The decades of department personnel rosters displayed below may be of particular interest to retired and active HFD personnel alike. Who was on the job when? Where were they working at a particular time, and with whom? And in their own unique way, these rosters also help to tell the story of the Hamden Fire Department and how it has evolved over the years.
To help tell that story, additional facts and some back stories have been included with certain milestone rosters, such as the first 42-hour roster and the roster following 1984 department reorganization. Alumni are encouraged to submit their own comments and recollections. (Keep it clean.)
Just found - This roster was printed in the 1950 Hamden Town Report. Thirty of these department members were still on the job in 1975 - twenty in 1980. The last of these guys to retire was John "Jackie" Laffin, who, as a three-striper, left Station 3 for the last time on the morning of January 1, 1990. Jack is well and living on Cape Cod.
The second to the last guy in seniority was a young firefighter named Richard Lostritto, who went on to serve as the department's Supt. of Alarms & Apparatus. Richie, looking good as always, was at the Elks' Hall earlier this week for the HFRA Fall meeting.
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Thanks to John O'Hare for providing this scan of an early department personnel roster, which was posted in each station in case off duty personnel had to be called in for a large emergency. Joe McDermott, who joined the department in May 1953, is the least senior member on this roster.
John O'Hare noted that this was the last department roster to be issued before he joined the department in November 1953, replacing Firefighter Thomas (Tim) Cummins. Joe and John both went the distance, retiring in September and October 1991, respectively. Both of them attend meetings of the HFRA.
Note that the platoon commanders were captains. In November of the following year, the Board of Fire Commissioners summarily elevated the three captains to the new rank of battalion chief, and the three lieutenants filled the captain vacancies. The three lieutenant vacancies remained for two more years. In 1956, Firefighters Francis Leddy, Robert O'Donnell and Paul Rosadina were then promoted to fill the three lieutenant vacancies.
Although this roster is nearly 60 years old, and the telephone numbers were expressed with the old SNET New Haven area exchange names (CHestnut, ATwater, SPruce, etc.), several of the telephone numbers on this roster are still valid for some of the listed personnel or their families. Those numbers have been blacked out.
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November 19, 1960
This roster was printed in the program for the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association's 25th Annual Firemen's Ball.
November 19, 1960 was actually V. Paul Leddy's first day as Hamden's new fire chief. The program undoubtedly had been printed a while earlier because Raymond C. Spencer was still listed as chief, even though he had actually retired the day before.
Note that the shift commanders were still called "Battalion Chief" - that would change the following year - and there were only two company officers per platoon, one captain and one lieutenant.
Note also that this roster included Mrs. Theodore (Letitia) Flagge, who served as secretary to the Chief and the Marshal until her retirement in 1978. Still going strong at 99, Mrs. Flagge is an Honorary member of the HFRA. (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
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November 18, 1961
This roster was printed in the program for 26th Annual Ball, held on November 18, 1961.
This is the earliest roster listing V. Paul Leddy as Chief of the Department. Chief Leddy had been appointed the year before to replace Chief Spencer, and would serve until his retirement in April 1984.
Chief Leddy's former battalion chief's slot was filled by Capt. James Strain, Strain's captain's slot was filled by Lt. Paul Rosadina, and Rosadina's lieutenant's position was filled by Ff. George Reutenauer.
Shortly after his appointment, Chief Leddy requested that the title "Battalion Chief," held by the three shift commanders and the training officer since the rank was created in 1954, be renamed to the more appropriate designation of "Deputy Chief."
In addition to "the Deputy," as we used to call him, each platoon was staffed by one captain, one lieutenant and 18 firefighters. In December 1963, Firefighters Daniel O'Connell, Kenneth Harrington and Joseph McDermott were promoted to fill one new lieutenant's slot that was added to each platoon. (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
September 1, 1966
This roster was found behind the watch desk at Station 2 in the 1990s. It contained the telephone numbers (redacted) of all personnel in case an emergency required off-duty personnel to be called back to duty. The date of this roster was estimated by the appointment dates of firefighters whose names do not yet appear on it.
