-By Mary E. Arata
DEVENS — About a dozen well-wishers were on hand for the pinning ceremony for Devens Deputy Fire Chief Tim Kelly. Kelly actually started work in the role on Dec. 10 but on a recent Tuesday, MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones was on hand to formally administer the oath of office.
Jones noted that it was about a year ago that she administered the oath to Devens Fire Chief Joseph LeBlanc. “It’s been a great year. Joe’s done a wonderful job leading the department.”
Jones also paused to pay tribute to the emergency responders that “all of us take for granted” in the wake of last week’s Blizzard of 2013, Jones paid tribute to the police, fire, public works, and medical professionals and National Guardsmen who are all part of the army of “first responders keeping us safe.”
Many on hand were from the various MassDevelopment departments. “I want to express our thanks to all in the room for all you do to keep us safe and to protect us every day of the year,” said Jones.
Jones heaped praise on Kelly, who worked for 10 years as a special-education teacher before becoming and EMT and then a call firefighter in Princeton. Kelly has been a member of the Devens Fire Department for the past nine years.
Kelly merged his training and fire expertise and has served as Devens first aid, CPR and fire extinguisher instructor. “As a community, we’re safer,” said Jones.
Jones also paused to recognize the sacrifices of Sandie Kelly, Tim Kelly’s wife. The couple is raising eight children together. “The life of a responder is a trying one,” said Jones. Being the wife of an emergency responder presents its own “unique challenges,” said Jones.
Jones administered the oath of office while Tim Kelly placed one hand on a bible held by his wife. Kelly’s son, Seamus Kelly, assisted by holding the presentation box containing his father’s pins and deputy chief badge.
Sandie Kelly then pinned the medals and badge on her husband’s uniform. Tim Kelly thanked the audience for attending the ceremony, “This is a great show of support. I’ve been very fortunate that the guys have been very supportive.”
LeBlanc said Kelly was chosen from a field of four applicants from a panel of three outside community fire chiefs. “He loves working with the community, he works great with the men,” said LeBlanc. “He knows safety in and out. And he’s an excellent instructor.”
LeBlanc said Kelly also serves as his EMT trainer. Kelly has been an EMT since 1994.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to celebrate with my family,” said Kelly. He started with the Devens Fire Department in February 2004.
Kelly said serving as a firefighter on Devens is quite different than serving as a call firefighter in Princeton. “We deal with a lot of different things that other departments don’t deal with” like code compliance for heavy industrial buildings, said Kelly.
“Plus, we also deal with the military and unexploded ordinances” on the former U.S. Army base lands, now known as the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone. “That’s something most fire departments never see and we see it all the time.”
Kelly completed his basic training through the Princeton Fire Department, where he’s served since 1997 and has attained the rank of captain. As a call firefighter in a country setting, “we deal with rural water supply and we’re drafting out of ponds and long lays of water — its very different than Devens.”
In his prior life, Kelly worked as a special-education teacher at the Kennedy School in Lancaster, and previously in Connecticut in the Klingburg Family Centers working with students in residential settings. Kelly is a 1987 graduate of Stonehill College with a degree in education and worked in the field for a decade before transitioning over into public safety.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.