SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 13, 2012

28-year firefighter steps into the role of deputy chief

DANVERS — James McPherson Jr.’s appointment to deputy fire chief this week is another step in a 28-year career that has included a few trials by fire.

“He’s a tried and proven commodity and leader,” Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. “He has had some significant events that have been a part of in his career, and he has risen to each and every one of them.”

McPherson, 53, will earn a salary of $99,052 as deputy chief.

McPherson’s family moved to the Woodvale neighborhood when he was 2, and his father still lives in the family home. McPherson joined the Danvers Fire Department in 1984. It was during his first year as a firefighter that the Henry Leather Co., one of the last big leather companies in Peabody, burned down in a massive fire, and he was one of those from area towns who responded.

He was a new lieutenant in 1990, he said, when 31 fires broke out in the Beaver Park neighborhood after the gas company over-pressurized the lines.

A captain since 1997, McPherson became acting fire chief in July when Chief Kevin Farrell was placed on leave due to issues stemming from a domestic incident and arrest at his estranged wife’s home in June. McPherson won Marquis’ praise for accepting the acting chief’s job at a difficult time for the department.

Charges against Farrell were dismissed in court, and after undergoing treatment, Farrell was medically cleared at the end of October to return full time to his duties as fire chief. McPherson returned to his job as captain. He also had applied for the deputy chief’s post. He underwent “a rigorous testing and interview process through an independent assessment center” as part of the selection process, Marquis said.

McPherson said his stint as acting chief helped with his transition to deputy.

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