Website is updated every Friday - Important interim updates will be posted when necessary
Next regular update is Friday, June 21st.
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This week marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of this website, which has been dedicated to keeping our retired career members connected and preserving the history of the Hamden Fire Department. There will be just two more of the weekly Friday updates that began on April 1, 2011. Beginning in July, this website will continue to be updated periodically with current news of our retirees and our active brothers and sisters, and with occasional commemorations of significant department events. And, of course, the hundreds of our archived pages will continue to be available to all our members and website subscribers. Stay tuned!
The website is very pleased and proud to post the announcement below,
received earlier this week from the Office of the Fire Chief.
The Hamden Fire Department is proud to announce an upgrade in our ISO Public Protection Classification from a class 4 to a class 2. Out of approximately 40,000 ISO graded fire departments in the country, this puts the Hamden Fire Department in the top 5%. This is the culmination of years of work within the department to increase our readiness and effectiveness of response. These improvements have included a new training program and curriculum, capital improvements of apparatus, incorporating community risk reduction into our daily activities, deployment analysis and redistribution, and upgrades to our dispatch and emergency reporting procedures.
ISO's Public Protection Classification Program (PPC) plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies. In fact, most U.S. insurers - including the largest ones - use PPC information as part of their decision- making when deciding what business to write, coverage's to offer or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance. PPC is important to communities and fire departments as well. Communities whose PPC improves may get lower insurance prices. PPC also provides fire departments with a valuable benchmark, and is used by many departments as a valuable tool when planning, budgeting and justifying fire protection improvements.
The Hamden Fire Department would like to thank Mayor Leng, his administration, and the legislative council for their support and funding of this endeavor to help protect the citizens of Hamden while providing one more reason for businesses and people to consider Hamden as a future home.
The website thanks Asst. Chief Charles Lubowicki for providing the above article.
A Little Uncomfortable History
Throughout much of the last decade of the 20th century, Hamden politics in its ugliest form had a toxic effect on the department, jeopardizing the safety of our firefighters and our community. Despite perennial requests from Chiefs Tramontano, Wetmore, Sullivan, and Local 2687 for new apparatus, funding of the Training and EMS officers positions, and a new fire station with a training facility, the executive and legislative branches of town government largely dismissed these and other department needs until the town lost its solid ISO 3 rating, the highest ISO rating it had ever achieved.
Over time, the reduction in department manpower, aging apparatus, and the lack of a training officer and training facility were among the many reasons for a stunning 2-point ISO rating drop in 1997.
Legislative Council leadership was extremely hostile toward the department at the time, primarily over minimum manning requirements that had been in effect since the late 1960s. Many on the Council could not grasp that the town and the taxpayers save far more when the minimum and maximum manning numbers are the same, than when twenty more employees are added to the payroll to eliminate straight-time overtime.
Comments from ill-informed politicians were often quite nasty. In local news accounts at the time, the president of Hamden's Legislative Council dismissed the local's safety concerns as "fertilizer," asserting that the union's desire to regain the training officer's position was motivated by "greed," adding, "there is absolutely no safety issue involved." Such on-the-record comments further exposed the town to severe financial liability had any fire-related tragedy occurred.
But that was the sort of myopic thinking that both department management and rank and file were up against.
Perhaps it was that abysmal 1997 ISO 5 rating that turned the tide. Or maybe it was the tragic legacy of 9/11 that finally convinced some of the more obtuse politicians to take their fire service seriously. It took a lot of time, planning, and hard work, but the department has made impressive strides.
In recent years it has been progressive department leadership and, as always, a corps of skilled, motivated, and dedicated officers and firefighters, who have earned this milestone ISO 2 rating for Hamden. Perhaps the icing on the cake would be the town's first new fire station in nearly fifty years. Wouldn't that be nice?
Yet another veteran Hamden firefighter is retiring. Fire Inspector Ralph DiFonzo will be leaving on June 17th to concentrate on his building contractor business. Many department members and some of our retirees stopped by Station 3 Friday afternoon to wish Ralph well after his nearly 20-year service to the department.
Holding state certification as a fire marshal and certifications in Code Enforcement and Fire Investigation, DiFonzo was appointed the department's first fulltime fire inspector in August 2016. Firefighter Nelson Hwang was appointed as the department's second fire inspector a year ago this week.
With DiFonzo retired and the vacancy created by the November retirement of Dep. Marshal Tim Lunn, the Marshal's Office personnel is down by 50%. Marshal Brian Dolan expects the vacancies to be filled sometime after the start on the next fiscal year.
