First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Boston Sparks Can Do – And Did

Firegeezer notes:  Two months ago this past Saturday, on April 15 the city of Boston, Massachusetts was the setting for a major terrorist attack by a pair of avowed Islamist brothers.  They planted bombs amidst a large crowd gathered to witness the conclusion of the famed Boston Marathon.  The carnage put a tremendous strain on the emergency services of the city, police, fire and EMS.

The subesquent manhunt and takedown of the two perps brought the entire city to a standstill as a virtual army of peace officers descended on a 20-block area.  A major part of the operation that was little-noticed by the civilian ranks was the major logistics of keeping the "troops" nourished during rehab as they rotated their assignments into and out of the combat zone.

This article by Paul Boudreau of the Boston Sparks, originally published on their Facebook page and reposted here with permission, tells the compelling and previously unknown story of this challenging operation that went smoothly and successfully.

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Boston Marathon Explosions Prove
Boston Sparks’ Association’s Mettle

Reported by Paul Boudreau,
President, Boston Sparks Association

Supplemented by Mark Donovan

April 15, Patriots Day in Boston, saw a violent act of terrorism on the very soil of our forefathers. The public safety response to this horrendous incident drew upon a plethora of local, state and federal resources. The immediate event was a mass casualty incident of proportions rarely seen in the U.S., which drew in police, fire and EMS personnel numbering in the thousands. While the injured were very quickly sheparded to local hospitals, in the coming days, a massive cadre of law enforcement personnel from Boston, other Massachusetts cities and nearby states was mobilized while the metropolitan area was literally shut down. The first break came Friday, April 19, when a late night shootout left one of the suspects dead, with the second escaping, spurning a huge manhunt.

The event distinguished many heroes among those who responded – public safety officials, medical personnel, and the very public themselves. However, there is a little known cadre of individuals who were also called upon – and responded, with more than 150% of their effort — without whom, I might venture — the operation may not have proceeded in the smooth manner in which it did. To this day, to my knowledge, they have not been recognized publically by the fire service. They are The Boston Sparks Association ( and this is their story of their 18 hour long, behind-the-scenes operation.


At 4:40 a.m. on April 20, Boston Fire Alarm activated the Boston Sparks to respond to the City of Watertown at the request of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) for Massachusetts State Police, to provide rehab services for the numerous law enforcement personnel who were involved in the operation.

All photos via Boston Sparks Assoc. unless otherwise credited.

A-10 left headquarters with two members, to be met on scene by the Salvation Army with their unit A-30, one of five which would eventually be deployed to the Command Post with twelve officers, staff and volunteers.

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Massachusetts Salvation Army photo

Upon arrival, they were directed to the Command Post area and advised they were needed to provide rehab support as well as food and nourishment for the many police officers, federal agents and military personnel who were deployed with SWAT and tactical teams throughout the vicinity. (race command post downtown) (mall command post)


After conferring with officials on scene, they were asked to put together a plan to rehab and feed not only the 500+ personnel on site at the Command Post, but also over 900 of the law enforcement and tactical teams performing operations in the field, and a second tactical command post and staging area located across the street at the Watertown Arsenal Mall (photo), a massive World War II-era complex that operated until 1965 and is today an indoor shopping mall.




As the entire Metropolitan Boston West area was in lockdown, they quickly discovered that most of the normal resources they utilize for incident support were closed due to the Governor’s order to "shelter inside". After an exhaustive effort calling various Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds with no luck, it became apparent that they would have to reach out further to the surrounding communities, as the supplies on A-10 were rapidly being depleted as the law enforcement personnel immediately sought them out upon their arrival.

The first step was to get the closest source for coffee, and the Dunkin Donuts in the Mall was the only store open. With the consent of the management, they quickly commandeered every cup of coffee, every donut, bagel and muffin that was in the place. This process continued for the next several hours, but only supplied enough coffee for about 100-200 people. Members shuttled the Cambro Urns from the Dunkin Donuts to the Command Post, which were depleted almost immediately after they arrived.

During this time, other members were making coffee in their on-board canteens. At that time, a mutual aid call was put out to the New Bedford and Springfield, MA canteen teams to respond for additional support.

Working in unison with a Newtown Police captain and a sergeant at the Command Post, they located a McDonald’s in Newtown on Route 128 which was open, and commandeered several hundred breakfast sandwiches and hash browns. The Newtown PD shuttled the food from the McDonald’s to the Command Post.