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October 6, 1970
Exact reproduction of original document
During the months and weeks leading up to the Department's transition to a 42-hour workweek, the contents of this roster was a closely guarded secret. Everyone on the department was going get an assignment letter, but no one, except the Chief and the Deputies, had any idea of the platoon where they'd be assigned. Rumors were flying.
Inevitably, a few guys would remain where they were already assigned, maybe even with the same officer. But the majority of personnel would be working at different stations and everyone would be working with different personnel from their previous assignments.
Men working on different platoons sometimes shared a part-time job on the outside. Guys sharing a part-time job were especially eager to know their new assignments. Being assigned to the same platoon would prevent them from sharing a part-time job on the outside. And in that era, most Hamden firefighters needed a second job in order to make ends meet.
The 42-hour workweek was a blessing to all line personnel, for the first time giving them nearly the same amount of free time as those working in the private sector. It also opened up an unprecedented number of promotional opportunities in all officer ranks below that of Chief. The new 4th Platoon would require one deputy chief, one captain, and two lieutenants, all of whom would come from the existing three platoons under Civil Service rules and testing. And those moving up into those new positions would create additional vacancies for another captain and two more lieutenants.
Civil Service rules that were revised in 1967 dictated that all future deputy chiefs could be selected only from among the department's captains. Previously, captains and lieutenants were all eligible for that position. Effective October 6, 1970, Captain Francis "Chalky" Leddy became deputy chief of the new 4th Platoon. Following civil service tests that were conducted for captain and lieutenant, Lieutenants Kenneth Harrington and Joseph McDermott were promoted to captain; and Firefighters Fiore Cubbellotti, Thomas Doherty, David Herrmann and Gilbert Spencer were promoted to lieutenant.
IFSTA manuals sold like hotcakes once again in 1984, with the creation of four new lieutenant positions and numerous officer retirements in all ranks, which resulted in a new Chief, two promotions to deputy chief (renamed "Commander"), four promotions to captain, and eight promotions to lieutenant - all before the year was out. More on that in a few weeks.
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October 6, 1973
This roster was printed in the program for Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association's 38th Annual Ball. Four new firefighter positions were added for the 1973-74 fiscal year. This roster shows the department at the new fully-manned figure of 116 line personnel, as well as displaying all staff personnel, including Secretary Letitia Flagge. The bottom four firefighters listed in each column were assigned to Stations 5 and 9. (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
Two veteran chief officers retired since the 42-hour work week was inaugurated. Dep. Chief Joseph Hromadka retired in September 1972, and was replaced by Captain Paul Rosadina, who moved up to head Platoon 1. Lt. Thomas Doherty replaced Capt. Rosadina on Platoon 3, and Ff. Dick Stacey replaced Lt. Doherty. Dep. Chief Hromadka, who joined the department in 1937, was appointed to be one of the first two shift commanders when the Hamden Fire Department was reorganized under career officers in April 1942.
Dep. Chief James Strain retired in 1973 after nearly 45 years in the fire service, 31 of which were served as a career department member. Dep. Chief Strain was replaced as shift commander of Platoon 2 by Capt. Joseph McDermott, who was replaced on Platoon 4 by Lt. John "Jackie" Laffin. Laffin's vacancy on Platoon 3 was filled by Ff. Walter Macdowall.
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October 1, 1975
Three vacancies occured since the previous roster: Dep. Chief Training Officer Daniel Hume reitred after 32 years of service and was replaced by Capt. Kenneth Harrington. Lt. Burton Hillocks was promoted to fill Capt. Harrington's vacancy on Platoon 2, and Ff. John Tramontano was promoted to fill Lt. Hillocks' vacancy on Platoon 4.
