Whitefield Deputy Fire Chief Tom Feeney at the municipal fire station Friday, Feb. 13. Feeney brings 26 years of experience as a career
firefighter and emergency medical technician to Whitefield’s volunteer fire department. (Abigail Adams photo)
By Abigail W. Adams
The Whitefield Fire Department has filled the position of deputy chief that has remained vacant since Scott Higgins was promoted to fire chief in July 2012.
Tom Feeney, a veteran firefighter and emergency medical technician with more than 26 years of experience, was introduced as deputy fire chief at the
Whitefield Board of Selectmen’s meeting Feb. 10.
Feeney, the former training officer, takes on the new role of deputy chief with the goals of helping to improve Whitefield Fire Department’s Insurance
Service Office rating, known as an ISO rating, and increasing the presence of the fire department in the community.
Firefighting runs in Feeney’s family. His father was a firefighter and Feeney knew from a young age he was going to be one too. Feeney’s interests changed
in high school; he decided he wanted to be an accountant.
After watching EMTs revive his neighbor, however, he was inspired to go through EMT training. Fresh out of high school, Feeney landed a job with an
ambulance service. Firefighting naturally accompanied the position, Feeney said. He would spend the next 26 years of his life as a career firefighter and EMT, mainly
with the Augusta Fire Department.
Feeney also accomplished his goal of becoming an accountant. In between the 24-hour shifts that are standard for professional firefighters, he completed his
education to work in the field of accounting.
Feeney moved to Whitefield four years ago from Augusta. He retired from the Augusta Fire Department two years ago and increased his involvement with the
Whitefield Fire Department. “I really didn’t want to give it up,” Feeney said.
As a career firefighter, Feeney witnessed his share of horror stories. The ones that stay with him, he said, are the routine events that went awry.
“Any one of us could bend your ear with the things we experience,” Feeney said. “It’s the things that catch you by surprise that give you the deepest
Feeney called the switch to a volunteer fire department a double-edged sword. While the hours are less demanding, Feeney said, there is no such thing as off
duty for volunteer firefighters. They are called to action at a moment’s notice.
Feeney hailed the 23 members of Whitefield’s volunteer fire department for their dedication and commitment, especially in the first week of February, when
they battled four structure fires within seven days. “A lot of people could have thrown their helmet down and said they were done,” Feeney said. “But they kept going.”
Feeney served as the training officer for the fire department until his recent promotion to deputy chief. Karl Harmon has taken on the training officer
In his new position, Feeney will take on a more administrative role and draw from his firefighting and number-crunching experience to help Whitefield
improve its ISO rating and stay current with emergency medical services certification requirements and safety and labor standards.
“In the last 10 years, the administration has gone crazy,” Feeney said, “and the fires still burn.”
The ISO rating is a statistical analysis of a community’s fire protection services, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The rating
schedule is numbered one through 10, with one being superior fire protection.
The Whitefield Fire Department currently has the lowest rating, Feeney said, partly because the municipal fire department is less than five years old.
Feeney named improving the fire department’s ISO rating as a major goal in his new position as deputy chief.
If the Whitefield Fire Department improves its ISO rating, Feeney said, residents will see a break in their homeowner’s insurance. “We’re trying to give
back to the community,” Feeney said. “It’s incredible the capital this community has put into the fire department. We want to give them more than just fire protection.”
Feeney said he would like to see the Whitefield Fire Department’s roster grow and he would like to maintain and increase training for the current members.
He said he would also like to increase the fire department’s presence in the community through events such as fire prevention trainings and blood pressure screenings.
“We cross into people’s life on the worst day of their life,” Feeney said. “We want to expand beyond that and be a part of the community every day.”