TEMPERANCE — Adam Massingill wasn’t given much time to settle into his new role as Bedford Township fire chief.
His first week on the job culminated March 4 with a massive fire that destroyed BridgePoint Church on Lewis Avenue.
No one was injured, but about 100 firemen from a dozen departments responded to extinguish the blaze, which remains under investigation.
Chief Massingill called a staff meeting the day before he took over to meet with firefighters and discuss a timeline for getting acclimated to equipment and personnel.
“We thought it would take a significant amount of time before I was really comfortable,” Chief Massingill, 40, said. “That kind of went out the window [last] Saturday. You’re always ready for that, but I wasn’t expecting to see one of the three biggest fires I’ve ever been on in my career.”
Chief Massingill was impressed with how the first firefighters to arrive responded, saying they set the tone for the rest of the effort.
The new chief isn’t new to Monroe County. He was born and raised in Dundee, Mich., and worked there as a firefighter for 17 years. In 2010, Chief Massingill joined the Madison Township Fire Department as a lieutenant and paramedic.
He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Siena Heights University, which stood out to the Bedford Township Board.
“I like the fact he can train and give certificates,” Township Supervisor Paul Pirrone said. “I like the fact his education and degrees met the criteria of what we were looking for.”
Chief Massingill takes over from Ron Whipple, who was appointed fire chief on an interim basis in December, 2015. The Township Board made the hire Feb. 9, choosing Chief Massingill over Fred Gilstorff from the Wayne County Fire Department.
Township Trustee TC Clements said both finalists were excellent candidates.
“Ultimately, it came down to very small differences,” he said. “I felt like Adam had a real grasp for how he saw himself coming in and leading us from where we are to where we need to be.”
Chief Massingill and the department will examine three issues: facility needs, apparatus upgrades, and staffing.
He said the department’s fire trucks have been well-maintained, but they’re aging.
“One of the challenges I have coming in is assessing the fire trucks and equipment,” Chief Massingill said. “We’ve got three trucks that hit the 25-year mark this year, and we need to start working on a replacement plan for those.”
Two of the township’s three fire stations are older than 75 years old and are in need of upgrades. Chief Massingill said he plans to revisit the current master plan, which runs through 2018, to examine possible long-term solutions.
The department currently has just over 40 firefighters, but officials have wondered if additional staff should be added.
“We provide a service to a big area and a big population,” Chief Massingill said. “When you divide that across the three stations, we’re certainly looking for more manpower. Comfortably, I think we would like to have 50 to 55.”
Building morale and camaraderie with the firefighters is also high on his to-do list.
“I’ve been trying to meet with them all individually to get a better understanding for the department,” he said. “Getting out and training with the guys and just getting a feel for how the department is run is important.”
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