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Whately highway employees can serve as firefighters

WHATELY — Whately Highway Department employees who are trained firefighters in other towns will now be able to help fight fires in Whately.

On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen adopted a new policy that would allow highway department employees, with the approval of the highway superintendent, to leave their jobs to respond to a fire or emergency in Whately. Employees will continue to receive their Highway Department salary during regular work hours.

Employees won’t be allowed to leave Highway Department work if it jeopardizes public safety or if the employee is required to assist a hired contractor, the new policy states.

Currently, the Highway Department has two employees who are trained firefighters in other towns. One employee has worked in Whately for more than 10 years and serves on the South Deerfield Fire Department. A second has worked in Whately for 18 months and serves on the Montague Fire Department.

The two employees requested to assist the Whately Fire Department, a volunteer on-call service, in an emergency.

“If there’s a major fire where additional manpower is needed, it’d be beneficial to the town,” said Highway Superintendent Keith Bardwell, who also serves on the Fire Department.

Bardwell said it’s a practice commonly followed in other towns. He wanted to make it official for Whately.

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