Patch Q&A: Chief Thomas Stone
Patch sat down with the fire chief recently to ask him what its like working in the town he grew up in.
Why did you become a firefighter?
I would probably have to say, and there's probably no scientific proof, but there's something with the blood here. I'm actually a fourth generation firefighter. My great grandfather started off in Weymouth. My grandfather and my father were both Easton firefighters. My grandfather was a former deputy fire chief and my father was on for 40 years.
Growing up, my father was a call firefighter and we used to live next to one of the fire stations down where the Children's Museum is now. The fire whistle would be blowing and my father would go running across the street and I would usually be a few feet behind him to go over and watch the fire trucks pull out of the fire station. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a firefighter.
How did you become chief?
It went through an appointment process and I had to go through an assessment. Back in 2002, there was an assessment center that was pretty competitive. They opened the application process to outside of the department and I don't know how many applications they had turned in, but it was kind of narrowed down to five people that went through the assessment center and it was a fairly stressful thing to go through.
As a result of that I was selected as the full-time fire chief.
What made you want to do that?
Being a lifelong resident of the town of Easton, I saw the fire department of a way to sort of give back and help the townspeople. I think becoming chief gives you the opportunity to at least steer things and it gives you a good idea as to how fire protection is going to be laid out for the future.
Any days you regret taking the job?
Yes, there are some days, certainly. Most days are very good and it's a good job. But, obviously in this line of work – same thing with police officers – you run into some things that are tragic and you see some things where people have been hurt. That's sort of the negative aspect of the job.
What's the hardest part of the job?
The hardest part is really trying to operate the budget. There are so many things to be done with the budget. Ninety three percent of our budget is focused on salaries and it doesn't leave a lot of funding for operations – to maintain the vehicles and to make sure the people that are on duty are trained and ready to go.
Responding to the fires can sometime be an easy part of the job. It's just the day-to-day operations dealing with personnel and just trying to meet the demands of the job I would say. It's become a more demanding job over the years.
What's the best part about the job?
The best part of the job is still probably the excitement of responding to calls. The on-duty crew handles most of the calls. But, if it's something that's a little larger than the ordinary, I still get to go to those and, that excitement – you can't replace that excitement.
What's your favorite part about working in Easton, specifically?
It's my hometown, and there is a sense of pride in being able to do things that impact people's safety, even for years to come. When you're getting out and doing fire prevention stuff, you're making decisions that are going to impact the population of Easton long after I've left here. I think that's probably the pretty exciting part of the job.
How long do you want to continue doing this?
Probably not too, too much longer. I haven't zeroed in on a retirement date as of yet but within the next 1-5 years – we'll put it that way.