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Deputy Chief (Retired), Salem Fire Department
Secretary Emeritus of the Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, Inc.

Where as Fire Prevention has always been recognized as a primary duty of the fire service; it became more apparent in the 1950’s and 1960’s that Fire Departments give professional status to the members serving in the field of fire prevention.

The technical and scientific advancements of our society mandated the need to go beyond the basics of in service fire inspection programs being conducted across the Commonwealth by fire companies.

More and more the Fire Chiefs were becoming aware of the problems that were faced on a daily basis in fire prevention activities. It became apparent that specialized Fire Prevention personnel were needed in each department, to deal with fire inspections, code enforcement, public education, arson investigation and to provide a better understanding of the developing chemical environment and other related matters, vital to protect the public as well as our own fire suppression personnel. New fire codes, building codes, electric codes, plumbing and gas codes were being developed to set forth the best manner to control the fire demon.

Initially some fire departments assigned one or two persons to provide the needed special attention required by the new codes. As time wore on the larger fire departments recognized the need for special educational backgrounds for the members assigned to Fire Prevention Bureaus. The Community Colleges and State Universities provided fire science programs, and we began to be noticed as true professionals, in this division of the fire service. The smaller communities began to recognize the benefits and need for assigning certain members to the specialized, fire prevention programs.

Many local counties established Fire Prevention Associations at this time, which allowed the local communities to keep their members in communication with one another and thus become a more recognized part of the Fire Service. How many times were unscrupulous contractors trying to say “the next community does not enforce the codes”, but through the Associations we made sure that the codes were enforced equally and with the direct input from the Fire Chiefs to assure better protection for the entire community and the members of the fire service.

In February 1974, it became apparent that the County networks should develop a broader base of operations. With the approval of the Fire Chief’s Association of Massachusetts, a post card mailing was initiated to bring about the concept and the need for more interaction. The action was initiated by Captain John LaViska of the Saugus Fire Department, Lieutenant David Goggin of the Salem Fire Department and Inspector Albert Weston of the Beverly Fire Department, who were members and officers of the Essex County Fire Prevention Association.

The first meeting was held in Framingham, MA, with an unexpected attendance of over two hundred fire prevention personnel from across the State. It was agreed that with this outpouring of fire prevention personnel, consisting of all ranks, the value of establishing a membership to be recognized as specialists in fire prevention would benefit everyone.

The name chosen was The Massachusetts Fire Prevention Association. The Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Office was notified of this new endeavor.

The first officers of the Association were, President: Captain John LaViska of the Saugus Fire Department, Vice President: Captain Whitney of the Framingham Fire Department, Secretary: Lieutenant David J. Goggin of the Salem Fire Department, and Treasurer: Inspector Albert Weston of the Beverly Fire Department.

A dues structure was established and a set of By-Laws was enacted. Subsequent mailings were sent out to all fire departments with the notice that The Massachusetts Fire Prevention Association had been formed for the purpose of providing the specialized needs of the officers, inspectors and firefighters of local fire departments in fire prevention. The State Fire Marshal was invited to attend the meeting, where a liaison was developed to assure a direct line of communications with the Fire Marshal’s Office. We wanted to be assured that we were a welcome addition to the fire service community and that we would need pertinent General Laws, Regulations and Codes to affect a solid fire prevention program.

It was voted to hold monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of the month with a newsletter to be published informing all members of current events. With attendance of over 150 members and guest at each meeting, and the word spreading rapidly, we grew to over 500 members in a short period of time. The Fire Chief’s Association of Massachusetts, the State Fire Marshal, and the National Fire Protection Association recognized us for our purpose and growth. It was shown that this group of professionals was willing to shoulder some of the burdens facing the ever-growing fire service as a whole. Several members were assigned to work with the State Fire Marshal, The Fire Chief’s Association of Massachusetts, the NFPA committees, the insurance industry and the Building Officials organizations.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Legislature recognized our Association by passing legislation to have a member of the Association appointed to the Board of Fire Prevention Regulation and the Massachusetts Fire Training Council.

Additionally two members of the Association were named to the Fire Prevention Fire Protection Board of the Massachusetts Building Board of Regulations and Standards. These positions gave the Association direct input to help coordinate code activities with the building officials. One of our members was assigned as liaison to the Massachusetts Building Commissioners and Inspectors Association and the Uniform Code Action Committee.

It became apparent in the 1980’s that we should become a nonprofit corporation, to protect our officers and directors. Incorporation also leads to broader name recognition.

Secretary Goggin and Director Dan Strabone of Peabody, contacted Attorney Jon Blodgett to set up the proper documents that were required for filing with the Secretary of State’s Office. Attorney Blodgett provided his services “Pro Bono” to the Association. In the process it was discovered that a company on Cape Cod had been using the name “Massachusetts Fire Prevention” for their business. Therefore, the Association voted to change the name of the Association for the purpose of incorporation to Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, Inc. The name change necessitated having the Massachusetts State Legislature change the Massachusetts General Laws to accommodate our membership on the various boards. The legislative action was accomplished with the assistance of Senator Fred Barry, for which the Association is very grateful.

The Association has continued to prosper, hold its membership close to 500 and the Association is recognized as an organization of dedicated fire service professionals.

Attendance at the monthly meetings remains important to provide our members with the most current information on the subjects affecting Fire Prevention, Public Education, the Fire Safe Program, Arson Investigation and other fire service programs, where knowledge can be shared in a live forum. We must make sure to have all Fire Chief’s assign qualified personnel to fire prevention duties and have new replacements personnel maintain the standards currently set and lead the way in promulgating life and fire safety, laws, rules, regulations and codes. Fire Prevention personnel must stay involved in the Association and attend meetings to share knowledge and concerns. We must stay current to avoid legal ramifications.

Many members take active roles and advantage of other venues, such as the Massachusetts Fire Fighting Academy, the National Fire Protection Association, and the New England Association of Fire Marshal’s to keep current with changes and developments that allows them to maintain a true degree of professionalism. More attention must be paid to better train fire department personnel and fire prevention personnel in proper fire prevention activities to maintain the professional status we need to keep our selves and our citizens safe from the ravages of fire.

Please pass the word to all fire prevention personnel and firefighters of the benefits, which our Association can provide.

Respectfully submitted,

David J. Goggin, Secretary Emeritus

Copyright 2012 © Fire Prevention of Massachusetts Inc. 

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