Wareham's new fire chief focused on safety, upgrades
Wareham’s new fire chief is the definition of “rising through the ranks.”
Chief Matt Rowley was unanimously appointed as the department’s interim leader by members of the Wareham Fire District Prudential Committee on June 21. His three-year contract was finalized on July 12.
Rowley, a lifelong resident, joined the department’s junior firefighter program in 1985. Similar to the new recruit program the department has now, it allowed recruits to test the waters in a limited capacity. In 1988, Rowley was promoted to call firefighter and 10 years later he became a career firefighter. Then in 2003 he was appointed captain. He held that position until being hired as chief.
“It’s been a very humbling experience for me taking this step,” said Rowley. “Certainly, there is a lot of work to do.”
Rowley has the support of his fellow firefighters. Before formal interviews started many department members signed a petition calling for Rowley’s hire – enough to fill two pages. The Rowley family also has deep ties with the department and even deeper ties within the town.
Rowley’s brother, Andrew, is currently a firefighter, and his father, Charles, was a department captain for 45 years before retiring. Charles is also the town’s longtime engineer, serving as a consultant for town boards on various projects and business proposals. Rowley’s grandfather, Walter, served as the town engineer from 1942 until 1986. He passed away in 1996.
Looking to the department’s future, Rowley said he’s focused on developing a strategic plan for staffing, which will include purchasing new vehicles and exploring options for renovating the department’s fire stations, both its headquarters on Main Street and another located in West Wareham.
Making sure firefighters are properly equipped is something else Rowley will be working on, he said.
“Securing the safety of the firefighters is paramount, whether that's through new communications systems, clothing or other equipment,” he said. “That’s one of my most important goals.”
During the interview process, all of the four fire chief applicants cited low morale in the department as a pressing concern. Rowley said addressing that will include increasing transparency between the administration and firefighters.
“The firefighters we have here are skilled, motivated and highly trained,” he said. “The morale issue, I believe, comes down to communication. We will address that.”
Another key area for Rowley is informing the public of the department’s needs, which may include replacing two current vehicles with a hybrid apparatus. However, Rowley noted officials have a lot of research to do before they make a recommendation to voters.