Amherst fire chief off to Townsend, Mass. to lead Fire and EMS

AMHERST – Selectmen in Townsend, Mass., and Amherst Fire Chief Mark Boynton have reached agreement on the terms of Boynton’s employment and have executed a contract.

Boynton, in a letter to the town administrator, indicated he is retiring from the fire service in the state of New Hampshire. Boynton arrived in Amherst four years ago from the Keene Fire Department where, over the course of 20-plus years, he rose from firefighter to the rank of deputy chief.

“When I arrived in Amherst, we set goals for the department, most of which have been accomplished. The first priority we focused on was the safety equipment and staff,” Boynton said. “I want to make sure they were properly protected when responding to calls.”

He made the Board of Selectmen aware of the deficiencies, and some new equipment was immediately purchased. Boynton’s replacement plan for the safety equipment was agreed to by the Board of Selectmen, then put into effect.

“The ranks of the on-call staff had dwindled to about 30 when I arrived – a dangerously low number. So Deputy Chief Conley, the senior officers and I began an aggressive recruitment campaign,” Boynton said.

Today, the number of on-call staff has increased 65 percent and reached a high of 50 members.

Another accomplishment new to Amherst is the unprecedented amount of grant monies that have come into the town. In four years, more than $500,000 in combined state and federal grants has come to Amherst. These funds have been used to upgrade the emergency communication system, install emergency backup generators and purchase a message board benefiting not only fire but police, Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Public Works as well.

Boynton was instrumental in the establishment of the Souhegan Cooperative Communication Network involving the towns of Amherst, Bedford, Derry, Milford, Merrimack and Hudson. Through grant funds, a regional communication network has been built enhancing communication for Amherst and the region.

Amherst Board of Selectmen Chairman Dwight Brew said, “Chief Boynton has been very progressive in his view of how fire protection should be delivered in town, and it is always important to be looking ahead to future needs.

“I won’t be saying this for the first time, we are all grateful for Mark’s aggressive pursuit of grant monies,” Brew said. “His efforts have saved the taxpayers of Amherst a lot of dollars. We all wish him well in his new position.”

Under Boynton’s command, Amherst became the first fire department in the nation to utilize mobile technology in fire apparatus using iPads. At no cost to the taxpayers, through a partnership with Zco Corporation to BETA test this new product and donations from the Amherst Wal-Mart, firefighters have access to real-time data while responding to calls on iPads or smart phones. Using this mobile technology, developed right here in New Hampshire, Amherst and Bedford Fire departments are also the first in the nation to share this real-time information further enhancing emergency response in times of mutual aid.

Boynton will assume the duties of chief of Fire and EMS in Townsend, Mass., a New Hampshire border community with a population of approximately 9,000 residents. Townsend operates a hybrid department of both on-call and full-time staff. His last day in Amherst will be May 13, and will start in Townsend a few days later.

“Amherst is a special place. My wife, Cindy, and I plan to stay in town. Our daughter has really blossomed here, and we want to remain part of this community,” Boynton said. “I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank the brave and dedicated men and women of the Amherst Fire Department. They do so much for the town, for so little. Rarely do you see people putting it all on the line for the satisfaction of giving back to a community they love. My life has been enriched by the friendships I have made in this department.”