When Revere firefighters rushed to Kingman Avenue on June 2, they encountered heavy fire and smoke overflowing from the top floor of the building.
Fire officials had to determine quickly whether there were still occupants inside the burning structure and the instantaneous decision had to be made about what strategy could be implemented to best contain the fire.
A major challenge confronting firefighters was the hot, humid conditions that day. Firefighters, who wear many pounds of equipment, faced head-on the dangers of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
That is where Paul Boudreau, president of the Boston Sparks Association, played an instrumental role in assisting the Revere Fire Department.
Boudreau, 63, and his Boston Sparks contingent had set up a unit of well-trained and certified volunteers nearby to help Revere firefighters during breaks from their strenuous firefighting operations.
“The temperature was very hot, about 90 degrees (on June 2),” recalled Boudreau. “There was also some wind which hampered the firefighting efforts. The firefighters, with the amount of protective gear that they wear today, it really holds the heat into their bodies, so they need to take a break periodically. And when that happens, they come into our rehab area and we provide them with hydration (such as water or Gatorade) and cold towels and we work in conjunction with EMS and they take their vital signs to make sure that they’re okay to go back to the firefighting effort.”
If it’s a long-duration firefighting effort, Boudreau said the Boston Sparks will provide food for the firefighters.
“One of the great suppliers for us is S and L Cold Cuts in Chelsea [which is owned by Steven Powers],” said Boudreau.
“And one of the crucial things now is the Boston Sparks’ truck has special firefighting products (wipes) that help the firefighters clear contaminants from the exposed areas of their skin,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau is deservedly proud of his dedicated presence at fire scenes in Revere.
“I don’t miss any of them, to be honest with you,” said Boudreau. “I’m a Revere boy, so I don’t miss anything in Revere. I try to make sure we’re there. It’s a great team effort. It takes more than one guy to do it. I just orchestrate things.”
Boston Sparks Was Founded in 1938
Boudreau has been president of the Boston Sparks Association since 2004 and a member of the group for close to 40 years.
He noted that the Boston Sparks Association was founded in 1938 by a group of men who had an interest in fire service and the betterment of the fire service.
“It was established initially for the purpose of following in the fire service as fire buffs who would study the techniques of the fire department and hold fundraisers to create awareness of the department and fire safety,” said Boudreau.
He said the Association has grown through the years to the point where it has its own fire station in Boston as a headquarters for its emergency rehab and canteen service.
The Boston Sparks Association now assists the Boston Fire Department and departments in 36 surrounding cities and towns.
“In addition to the fire rehab, we also run the Boston Fire Museum which has all the artifacts of City of Boston Fire Department and other areas,” said Boudreau. “We also do education programs for children’s birthday parties out of the old fire station on Congress Street in Boston.”
The Boston Sparks Association now has 200 members. “It’s made up of a diverse group of individuals – some are retired or active firefighters, some are business people, and we actually have police officers who are members, so it’s quite a diverse membership of 200 people that make up the Association.”
An Early Interest in Firefighting
The son of the late Arthur Boudreau and Doris Boudreau, Paul said his father was a fire buff as well. Before the family moved to Revere, Paul had grown up in Chelsea.
“I happened to live next door to a deputy chief [Bob Denning] who was a great guy and he got me interested in the fire department,” said Paul. “I tried to get on the fire department back in in the 1970s but I took the test and I wasn’t successful.”
Boudreau related that the fortunate part of his lifelong interest in firefighters was “in the communications business [ALL-COMM Technologies, based in Revere] that I have, I’m involved with a lot of the police and fire departments because that’s what we do – public safety radio communications.
“So in addition to my work with the Boston Sparks, my company is involved in public safety communications as well, so it’s kind of a way that I can give back to the community,” said Boudreau. “It’s very rewarding. I like it. It’s a unique thing that we do, get out on bed at 3 o’clock in the morning when it’s 4 degrees out and go to a fire and provide care and comfort for the firefighters. That’s our main goal.”
Boudreau remains grateful to Mr. Denning for activating that childhood respect and admiration for firefighters and what they do in their profession. He noted that a member of the illustrious Denning firefighting family of Chelsea, his close friend, Bobby Denning, is married to former state representative Kathi Ann Reinstein.
Boudreau’s family consists of three members of the Massachusetts State Police while his nephew, Sean Randall, is a lieutenant and executive officer in the Revere Police Department.
“We are more law enforcement than fire in my actual family, which is kind of unusual,” he said.
Asked how long he hopes to be active in the Boston Sparks Association, Boudreau said, “I intend to keep doing it as long as I can because I enjoy it. We provide a great service and that’s the most important part. It’s a good service and a good feeling.”
Chief Bright has Praise for Boudreau, Sparks Association
Revere Fire Chief Christopher Bright praised Paul Boudreau and the Association for their ongoing assistance to the Revere Fire Department. “Paul’s group, the Boston Sparks, responds really anywhere they’re needed, whether it’s a multiple-alarm fire, a large-scale incident, or a weather event – it could be anything, they come out no matter the hour, the weather, the holiday – they’ve been a great benefit to firefighters throughout Greater Boston,” said Bright. Bright said the Sparks Association serves as a key partner to Cataldo Ambulance at fire scenes in assisting firefighters during vital medical situations. “Years ago there was very little rehab happening at the fire scenes and unfortunately, a lot of firefighters, because we weren’t as sophisticated back then, were falling to heart attacks, severe dehydration, and overexertion and things like that – today, between Paul’s group and Cataldo Ambulance, our firefighters get rehabbed, their. vital signs are checked, their fluids are replenished, they take a rest and if everything checks out, they can go back to work,” said Bright. Bright said firefighters truly appreciate the efforts the Boston Sparks Association. “The Boston Sparks Association really does provide for the comfort, care, and safety of the firefighters on the scene,” concluded Bright. “We value it highly.”