Also retired during this period was veteran firefighter Mario "Bucky" Serafino, who joined the department as a substitute in 1937 and became fulltime in 1942. Bucky was stationed at Mt. Carmel for many years and was a life member of the New Haven County Fire Emergency Plan.
Five-year veteran Ff. Steve Hitchcock left the department in July 1975. Steve went on to a career with the Waterbury Fire Department, where he eventually served as a company officer and championed the improvement of firefighter safety and working conditions.
Note that the four fire dispatchers are labeled as such. However, under the bargaining unit contract, "Dispatcher" was never an officially recognized fire department position. The following year, under the federally subsidized Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), Mayor Lucien DiMeo authorized the hiring of civilian fire and police dispatchers to replace the uniformed personnel who had performed those duties for decades. Hamden's four fire dispatchers, all of them over 50 - two in their 60s - were reassigned back to engine companies.
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May 1, 1976
This roster came out as the nation was celebrating the United States Bicentennial. No personnel were retired or hired since the previous roster, although a few officers and firefighters were transferred. The primary significance of this roster isthe reassignment to Station 5 of two firefighters from each platoon to man Truck 1, which had been assigned to Station 2 since it was delivered in December 1958. The move was made possible by the construction of a new annex to Station 5, completed the previous September, and the purchase and delivery of a new Rescue 2, which was assigned to the same Station 2 bay vacated by Truck 1 on April 9, 1976.
Truck 1 Goes to Mt. Carmel
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February 1, 1979
This platoon roster was based on the revised badge number list, but does not indicate station assignments. There were many changes since in the previous roster. With nearly 150 years of total service, veteran firefighters Wilbur Baker, Art Smith, Ray Carofano, Frank Cubbellotti, Larry Bellemore all retired. Firefighters Paul Sparapani, John Reilly, Guy White, and John Poe left to pursue other careers. Poe and White are members in the HFRA by virture of their career service. (Anyone who has ever served as a career Hamden firefighter is welcome to join the HFRA.)
In 1978, eight new firefighters were appointed. Among them was Ff. Donald LaBanca. Now a battalion chief, Don is the only one listed on this roster who is still on the job.
Also in 1978, a shortage of paramedics led to the transfers of paramedics Lt. Walt Macdowall and Ff. Charlie Esposito. Lt. Macdowall swapped shifts with Lt. Bill Hines and Ff. Esposito swapped shifts with Ff. Ron Altieri. Macdowall and Esposito, two of the department's original paramedics, went to Platoons 1 and 3, respectively. Lt. Bill Hines took Macdowall's place on Platoon 3. Sadly, Bill passed away only three months after this list was issued.
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May 1, 1981
This roster is an interesting snapshot of the department at a pivital stage.
Deputy Chief Training Officer Ken Harrington's 1980 retirement resulted in the first department promotion in over seven years. With Harrington's position vacant, Capt. Thomas Doherty acted as training officer when eight new recruits were hired in January 1981. But neither he nor the other two captains still on the job wished to apply for the permanent position. Civil Service re-wrote the specifications, allowing lieutenants with three or more years in grade to apply for the position.
Dep. Chief Harrington's vacancy as training officer was filled in April by Lt. John Tramontano. Ironically, seven years earlier, Tramontano had been the last man to receive a promotion - to lieutenant - the direct result of then-Capt. Harrington's promotion to training officer. Harrington's vacancy on Platoon 2 was filled by Lt. Burt Hillocks, whose vacancy on Platoon 4 was filled by Ff. John Tramontano.
The seven year drought of promotional opportunities affected dozens of firefighters hired in 1969-70, who were not on the job long enough to qualify for the previous lieutenant's exam, conducted in 1973. Some firefighters were on the job nearly twelve years before getting their first shot at a promotion in early 1981, when Civil Service finally authorized a promotional exam.
CLICK to enlarge - NOTE: Staff personnel were usually not included on department rosters until later. Not listed on this roster - Chief V. Paul Leddy, Fire Marshal Robert O'Donnell, Dep. Chief Training Officer John Tramontano, Supt. Richard Lostritto and Asst. Supt. Paul Wetmore, Sr.