However, similar to the coffee, as soon as the food arrived, it was devoured by the law enforcement personnel, many of whom had gone hours without nourishment, having been up since 11:00 the previous evening.

The scope of this event became enormous, and it readily became apparent that much more substantial resources were going to be required to meet the by-now, ever-growing need. Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Steve Coan and Department of Fire Services (DFS) personnel arrived and together everyone began the assessment and planning to support this massive operation. Under the authority of Undersecretary of Public Safety Kurtz Swartz, the Sparks began to seek outside assistance to support the brothers.

Contact was made with United Rentals (UR), and they quickly arrived on scene with tents, tables, chairs, a podium and sound system. UR also ordered 800 box lunches for delivery later in the morning. The DFS had the Rehab Truck, two Gators and an F-450 utility truck as well as an inflatable tent, which were crucial in moving items around and sheltering the food serving operation.

Boston PD was able to get the local Target store opened, and with the use of the DFS Gators, they commandeered all the cases of water and Gatorade that were on the shelves. At that time, outside offers of assistance began to be received. Earlier, the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts (PFFM), and Local 718, IAFF called and offered the food that had been scheduled for the subsequently cancelled PFFM meeting at Florian Hall. The food was shuttled by personal vehicles.

As all of the was occurring, the New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police Benevolent Association mobile canteen trailer arrived with nine PAPD police officers to assist as a "pay-back" to the assistance they received from the American Fire Service during 9/11.

New York / New Jersey Port Authority

They were wholly welcomed, and readily set up and were cooking hamburgers and hot dogs in no time. The Salvation Army Disaster Team began making sandwiches at a fast pace. The box lunches arrived and members began to distribute them to law enforcement personnel.

As it was now approaching lunchtime, and the troops were still actively deployed in tactical operations, team leaders were asking for food to be deployed to them in the field. This was a daunting task, but with the use of A-11 and the DFS Gators, they began making deliveries to various locations within the 20 block search area, many of which were still active crime scenes.

BSA was getting requests for food and water for 75, 100, and 150 people at multiple locations, which quickly depleted the supplies on hand, as the Gators and trucks passed through the streets. Officers were coming out of everywhere and grabbing whatever they could as many of them were starving and needed hydration.

As they continued with lunch, it quickly became apparent that the operation would continue into the evening and that they needed to plan ahead for an evening meal. At that time, they were advised that 20 employees at a local Home Depot had been in lockdown since 11:30 the previous night and needed food and water. A quick assessment was made and foodstuffs were delivered by about 14:00 via DFS and Gators.

Massachusetts Salvation Army photo

Shortly after, a logistics meeting was held between the Sparks, the Salvation Army, PFFM, Local 718, Red Cross, MEMA and the Port Authority and a plan was made to support the dinner requirements. The PFFM and Local 718 through Florian Hall would supply hot items and additional hot items were solicited from a catering company. The PAPD grillmasters would continue to cook but would need a larger grill. Shortly after, two commercial propane grills were delivered to the scene.

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McDonalds in Newtown agreed to provide another 100 hamburgers and fries, escorted to the Command Post by Newtown PD.

Brookline Ice delivered a refrigerator truck with 3 tons of ice and three portable ice chests, which were deployed in various locations to support the relief effort. A truckload of bottled water was also delivered.

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The Mall had been kind enough to keep their facilities opened as "relief" stations; which were soon supplemented by several porta-potties that were delivered and staged in the Command Post area until the operation wound down hours later with the capture of the second suspect at 8:45 p.m.


This was the largest rehab operation that A-10 has ever been involved in since it was founded in 1938. In retrospect, some of the logistical issues that were encountered included getting civilian assets into the Command Post areas as all incoming vehicles had to be searched and vetted by bomb dogs and law enforcement prior to entering. This, in combination with periodic shutdowns of the access points due to tactical operations, proved challenging.


By the time the event was over, BSA had had requests for everything from food, water and Gatorade to sunscreen, aspirin and batteries for radios and flashlights; all of which had to be delivered to members in field operations. It was estimated that BSA fed and rehabbed about 1,800 – 2,000 people for three meals during the 18 hour duration.

The operation on both the law enforcement and rehab sides went from 0 -100 MPH in mere minutes; due to the tremendous efforts from all involved, it was a complete success on all fronts. BSA extended a special thanks to nearly twenty individuals and organizations, as well Roger Baker’s Rehab 5 ( which, in a true sense of brotherhood, covered BSA’s response area while they were committed to this operation.

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