Deb, who is a school teacher and is retiring in June.

“We are both still healthy and we have never done a lot of traveling and would really like to do some,” he said.

Brunelle said the thing he will probably miss the most is putting on his uniform and brass every morning.

“To put that uniform on in the morning is such pride and I’ve been doing it all these years,” he said. “To come in here and work with the best group of people you could ever be with that is what I’m going to miss.”

The public is welcome to come to the Hyannis Fire Station on High School Road Extension Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to bid farewell to Brunelle.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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