Lawrence Mayor’s Comments Infuriate Firefighters

Economically depressed Lawrence, Massachusetts has seen its share of fires – and controversies – over the years, but a recent public statement by Mayor William Lantigua has angered the few remaining firefighters that Lawrence still has, igniting another controversy.

A number of area news sources have confirmed that the Mayor publicly asked for volunteers to help videotape his firefighters to determine if they were purposefully responding and working at fires in a less than diligent manner. The request comes after 23 additional firefighters were laid off and three more stations closed on July 1. 

At a meeting on August 11, Neighboring communities expressed their mounting frustration with having to routinely dispatch fire apparatus into Lawrence for routine alarms because Lawrence is so poorly staffed. The 80,000 citizens in Lawrence are presently being protected by 13 to 15 on-duty firefighters per shift while at one time there were 48 firefighters per shift.

Obviously the report is not sitting well with the firefighters, who are probably hoping the mayor will scrutinize the videos to examine the impact of understaffing. The latest is that the mayor denies soliciting volunteers but acknowledges that when people call to complain about the “slow response times” he encourages them to videotape the firefighters.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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