Farrell named deputy fire chief
By Bella Travaglini/ bella.travaglini@cnc.com
Thursday, September 8, 2005

The recent appointment of Kevin P. Farrell as the new deputy fire chief could not have gone to anyone more dedicated to the profession, by most accounts.

Farrell, now 42 years old, was appointed to the position on Monday, Aug. 29, after serving 12 years as a Danvers firefighter and five years as lieutenant.

Farrell received his associate's degree in fire science from North Shore Community College and is currently enrolled at Anna Maria College in Milton working towards his bachelor's degree in fire science.

He started as a civilian dispatcher for the Danvers Police Department in 1985, with his eye ardently fixed on working his way up the ladder to the fire department.

Since joining the fire department in October 1988, Farrell said he's taken every operational exam for which he was eligible.

In November 2004, Farrell and three of his comrades took the deputy chief exam. He was notified on Friday, Aug. 26 that he had been chosen for the position and told he would begin that Monday.

But, his fascination with fire fighting began long before this.

Farrell said he remembers "hanging around the fire station" as a toddler when then firefighter, Tommy Tutko, brother to current Fire Chief James Tutko, came to his house to pick him up in the chief's red car.

"They'd put me in a stokes litter," Farrell said, referring to a basket used in fire rescues.

"I'd get hoisted out the third floor window of the fire station during drills," he recalled.

"Kevin set a goal for himself as a very young boy - he wants to be chief someday," his elated mom, Shirley, said last week.

"We once lived on Cole Road, off Locust, when Kevin was growing up. He'd ride his bike down to the old fire station to talk with the firemen. He made wonderful, lasting friendships," she said.

Shirley Farrell said her son's devotion to fire fighting has never wavered and often took precedence over other boyhood activities.

"I remember years ago when Kevin was supposed to be at baseball practice. There was a huge fire ... Well, when he heard about it, he put on a hard hat and went in the Red Cross canteen truck and passed out drinks to the firefighters," she said. "Here I was thinking my son was at practice and he's at a chemical plant fire!"

Farrell fondly referred to several retired fire officials in town as the source of his inspiration to join his brethren.

"Leland Martin, who is a retired chief, and retired deputy chief Dick Wessell let me hang out with them as a kid at the station. They stuck with me for years and encouraged me to follow my dream," Farrell said.

Shirley Farrell said her son made three phone calls after learning of his appointment.

"First, he called his wife, Joanne. Then he called me. The third call he made was to Dick Wessell," she offered as affirmation of Farrell's deep, abiding friendship with the former deputy chief.

"Dick Wessell told me that Kevin is the first kid he knows of that is doing this for the love of it," Shirley Farrell said.

Hard year

Farrell's promotion caps off a very emotional year.

"It's been a very big year of change for us. I lost my dad in February and we just sent off our oldest son to college."

"That's my only regret, that my husband, Jim, isn't here to see this," said Shirley Farrell, fighting back tears.

Jim Farrell, a beloved townie known for his dedication to his family, friends, and volunteer work with the Danvers People to People Food Pantry, succumbed to heart failure last winter.

"Jim would say to Kevin, 'I could never work for you - you're too fussy, you expect perfection,'" Shirley Farrell said of her husband's loving banter. "He'd add - but you are fair, Kevin."

As deputy chief, Farrell will no longer fight fires, as he did for so many years.

"My work is more administrative, and I will respond to major incidents to provide personnel support," he said last week. "We have all the faith in the world in our captains and firefighters. But, if I were off duty, driving down the street and witnessed a fire, I'd get out and assist. It's always been in my blood," he said.

As second in command, Farrell's duties include developing a standard of operations guide for the department, managing the budget and handling personnel issues he said. He also serves as representative for the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), an informational exchange source for community and industry regarding hazardous materials.

One sure perk of the position is a normal schedule, Farrell said.

"As lieutenant, I worked two, 10-hour days and two, 14-hour nights. Now, I'll be working four days, regular hours, Monday through Thursday, with Friday through Sunday off."

Farrell, the youngest of four siblings who all live in Danvers, moved to Groveland in 1993 with his wife and three children.

"You'd think we had moved to another country," he said, speaking of his parents' reaction.

"Kevin and Joanne couldn't have afforded the home they have in Groveland here in town," Shirley Farrell said. "We understand that."

Farrell married his high school sweetheart, Joanne Welenc, in May 1985. She grew up on Green Street, Farrell said. She later graduated from North Shore Community College and received her paralegal certification from Northern Essex Community College.

Today, Joanne Farrell works as a teacher's aid in Groveland's Elmer S. Bagnall Elementary School, where their youngest attends school. They have three children, Keith, 18; Leanne, 17; and Matthew, 10.

Farrell spoke of sending Keith off to Connecticut College last week.

"This is our first time sending off one of our children - it was tough," Farrell said. However, Farrell took comfort in recalling a gift Keith gave him for his birthday in July.

"He bought me a book titled, 'Off the Cuff,'" which offers fashion tips for men. Keith inscribed a personal message inside the book cover.

"Dad, for when I'm not around to help you with your attire. Love, Keith."

"I'm going to have to prepare myself for this again next year when we send Leanne, my princess, off to school," Farrell said.

Farrell's close-knit family members are all proud of him and support each other in whatever they do, said Shirley Farrell.

Kathy Armstrong, Farrell's sister, teaches third grade at St. Mary's in Danvers. His brother, Chuck Farrell, provides support for the town's park department, and another sister, Nancy Francis, works as an office manager for a Topsfield dentist.

Farrell replaces former deputy chief Stephen Prendergast, who retired earlier this summer.

"I'm excited about dealing with the challenge of managing the budget and I look forward to keeping the department on track in providing the best services possible for the community," Farrell said.

"Kevin has always been the type of kid who always wanted to help someone," Shirley Farrell said. "He enjoys the camaraderie he shares with his brethren - they're his extended family."
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