Uxbridge losing another longtime chief
Fire Chief William Kessler stepping aside to assume post in Mendon
UXBRIDGE — Seven months after losing its longtime police chief, the town of Uxbridge is set to bid farewell to its longtime fire chief, William T. Kessler, who is leaving to take on a new role as fire chief in Mendon.
Kessler, Uxbridge’s fire chief since 2012, was appointed by the Mendon selectmen at a meeting Tuesday. He will officially assume his new duties in Mendon in December.
Kessler is leaving seven months after the departure of longtime Police Chief Jeffery A. Lourie, who left in January to take a similar position in Westborough. Lourie served as a detective lieutenant in Auburn before being appointed as Uxbridge’s chief of police in 2013. Lourie is widely credited with bolstering the department’s community policing program, expanding the department’s presence on social media and bringing in the department’s first K9.
Kessler is the latest Uxbridge town official to call it quits. In just the past six months, the town has lost several key employees, including the town accountant, treasurer/collector and conservation agent. Kessler had been an Uxbridge firefighter and deputy fire chief since 2000 before he was appointed chief in 2012. A graduate of Bryant College with a
degree in accounting, Kessler was the driving force behind the construction of the town’s new $9.25 million central street fire station, which opened earlier this year.
Work on the 14,365-square-foot fire station, which was built on a reconfigured site next to Town Hall on South Main Street, began in August 2016. The project included the razing of the old fire station and construction of an entirely new building, complete with five drive-thru bays.
Annual election voters in May of 2015 approved a debt exclusion to fund the new fire station, which was the second of two votes needed to move the project forward. The plan was approved first by special town meeting voters who were asked to consider two companion articles related to the new fire station proposal, both of which were passed on near-unanimous votes. The first asked voters to approve and fund construction for the new station, while the second sought approval to modify zoning bylaws and allow municipal buildings (the new fire station) in the business and industrial zones.
The 14,365-square-foot station replaces the former 6,600-square-foot station on South Main Street, which town officials say was outdated and unable to house modern fire trucks and firefighting equipment. Approximately $94,500 in funding for site assessment and schematic designs for the new facility came from the estate of Virginia and Lester Taft with the specific direction that it be used to fund a building project.
The new station has five drive-thru bays capable of housing the department’s current apparatus plus a ladder truck. The new station includes a meeting room for 24 people and a radio and server room to house the town’s computer and phone servers and equipment for better security and protection. More importantly, the new building will allow the Fire Department to purchase standard fire vehicles instead of vehicles that needed to be custom built to fit inside the current station.
According to town officials, the new station was designed to meet the department’s needs for the next 30 to 40 years.
Kessler was also among the army of firefighters who fought a fire of gigantic proportions on July 21, 2007 at the Bernat Mills on Depot Road. The sprawling mill complex was recently renovated to host 65 shops and businesses. All of the businesses were said to be thriving at the location. The spectacular fire began in the early morning hours, and finally showed itself about three hours later, at 6 a.m. The fire, despite the best efforts of an army of firefighters and millions of dollars in apparatus, swallowed the mill up and destroyed virtually every inch of the complex. Extensive mutual aid was summonsed from all over the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island to bring the fire under control. The fire raged for most of the day before being brought under control in the evening hours. Crews remained on scene for the better part of the next week to provide overhaul operations on the huge complex.
Kessler is also a storm chaser and van driver for Silver Lining Tours, a Colorado-based company offering storm-chasing and photography excursions across the plains from Texas to North Dakota.