Amid staffing concerns, Middletown fire chief sets sights on retirement

East Bay

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — As the Middletown Fire Department struggles with understaffing, Chief Peter Faerber announced he plans to retire come February.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, Faerber said he plans to retire on Feb. 14. He did not provide an explanation for his decision.

Faerber’s retirement comes as residents voice concerns over understaffing at the department.

In-Depth: Middletown resident says she once waited 20 minutes for ambulance »

Following a Middletown Town Council meeting where dozens of residents called upon town leaders to address the situation, Rhode Island Association of Firefighters President Joseph Andriole claimed Faerber allowed the town council to throw his department “under the bus” for not providing adequate public safety.

“The fire chief should pause and self-reflect upon his abilities to continue at the helm of this department, it appears he is inept to lead this department forward,” Andriole said.

Community concern regarding the department’s staffing situation grew following a New Year’s Day fire that left a father and his 11-year-old daughter injured.

At the time, Middletown firefighters were busy responding to a medical emergency, so firefighters from Newport were the first to arrive and begin battling the flames.

Town Council President Bob Sylvia said they continuously reevaluate the department’s staffing.

He said the town uses a data-driven process when deciding how to staff the fire department, which takes into account the town population and the taxpayers’ ability to pay.

Andriole said the Rhode Island Association of Firefighters has been in arbitration with Middletown Town Council for a while now and claims town leaders refuse to negotiate.

It’s unclear at this time whether the town is actively searching for a new fire chief.

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