Fire Department Adds to the Ranks
By Richard Kaufman
On a warm Friday morning last week in the garages of the Greenwich Fire Department, five new recruits were sworn into the ranks, filling the void left by Fire Marshal Shawn McDonnell, Lt. Jim Freebairn, Firefighter Rick Magalnick, Firefighter Ray Little and Firefighter Rick Petrizzi, who are all retiring.
Fire Chief Peter Siecienski noted that the retired members responded to over 500,000 incidents over their careers, and garnered in excess of 120 years of combined service.
“We lose a great deal of talent, a big deal of efficiency, a great deal of expertise,” he said during the ceremony. “So welcome the five of you that are joining us today.”
One by one in front of family and friends, Connor Johnson, Stephen Brennan, Peter Purcell, Nicholas Salvadore and Brian Stevens were sworn in by First Selectman Peter Tesei. The recruits were carefully chosen after a long selection process that included 20 potential candidates. They’ll head to the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks, Conn., for additional training on August 18 for 15 weeks.
Johnson, an Eagle Scout, holds a bachelor’s degree in fire science and administration from University of New Hampshire. He was a former firefighter in Cromwell, a volunteer firefighter in Harwinton for 10 years, and a part time EMT for AMR.
“It’s a huge day for me, and my family as well,” he said. “They’ve always been very supportive of me and I’m ready for the next chapter of my life and my career and I’m happy to be here.”
Brennan comes to the GFD with 22 years of service as a police officer in Wilton under his belt, where he retired as a lieutenant. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in management from Central Connecticut State University. Brennan was an eight-year member of the Trumbull Center Volunteer Fire Department, and is also a master scuba diver trainer.
Brennan believes his career as a police officer will serve him well as he starts his new profession. “[Police and firefighters] work hand in hand, whether it’s a motor vehicle accident, EMS call, or just general service,” he said while his former colleagues at the Wilton Police Department looked on. “We have a very good rapport. I think that’s positive in any occupation.”
Purcell, who grew up in Greenwich and graduated from Greenwich High School in 2003, is the youngest of nine siblings (eight older sisters). He served for eight years in the National Guard which included a deployment to Afghanistan where he was a Rank Specialist E4 Combat Medic. He worked as a medical assistant and then became a personal trainer.
Purcell said it’s surreal having his lifelong dream of becoming firefighter come to fruition. “I’ve been trying to be a firefighter for about 11 years,” he said, acknowledging the father of a close friend who helped steer him toward becoming a firefighter. “I grew up in Greenwich, so it’s always been my No. 1 choice.”
Salvadore, the youngest of the recruits at just 22 years old, has a bachelor’s degree in occupational health from the University of Connecticut. He was a volunteer firefighter in Somers, Conn., and has EMT, Fire 1 level and HazMat Ops certifications.
“This is by far the biggest day of my life,” Salvadore said. “I’m a young guy, I just graduated college. I never expected to be hired so quickly by one of the best departments in the state and in the country.”
Stevens, an eagle scout, worked as a plumber and a volunteer firefighter in Seymour, Conn., for the past seven years.
“It’s definitely the finishing of a great accomplishment,” Stevens said. “I’ve been trying to become a career firefighter for over five years now. I’ve taken over 12 tests, and it just so happened that Greenwich was hiring.”
When asked what they’re looking forward to the most about becoming a firefighter in Greenwich, each recruit said they couldn’t wait to be a part of the brotherhood that exists in the department and the profession as a whole. Chief Siecienski noted in his opening remarks during the ceremony that firefighters have a bond unlike any other.
“Unlike any other profession, firefighters come into this job as a team,” he said. “They work as a team, whether on duty, they take care of each other, they take care of each other’s family. You’ll find no closer group of individuals in your lifetime.”
Tesei said that swearing in new recruits is an aspect of his job that he holds dear. “It’s one of the greatest honors in serving as the town’s chief elected official,” he said. Tesei added that the diverse backgrounds of each recruit will benefit both the department and the town.
“Their credentials brought them here today and they’ll become an integral part of the Greenwich Fire Department family. We are fortunate in Greenwich that we have well-trained, well-equipped personnel to respond.”