After 32 years on the Winthrop Fire Department, Capt. Chuck Flanagan is hanging up his turncoat and retiring, but that won’t stop him from responding to significant major incidents. Flanagan’s history at the fire station goes beyond his time at the department and stems back to when his grandfather was a firefighter beginning in 1903, when horse
drawn apparatus were the equipment of the period.
Having grown up alongside his brother, Chief Paul Flanagan, the siblings were essentially raised at the Beach Fire House on Shirley Street. Chuck’s father, Charles Joseph Flanagan, was chief for eight of the 44 years he was on the department, making the cumulative time on the department 160 years amongst the four Flanagan’s.
“Paul and I loved going to fires with my father when we were younger,” said Chuck Flanagan, who reminisced about the times when he and Paul responded to emergencies alongside their father when the fire alarm bell rang in their home. The siblings would help roll hose after the fire was out.
During his 32-year career Flanagan responded to many incidents. One of the most memorable that stands out for him was the 1990 gas explosion that took down four homes on Grand View Avenue. During his 25 years with Massachusetts Task Force -1 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue, Flanagan responded to several hurricanes including Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
He also played a major role in the rescue and recovery effort during the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, working diligently to help New York Firefighters clean up ground zero.
“It was surreal to say the least,” he recalled. “To go there and be standing on top of the rubble of a 110-story building conducting void searches. It changed my comfort zone. It’s hard to even fathom.”
Above all else, Flanagan will miss training the younger firefighters.
“I really embraced my responsibility as Captain and being a force multiplier. I enjoy working with the new firefighters just starting their careers,” said Flanagan, who also taught at the Massachusetts Fire Academy from 1989 until 2003, where he was the first program coordinator for technical rescue for the last ten of those years. “I tell the guys they need to be practitioners and that they always need to be expanding their knowledge base through training.”
While his days and nights as shift commander are over, Flanagan will still be active with FEMA and is looking forward to taking on longer teaching assignments training rescue and military personnel for Special Rescue International of Virginia Beach.
Beyond his many duties in search and rescue, Flanagan became well-known as the Santa who road in the fire truck on Christmas Eve and volunteered his holiday every year for the past 25 years to bring joy to the community. This will be the first Christmas since he’s been married that he will be home on Christmas Eve.