The members of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association welcome their newest member, Ralph DiFonzo. We thank him for his service to the town and wish him many happy and healthy years of retirement.
Marshal Brian Dolan, DiFonzo, and Fire Inspector Nelson Hwang - CLICK TO ENLARGE
Pictured in front of Tower 1 are just some of the active and retired department members who turned out at Station 3 to wish Fire Inspector DiFonzo well on his last day on the job. DiFonzo (center) was flanked by B/C Ron Desroches, Asst. Chief Charles Lubowicki, Marshal Brian Dolan, and Fire Inspector Nelson Hwang. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Filled after nine year vacancy, position combined firefighter training and EMS
After a change in the administration and much lobbying by the Fire Commission, Chief Tim Sullivan, and Local 2687, the Town finally filled the position of fire training officer in June 1999 with 12-year department veteran Lieut. Bill Fitzmaurice. The position had been vacant for exactly nine years.
In addition to overseeing and directing all firefighter training, Fitzmaurice's new duties also included those of the department's former position of EMS Officer, a position left vacant since the 1993 retirement of EMS Officer Lt. Charles Esposito.
Fitzmaurice came on the job in February 1987 and was promoted to lieutenant in August 1993. He earned a civil service promotion to captain while training officer. Returning to the line following his 2010 promotion to battalion chief, Fitzmaurice was succeeded as training officer by Capt. John O'Dea (2010-13), then Lt. John Grasso (2013-15; 2015-17). After promotion to captain and serving on the line in 2015, Grasso was reappointed training officer later that year. Grasso retired in 2017 to accept appointment as Chief of the Sturbridge (MA) Fire Department. The most recent training officer, Charles Lubowicki (2017-19), was appointed Hamden's Assistant Fire Chief in May.
The position of training officer, sometimes called "drillmaster," was created in 1956 with a rank of battalion chief (later "deputy chief"), and filled by Daniel Hume, who remained training officer until his retirement in 1973. Hume was succeeded by Dep. Chief Ken Harrington (1974-80), then Dep. Chief John Tramontano (1981-84).
When John Tramontano became fire chief in April 1984, he reorganized the department. Training Officer was classified as a "position," the man to maintain his current line rank but receiving the same pay as a shift commander. Capt. David Johnson was appointed and served as training officer until May 1990, when his request for reassignment to regular line duties was approved due to an urgent family emergency. He was assured by town officials that his vacancy would be filled shortly after the start of 1990-91 fiscal year. The position was filled nine years later, twenty years ago this week.
The New Haven Register, June 14, 1999 (Courtesy of Gil Spencer)
Filling the training officer's slot and the recent retirement of Capt. Johnson resulted in the promotions of 19-year department veteran Lieut. Bob Surprise to captain and 12-year veteran Firefighter Ron Desroches to lieutenant.
Surprise went on to become a battalion chief, then the department's second-in-command before retiring in 2013 after nearly 33 years on the job. Desroches earned a subsequent promotion to captain and is now the battalion chief of Platoon 2, where he started as a rookie firefighter in 1987.
Sadly, from the vantage point of twenty years later, it may have taken 9/11 to convince certain members of the Hamden political establishment to fully appreciate the potential threats faced by every firefighter every day. Despite those potentials threats, several times in the last 20 years the town has obtained "give-backs" from our firefighters in contract negotiations.
In almost every year since 2000, the department has consistently answered an increasing number of alarms. Last year the department answered nearly 12,000 alarms, the vast majority for EMS. Now, with the best ISO rating ever, Hamden residents continue to get the best from their fire department.
Getting together for Ralph DiFonzo's farewell on Friday was an opportunity to catch a few old familiar faces in the crowd. It was great to see retired Fire Marshal, Capt. Dennis Harrison, who is pictured here with fellow 1987 recruit class members, Battalion Chiefs Ron Desroches and John Spencer. Dennis was diagnosed awhile back with multiple myeloma, but now can report that he is currently in remission. Your HFD buddies are with you Dennis, and wishing you continued improvement. And always remember, brother, "It's all done with mirrors!"
New Haven Register, Friday, March 6, 1987
Best explanation? Some phrases are downright contagious. This one dates from the early 80s at Station 5, courtesy of Firefighter Charlie Carlson. Thanks, Charlie!
Ten years ago, this is what our website looked like the first day. The original red and white color scheme changed to the present green and gold on February 10, 2010. Weekly Friday updates began on April 1, 2011. The weekly updates will end on June 28th, but periodic updates will continue to be posted, just like the ones posted before 2011. Stay tuned!
CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO ENLARGE IT.
Screen shot of the HFRA website's first day - CLICK TO ENLARGE