‘It’s been an honor’: Turners Falls fire chief retiring, selects successor

  • From left, Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann and Deputy Chief Brian McCarthy. Come Nov. 15, McCarthy will be promoted to chief following Zellmann’s retirement. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann is retiring after 37 years with the department. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Deputy Chief Brian McCarthy will be the new chief of the Turners Falls Fire Department with the retirement of Chief John Zellmann. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2021 4:33:52 PM

MONTAGUE — Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann is retiring next month following 37 years with the department. He will be succeeded by Deputy Fire Chief Brian McCarthy, effective Nov. 15.

Zellmann, who began fighting fires at the age of 14 with the Lake Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department like his father before him, said it is “just time” to step down. He does so feeling positive about the direction of the department with McCarthy at the helm.

“Brian was the top person in the whole process,” Zellmann said, explaining that McCarthy was one of two internal candidates and four candidates overall. “The department is in good hands with the new Chief McCarthy.”

Zellmann became a full-time staff member in 1987 and deputy chief in 2014, when the position was newly instituted to lessen the increasing workload of the fire chief. Zellmann has served as fire chief since August 2016, when he replaced Robert Escott Jr.

McCarthy joined the Turners Falls Fire Department as a member of the call force on Nov. 13, 2005 and was promoted to the permanent force four years later. He worked his way up the ranks, eventually being promoted to captain in April 2014 and deputy chief in October 2019.

McCarthy said his decision to accept the promotion was a “no-brainer.”

“I’m definitely very honored to be offered the position,” he said. “I love the job. I love the community. So yeah, I’m excited.”

Going forward, McCarthy looks to both preserve the “great foundation” set in place at the department, as well as look to evolve.

“I think the fire service is always changing,” he said, “so I’m sure there’s going to be situations to adapt to.”

Zellmann said he trusts McCarthy to lead the department “in a way that he feels.” Relinquishing control, Zellmann said he doesn’t know what his life’s next chapter holds just yet, but knows that he’ll miss his work.

“I’ll miss doing the job,” Zellmann said. “I love firefighting. It’s been a great career for me. ... It’s been an honor to serve Lake Pleasant, Turners Falls, the town of Montague and beyond.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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