Thomas Stark named South Hadley’s District 1 fire chief

The South Hadley Fire District 1 station.

The South Hadley Fire District 1 station. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 03-01-2024 3:46 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Over his 33 years with the District 1 Fire Department, Thomas Stark worked his way up the ranks from on-call firefighter to emergency medical services coordinator to captain. 

Last week, Stark received his final promotion when Fire District 1 Prudential Committee appointed him fire chief for the district, which was met with thunderous applause from the Fire Department staff and more than two dozen town residents. 

“After being a part of the department for 33 years and serving in multiple capacities, my love for the fire district and service to the people of Fire District 1 compelled to me to be the next fire chief,” Stark said. “I’m grateful for having the opportunity to serve the people of the community.”

Prudential Committee Chairman Bruce Perron said Public Safety Consultants LLC, a company hired to reveiw fire chief applicants, recommended three candidates, all of whom were internal candidates. However, the district’s bylaws require the board to appoint the fire chief solely based on an applicant’s test scores, and Stark scored the highest of the three.

“All three assessment people said there was one candidate head-and-shoulders above the others, and that was Tom,” Perron said. 

Stark joined the District 1 Fire Department in 1990 as an on-call firefighter. In the early 2000s, he became a full-time firefighter and paramedic before moving up to captain in 2011.

He has overseen fire chief duties since January, when he was appointed interim fire chief after former chief Robert Authier retired. He has mainly focused on continued training of the 25 full-time and 15 on-call firefighters, and will continue to keep his team up-to-date on the latest demands of the job and ready to answer the calls.

“I want to lead the department in a positive direction, which again is increasing training. That’s a big part of what we do is training and being able to answer calls to keep the men and women of the department safe and healthy,” Stark said. 

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Stark said he loves servicing both the town and the district community. With the district currently drafting proposed budgets, Stark said he will closely monitor call volume, staffing and equipment to ensure the budget meets the needs of the department and the taxpayers.

“I feel honored and grateful for this opportunity to serve the Fire District. I look forward to working with the Prudiential Board, the men and women in this department and the community as a whole,” Stark said.

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.