HARTFORD COURANT: Canton Selectmen Honor Former Fire Chief

By | March 14, 2016

Canton Selectmen Honor Former Fire Chief: The former fire chief in Canton was recognized for years of service

by: Ken Byron 
CANTON — Town officials described Richard Hutchings as a model of volunteerism for serving as the fire department’s first chief and leading it for nearly 20 years during a ceremony on Wednesday.

Hutchings, who has been a member of the department for nearly 40 years and whose father was in the town fire service before him, was honored for the leadership role he has played in the organization for many years when the board of selectmen met on Wednesday. At that ceremony First Selectman Leslee Hill called Hutchings a tremendous example of volunteerism for the community.

“I was very honored that they took that step, although I don’t do this for recognition per se,” Hutchings said on Thursday. “It was very nice that they did that and I appreciate the supportive comments.”

Wednesday’s event was nearly two months after the selectmen declined to reappoint Hutchings for another term as chief and named one of his subordinates to the position, something Hutching said on Thursday that he accepts.

“Hutch is always willing to respond and then things are tough he remains level-headed, he usually keeps his cool,” Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner said. An exception to that, Skinner said, was when the Collinsville fire station was left without power and a functioning generator after the October, 2011, snowstorm that knocked out electricity throughout town and the state. Skinner said before that Hutchings had repeatedly asked for money to replace the generator only to have the requests refused.

Skinner said Hutchings has played a leadership role in the department for more than 30 years. The town merged what once were the Collinsville, Canton and North Canton fire departments into one in 1996 and Hutchings was appointed chief to oversee that process. He led the department for much of the following 20 years.

The town’s ambulance service is part of the fire department and Skinner said Hutchings has helped bring about many of the improvements to it. Those include upgrading the ambulances from a basic life saving level of service to an advanced level during the 1980s and then pushing to incorporate paramedics, something that is expected to happen this summer.

Hutchings is still a member of the department and is its safety officer. In that position, he is responsible for making sure firefighters are healthy to serve and that procedures are being followed at fire scenes. He is also vice-chairman of a committee that is looking at the three fire stations in town. That group is expected to recemmend improvements to the department’s facilities and Hutchings said a new fire station in Collinsville is something he hopes will be considered.

Also on Wednesday, the selectmen approved a request from fire Chief Craig Robbins to dispose of worn out pants, jackets, boots and helmets that must be replaced because of their age and condition and purchase new gear. Officials said on Wednesday federal law requires firefighters’ turnout gear be not more than 10 years old and a recent inspection by the federal Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration found many of those items exceeded that limit.