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New Fire Chief Appointed In Northampton

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WAMC
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For the second time in as many days there has been a promotion from within to fill a key public safety job in a western Massachusetts city.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz Wednesday appointed Duane Nichols the new Chief of the Northampton Fire Rescue Department. Nichols is a 28-year veteran of the department. He worked his way up the ranks to become assistant chief – the number two position in the department -- in 2007.

"  We have an excellent organization, with a good group of ( firefighers) and equipment and we can build on that," said Nichols.

Nichols’ appointment was announced the day after Jody Kasper was sworn in as Northampton Police Chief. She had been a captain in charge of operations before her appointment as the city’s first female police chief.

Narkewicz said he offered the fire chief’s job to Nichols Tuesday night.  Nichols said he has not had much time to think about what his plans are if he is put in charge of the 68-person department.

" To be determined. This is pretty new to me right now," he told reporters at Northampton City Hall.

Nichols has associates degrees from Anna Marie College in Paxton, and Greenfield Community College, where he is an adjunct professor. He is also an instructor at the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

In selecting the new fire chief, Narkewicz followed a very different process than the recent police chief search.  The city hired a consultant to find candidates for police chief. A search committee was created to screen the applicants. Narkewicz picked two finalists, who attended a public reception, before he appointed Kasper.

There was no external search for a new fire chief, and Narkewicz said he did not formally interview Nichols before offering him the job.

"To be sure ,the work our firefighters and EMT's do everyday is every bit as dangerous and as important ( as the police). But in terms of the community, political, and other issues there are differences and that is why I took a different approach," explained Narkewicz.

Nichols’ appointment as fire chief is subject to approval by a simple majority vote of the Northampton City Council.  City Councilor Marianne LaBarge predicted Nichols’ confirmation will sail through.

" I think he will be a great chief. I highly respect the recommendation from the mayor and will support it 100 percent," she said.

Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan said he is going to retire July 24.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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