Letter: Facebook comments got it wrong by Mendon Assistant Fire Chief Zarella


Letter from Mendon Asst. Fire Chief Mike Zarella

In response to a comment made on the Upton Daily Facebook Page on May 27, 2015,

My name is Mike Zarella and I am an Asst. Fire Chief and Paramedic at Mendon Fire Department. Let start by saying I can not begin to imagine your panic as your experience every parent’s worse nightmare. When faced with emergency situations, it is said that minutes seem like hours. I can assure you that when a call like yours is received, we move faster than you could imagine. There are only a few things in our profession that are worse than an ill child. I am very grateful that your son is okay. With that said, I would like to clarify a few details in your comment as well as inform you of the daily operations of YOUR fire department. Your fire department, as funded by your tax dollars and your votes, consist of 5 full-time members and 15 call members. The station is staffed 16 hours a day (7a-11p), 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The remaining 8 hours (11p-7a) are covered by members “on call” from home. Between the hours of 7a and 11p, you only have 2 members on duty. These members respond to all calls for service whether it’s a call for fire or EMS (ambulance). Since we are in the station during those hours, our response is immediate. If however, another call comes in while the duty crew is out, we call in our off duty members as well as our call members to respond to the station and respond to the call in the appropriate vehicle. If the ambulance is on a call and a second call is received, we send your rescue truck (a specialized fire truck) and an ambulance from another town (Mutual Aid). We, rather you, only have one ambulance. The second ambulance was placed out of service 7 years ago after failing its annual safety inspection. Through your vote, you opted not to replace it. Now in regards to your need for service which was on Monday, not Sunday, May 25th at 4:50pm. The dispatch log (Log call number 15-8218), which is public record, shows you called at 4:50 pm stating your 22 month old was “choking and can’t breathe”. The ambulance was already on a call that came in at 4:31pm (Log call number 15-8217). At 4:50pm a police officer, also Certified First Responder (CFR), was dispatched and responding. A second officer (also a CFR) cleared from assisting the ambulance to respond to your call at 4:51pm. (Please note they both responded from Rt. 16 near the Uxbridge town line). Both officers arrived at your home at 4:57pm; seven minutes after your call. (Without stating your address, I would like to point out that you live on the Bellingham town line. From the officer’s location, you were 5.8 miles away. They got to you in 7 minutes. That means they were driving an average of just under 60 mph. As you know, Mendon is mostly residential with the highest speed limit being 35 mph (excluding Milford St). Our Rescue truck (staffed with 2 members who responded from “home”) and Hopedale’s ambulance arrived at your home at 5:01pm. This is 11 minutes after your initial call.

You state that “[you] would not notice the difference if the service was cut and that [you] could get to the ER faster”. This comment leads me to believe that you don’t understand exactly what we do in our line of work. As a paramedic, I work directly under the license of Dr. Geodecke of Milford Regional Medical Center. I provide my patients with the highest level of prehospital care available. While you could carry your 22 month old to the car, imagine an adult. If your husband drops to the floor while showering, would you still believe your statement? Here’s how I see it. I arrive and begin CPR to pump oxygen to his brain. I connect him to the heart monitor and read his EKG. I may need to deliver an electrical shock to “reset” his heart. I insert an IV and administer drugs. I insert a breathing tube. (These are the standards of care for cardiac arrest. These are the same interventions that the ER would perform if not already done; especially if you drive him yourself). A few minutes later, your fire truck shows up with MY guys to help me save YOUR loved one. We then perform a well orchestrated, many time played routine of carrying him down the stairs out to the ambulance and race to the hospital. Did I mention you’re screaming, crying, and begging “Please don’t let him die” while you are clutching your kids?

We are severely under funded and therefore under staffed. This is made clear every year at Town meeting as well as every other appropriate opportunity. We do the best for you and your family with the resources you afford us. Now with the talks of cutting town services, there may be a time when there is no one to respond. You see, Hopedale’s ambulance came to you under our mutual aid agreement. Simply put, they help us when we need it and we help them when they need it. If there is no “us” there is no mutual aid. You’ll have no choice but to “get to the ER faster” yourself as you put it.

Asst. Chief Mike Zarella, NCEMT-P
Mendon Fire Department

Note from the editor: Upton Daily does not usually accept rebuttal letters in response to Facebook comments an exception was made at the request of the assistant chief.



  1. Well stated. Funding your local FD, and PD is for YOUR safety. Plain, and simple. First responders are there when you need them. Thank you for writing this response. More people need to see it!!!

  2. Not really following this thread, looks like miscommunication and someone taking FB comments too seriously and hurt felings if you ask me, but yet another reason to vote yes on the upcoming override that you just made me think of is- considering we have over 1 million gallons of HAZMAT chemicals stored over at the Upton Rail Yard, I’d say it’s a no brainer we need to vote yes to ensure the First Responders are as stocked as they need to be and have as many resources as they need, in an emrgency situation. Just one more reason to vote yes on June 30th Mendon!

  3. Thanks Chief. Our first responders are very much appreciated and I am so glad you wrote this piece. I had no idea our fire department was still under funded this is absurd. After the override is passed we have to work as a community and get all departments what they need especially first responders.

  4. God bless you and your colleagues for the work you do and the people you save. Shame on the criticism you faced.

  5. Well said — I had an emergency call to our police dept they like yours is underpaid and understaffed BUT very knowledgeable If not for them and the training and care they have and do we would all be in harms way for a long time.They responded to me in record time and did all they could and took me to hospital where I had xrays and found 3 fractured bones in ankle and one in back of leg . I can never thank them all for all they do and the kindness and caring they show. Thank you gentlemen and ladies for your services.

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