August 9, 2020
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Clinton’s John Flaherty has been appointed as Westbrook’s new fire marshal. It’s the latest post in a long and distinguished career in fire safety. Photo courtesy of John Flaherty

Clinton’s John Flaherty has been appointed as Westbrook’s new fire marshal. It’s the latest post in a long and distinguished career in fire safety. (Photo courtesy of John Flaherty )

Education the Key for Fire Marshal Flaherty

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John Flaherty, Westbrook’s new fire marshal, has been on the job for only a short time, but already he enjoys his new job.

“I’m flattered I got the position. I’ve been dedicated to firefighting my whole life,” John says.

John was officially appointed to the position on July 9 and had been one of three people serving as a deputy since March.

“I’ve always wanted to be a fire marshal,” says John.

A fire marshal is responsible for enforcing fire codes and investigating the cause of fires in a municipality. John has another goal: education. When he arrives at the scene of a fire, John attempts to let people know what is happening while the firefighters are battling the fire.

“One of my biggest things, I try and find the home owner and explain why they’re doing what they do,” John says. “A lot of strategy goes into fighting a fire.”

However, it’s not just the people at the scene of a fire who John says need education.

“I think public education is the biggest thing. I hope to bring more of that to Westbrook,” John says.

John says he doesn’t have any particular programs planned right now as he tries to get a feel for the town.

“The [Westbrook Volunteer] Fire Department is amazing, I look forward to working with them,” John says.

Even when John is doing inspections on a business, he still will give the owners a lesson on fire safety.

“I explain the reason behind the code,” John says.

When conducting an inspection, he understands how difficult it can be for a small business owner to be told they now have an unexpected expense to make their business comply with the fire code, and he also finds that if he explains the reason for the code the people are more receptive and understanding.

“It’s all about customer service,” John says. “I really think I can make a difference.”

John grew up in Manchester and developed an interest in firefighting at an early age. John’s father used to clean the town hall, which was next door to the firehouse. Seeing the activity at the firehouse sparked his early interest.

When he turned 16, John walked into the fire house and asked what he had to do to become a firefighter, and was told to become a volunteer firefighter.

“I encourage any young person to get involved with the department. That’s all I wanted to do,” says John.

Upon graduating high school, John joined his father, who was then working at Pratt & Whitney, but John only lasted a few months.

“I couldn’t stand it,” says John.

John quit that job and worked in an ambulance in Hartford, and soon was able to work as a dispatcher for the fire department, which allowed him to get his foot in the door.

“It all took off from there,” John says.

John worked as a firefighter in Manchester, and eventually left to work at UConn, where he became one of the first three fire marshals in the history of the school. UConn, fittingly, is where John also got his start in educating people in fire safety. John says he would give presentations to the students on what to do in case of a fire in dorm room.

“It was a great career,” says John.

John retired from the department and moved to Clinton in 2007 and has become a fan of his new home town—he likes that Clinton is “a small town with a small-town feel.”

When John was a kid, his family would take their yearly vacation to Hammonasset, which instilled in him a love for the shore and activities like fishing and boating, which he also enjoys to do in Clinton.

“It’s nice to be in a town close to the water,” John says.

John says that he can often be found walking his two dogs in his spare time, and that like him they enjoy walks on the beach. John also enjoys spending time with his wife Kate, and his stepchildren Willow, Ford, and Quinn.

“The family part is really important,” John says.

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