March 5, 1982
Two new firefighters were hired in February 1982, bringing the department up to full manning of 30 men per platoon. Each platoon consisted of one deputy chief, one captain, two lieutenants and 26 firefighters. At 120 line personnel, it would be the last time the department was that large. (NOTE: During the two months leading up to the implementation of the 42-hour work week in 1970, two of the three platoons had 37 personnel and one had 38. After the 42-hour schedule started, each platoon had 28 men.)
Incredibly, about two weeks after these recruit firefighters were hired, the mayor was looking to lay them off as a "cost-saving" measure. The union strenuously objected, pointing out that these men had just been hired. To lay them off would make no sense. The mayor then took aim at the fire department's management positions. In a New York minute the fire marshal and the five deputy chiefs flew to their typewriters and requested that their positions be included in the union. The state agreed, and soon the marshal and five deputies were on the other side of the negotiating table. This left only Chief Leddy in management, and his job was not negotiable. A second management position of Assistant Fire Chief was created in 1983.
Although there were 30 personnel on each platoon, the minimum manning in 1982 was twenty-five per shift. Over the next several years, through normal attrition, the town reduced the ranks of the department's four platoons to the required minimum number of 25. Instead of hiring additional new personnel, for whom they would also pay benefits, the town opted to fill temporary vacancies due to injuries, vacations and illness with off-duty personnel working at straight time.
In the years that followed, the town saved a bundle by eliminating twenty firefighter positions. But they also complained about the straight-time overtime that resulted from those reductions and savings. The next group of new firefighters was not hired until February 1987. Through negotiations, the minimum manning per platoon was reduced to twenty-three in 1993 and eight more firefighter positions were eliminated.
January 1, 1999
Between mid-1995 and the end of 1998, seventeen department members retired and fifteen vacancies were filled. Chief Paul Wetmore, Sr., who succeeded Chief John Tramontano in 1993, retired in 1996 after 34 years of service. Asst. Chief Tim Sullivan was appointed Chief to succeed Wetmore. Dep. Fire Marshal Ed Badamo was appointed Asst. Chief to succeed Sullivan. Lt. John Spencer was appointed Deputy Fire Marshal to succeed Badamo.
Also in 1996, Battalion Chief Tom Doherty retired after 35 years on the job. In 1998, Capt. Paul Wetmore Jr. was promoted to succeed Doherty as battalion chief of Platoon 3. Lt. Dave Strawhince was promoted captain to succeed Wetmore.
Lt. Jack Calamo retired in 1996 with 26 years of service. Lt. Bob Kelo retired in 1998 with 27½ years of service. The four lieutenant vacancies that occurred during this period were filled by Firefighters Jim Dunlop, Bernie Amatrudo, Dennis Harrison and Gary Couture.
Asst. Supt. of Alarms and Apparatus Ray Chase was appointed to replace Supt. Mike Murray, who requested reassignment back to the line. Firefighter Tom Conway was appointed to replace Chase as Asst. Supt.
Thirteen firefighters also retired during this period, leaving a total of 17 vacancies: Frank Kafka (28 years), Bill Davin (30 years), Tom Hart (16½ years), George Patten (34 years), Mark Pratt (22½ years), Tony Melillo (27½ years), Fred "Chick" Manware (25 years), Dave McDermott (28 years), Tom Mikolinski (26 years), Harold Prescher (17½ years), Jim Moore (30 years), Ralph Dievert (29 years), and Jim Koutsopolos (28 years).
Fifteen of the 17 firefighter vacancies were filled by Timothy Lunn, Jeffery Pechmann, Donald Paczowski, Paul Turner, John Bradbury, Paul Anderson, Brian Badamo, Jeffrey Woodford,, Edwin Evers, Kevin Shields, Bryon Tierney, Raymond Pouncey, Julio Lopes, Douglass Taylor and John Grasso.