Bruce Lockwood Sworn in as New Chief of Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS by Town Clerk Linda Smith.
FEB 04, 2019 |10:48 AM
Everything came full circle for Bruce Lockwood when he was sworn in as the new chief of the Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department.
The lifelong Canton resident started with the department in 1983 when he graduated from high school. “I got an incredible amount of training on water rescue and general firefighting,” Lockwood said.
He then went to paramedic school and was offered a job in East Hartford as a career firefighter. He worked there for 25 years and retired in 2016 as a captain overseeing the emergency management office.
Lockwood has been back with the Canton department for 18 months now. He’s also held the position of fire marshal and emergency manager in Canton, and from 2009 to 2011 he sat on the Board of Selectmen in Canton.
“The unique part about me being able to be chief is that it’s a homecoming,” Lockwood said. “I’ve gone full circle. I started my career here. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work EMS, work at the paramedic level, work as the fire marshal. And I’ve been on the government side being the guy who says, ‘The pie is only so big.’ I have a unique perspective.”
As he reaches the position of chief, Lockwood recalls what made him want to join the department in the first place. It didn’t run in the family like it does for some firefighters. Instead, he was inspired by what he saw on television.
“I happened to be a kid at the right time in my world,” Lockwood said. “’Emergency’, ‘Adam-12’ and ’240-Robert’ collectively… I realized I wanted to do the paramedicine side of it. I really did focus on that in high school. When I came and joined this department, I joined as ambulance only. I sat and watched the big trucks leave without me on them. I wanted to get involved in that.”
While the excitement got him started, what kept him in the field is something entirely different.“As a kid, I liked the excitement of the fire service,” Lockwood said. “You see them run into burning buildings and repelling on ropes. It was intriguing. As a kid, you become an adrenaline junkie. That’s the attractor. When you get in, you start to realize what you got into is much bigger than what you could ever see on TV.”
Lockwood is referring to the reality of why people call on emergency services, and that the work isn’t as flashy as it may seem on television to a child.
“No one calls the fire department because they are having a good day,” Lockwood said. “You get to see the emotional side of human beings. That’s why there are a number of people who will start down this path and this is not for them. I’ve had some unique opportunities with a window on life. It makes you appreciate life in some ways more.”
And that’s what Lockwood said he’s been asking of every member of the volunteer department. He wants to give them all a chance to sit down with him and discuss their experiences in the department.
“The two questions I ask are, ‘Why did you join the department and why are you still here?’” Lockwood said. “The reality is what brought you here isn’t why you’re still here.”
Lockwood was motivated to hit the ground running in his new position. He’s full of ideas, including the department’s new river response team, and wants to use data to shape the department’s future.
He’s also ensuring the department undergoes a strategic planning process by March 1, which will involve reaching out to town residents. And he also is making key changes to how the department’s two ambulances respond to calls.
Previously, he said, the second ambulance responding to a structure fire, a motor vehicle accident with injuries, or a carbon monoxide call with symptoms would wait for the second call before responding. Now, he said, both ambulances will respond to those calls immediately, which benefits the safety of residents.
“Everything we do should be to get our services to the patient as fast as we can,” Lockwood said. “I’m closing the distance. I want service to move faster in the direction it needs to. Nobody should be waiting for a second call.”
The department may also hire the equivalent of two full time firefighters to assist with the daytime response. They would be the first paid full time firefighters the department has had.
All this was happening while Lockwood was just 16 days into his job. The next four years, the minimum amount of time he holds the position, likely hold more changes. He said that him taking the job seriously is an “understatement.”
“There’s a lot of potential changes that can happen even in the years I am here,” Lockwood said.