ORLEANS - Forty years ago, a local lad, Tony Pike, became a call firefighter here. Last week, he announced his retirement as chief of the department next June.
“Tony, I’ve known you since you were running around way back when,” Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison said with emotion at the board’s Dec. 3 meeting. “I certainly appreciate the fact that local kids can serve their town and be here such a long period of time and dedicate their lives to the rest of the people in this town. You set an example that I hope others aspire to.”
“It’s a bittersweet decision,” Pike said. “I wish I could stay way past this summer, but it’s time for me to move on.” In an email this week, Pike wrote that he had planned initially to serve as chief for six years, "so I'm not leaving too early. I have accomplished many of my goals other than a suitable station for the members, I will surely miss it, but felt this was a good time to transition the department."
Pike moved to Orleans as a teenager and graduated from Nauset High. He had a career of moving up through the ranks, going full-time at the department in 1988 after signing on as a call firefighter in 1979. A firefighter and EMT/paramedic, he served as a fire captain from 2000 to 2008. He became deputy chief at the end of 2008 and chief in 2014. He’s known for leadership roles in regional efforts and beyond the Cape, serving on this side of the bridge as president of the Barnstable County Fire Chiefs Association and vice president of the Cape and Islands Emergency Medical Services and Systems. Locally, he’s been an advocate and instructor in the Stop the Bleed program that has trained hundreds of Orleans citizens, among other efforts.
Last week, the chief turned the spotlight on others as soon as he could.
“I’d like to thank the men and women of the Orleans Fire Department for their dedication and support,” he said. “We are so fortunate that we have a dedicated cadre of individuals that really make it easier for me. They just serve the town so incredibly well.” He saluted administrative assistant Melissa Clayton as “absolutely fabulous” in her work, and credited Deputy Chief Geof Deering “for his enthusiasm and his knowledge of fire-rescue services… I am with great confidence sure that (he) is one of the most talented, or the most talented, officers I have served with in my 40 years… He’s an incredible administrator and a really good fireman. I would give him a nod and all consideration you could possibly give him to take this department forward into the future.”
Regarding Pike’s own future, Selectman Kevin Galligan said, “Nobody knows Orleans better than you… There’ll be spots for you in other public service roles if you’re interested.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” the chief said, adding with a smile, “unless it’s cold, and then I’m going somewhere.” He plans to continue teaching Stop the Bleed classes and will be involved in “any other position that supports the public safety and well being of our residents.”
The chief was happy to report that a long-vacant firefighter/paramedic position has been filled by Ben Nickerson, who just wound up his work with the Brewster Fire Department. “I worked with his father,” Pike said. “Ben is very familiar with our program.” Like many employers, the department has found that wage levels and housing availability have made recruitment difficult.
Also coming on board is provisional firefighter Teddy Duchesney. “He worked two summers for us at Nauset Beach, did a fabulous job, and had some great personal growth,” Pike said. He also celebrated the promotion of firefighter/paramedic Leslie Vasconcellos to serve as the department’s first full-time EMS coordinator. “This post will enhance our community efforts and will certainly be a tremendous resource for other town agencies,” said the chief. “It’s an incredible fit with Leslie’s zeal for educating the public and her knowledge of emergency and rescue services. It’s our first new position in quite a long time, and I thank the board for that.”
As Pike prepares to depart, he was pleased to report that an engineering firm has been selected to perform an air quality study at the fire station and another company to conduct a staffing study.
For the chief, there’s one more accomplishment to savor. It’s expected that a traffic signal—sought for the last four decades—will be installed at the station’s driveway on busy Eldredge Park Way in the next few months.
“I think you’ve been an amazing fire chief,” Selectman Mefford Runyon said.
“It’s been a blessing,” Pike said. “I see it no other way.”