Fire officials update board on state grants, house numbering

  • Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera, right, and Capt. Eric Jack appeared at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting to update the board on an effort to ensure all properties in Athol are properly numbered to assist the response of emergency personnel. Listening, from left, are board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, board members Lee Chauvette and Holly Young, and Town Manager Shaun Suhoski. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

For Athol News
Published: 2/21/2020 9:47:07 PM
Modified: 2/21/2020 9:46:53 PM

ATHOL – Chief Joseph Guarnera announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the Selectboard that the Athol Fire Department had received some state monies to promote fire safety.

“I’m happy to announce that we’ve gotten another grant,” Guarnera told the board. “This grant was for a total of $6,313. It came through the Mass. Department of Fire Services for SAFE and SAFER education.

“Out of the grant, $3,965 is for SAFE (Student Awareness of Fire Education), which is getting the word out there to the schools and doing some education for the students in the school system. Capt. (Jamal) Hamilton is in charge of that.

“We also got $2,438 for Senior Safe, which is promoting fire safety for the elderly. Capt. Hamilton will be doing that, too, in conjunction with the other services.”

Guarnera also said the Fire Department is working on improving the numbering system of street addresses in Athol.

“Many of the houses have no numbers on then,” said Guarnera. “Some houses have two numbers on them. Some houses have three numbers on them. Obviously, when we’re responding we need to know where to go.”

Fire Capt. Eric Jack told the board he’s working with Athol Police Officer Courtney Call on a campaign, with assistance from Boy Scout Troop 8, to increase awareness about the importance of accurate street numbers for first responders. The effort will officially be rolled out around April 1,

“There are houses that don’t have numbers,” said Jack. “There’s one house that has three different streets listed for it. We’ve actually kind of kicked it off with people here at Town Hall. been working with Public Works, with the Building Department, with (Town Clerk) Nancy (Burnham), just kind of to update things — some of these houses have four street numbers — just to clean things up. The most important thing is, we need to bring awareness to everybody that we can’t find your house if there’s no number on it.”

“We’re hoping to partner with some businesses,” Jack continued. “The Chamber of Commerce is going to help us roll it out with the media. Also, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office is going to revisit the program we did with them several years ago to provide plaques with numbers for the elderly. So, there’s a lot going on with that.”

“So, for the houses that don’t have numbers; they have a number assigned, they just don’t have them physically on their house?” asked board member Holly Young.

“Yes, ma’am,” responded Guarnera. “Their number has to be a minimum of three inches (in height), which is clearly visible from the street. In the whole scheme of things, our target audience at the beginning is seniors. If they don’t have numbers, we’ll supply them with one. And the Boy Scouts … are going to apply them for them. We’ll get to the rest of the population after that.”

“It’s kind of two-fold,” added Jack. “It’s helping the seniors get numbers on their house, and making everybody aware you need to have a number on your house. It’s a town bylaw, but a lot of people just don’t think about it.”

In response to another question from Young, Guarnera said street numbers are assigned by the Department of Public Works.

“It is enforceable by the Police Department, if necessary” said Jack. “The Building Department can also write a ticket. But we don’t want to have tickets written. We just want everyone to have numbers.”

“You’d think the people would take care of it on their own,” said board member William Chiasson. “When seconds count in an emergency, it’s important to identify the place.”

“One of our police officers told me the other day he drove by a house five times before someone finally came out and flagged him down,” said Jack.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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