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New Apparatus Operators Honored as West Hartford Fire Department Resumes Promotional Ceremonies

Fire Chief Greg Priest administers the oath of office to the department's three newest apparatus operators (from left) Scott Padua, Sean Howard, and David Skau. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Fire Department has named three new apparatus operators.

Apparatus Operator Scott Padua shares a hug with his children after they pinned him with his new badge. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Fire Department held a promotion ceremony at Station No. 3 on April 14 to honor three new apparatus operators – also marking the return for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit of publicly gathering with family and department members to celebrate milestones.

Scott Padua, Sean Howard, and David Skau were all sworn in as apparatus operators, and pinned with their new badges, and provided with a new helmet shield.

Newly-promoted apparatus operators (from left) Scott Padua, Sean Howard, David Skau. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fire Chief Greg Priest, as well as Battalion Chief Mark Bassett, who served as emcee for the ceremony, also used the occasion as a remembrance for Joe Mangione, a 20-year veteran of the department and an apparatus operator who was assigned to Station No. 3 on New Britain Avenue, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in August 2020.

“Our promoting members have the spotlight, but this is also a time to remember Joe and the wisdom he has passed down in the department to our new drivers and all the drivers after. Thank you, Joe, for watching over us and especially our new apparatus operators. I know you would be proud,” Priest said.

Priest also said that formal promotional ceremonies are important moments, and moving forward they will be held on a regular basis.

Becoming an apparatus operator in the West Hartford Fire Department is not a “collateral duty” assigned to all firefighters, Priest said, but rather is part of a competitive testing process.

Bassett said that firefighters like to say they have the best job in the world, “but what you may not have heard is that the best job ‘on the job,’ is that of apparatus operator. I will never forget the first time I got to drive the predecessor to Ladder 3, driving around the district, and all the while trying to look cool, be professional, and act tough … I remember beaming ear-to-ear with a smile, living a childhood dream. Best job ever.”

Padua has known what he wanted to do since childhood, Bassett said. He joined his local volunteer fire department at age 14, and studied to become an EMT during high school. He earned an associate’s degree in fire science administration fro Naugatuck Valley Community College and joined the fire service in Frederick County, MD, were he had the opportunity to learn to drive various fire apparatus.

Padua became a paramedic and joined the West Hartford Fire Department about two-and-a-half years ago, and began training to become an apparatus operator. “At the first chance he could, Scott tested for the position,” Bassett said, and is looking forward to serving the community in this new capacity.

He was pinned by his two young children.

Apparatus Operator Sean Howard is pinned by his son. Photo credit: RonnI Newton

Howard, a native of New York, moved to the area about 12 years ago and spent a decade working in emergency services in Hartford, Bassett said, before fulfilling his lifelong dream and joining the West Hartford Fire Department two-and-a-half years ago.

“Considering it the best job in the world, he most enjoys the opportunity to serve his neighbors no matter what the emergency, as well as the areas of specialization in education and skills that the fire department brings … rescue, emergency medicine, fire suppression, or any of the innumerable challenges each day brings,” Bassett said.

Howard was pinned by his son.

Apparatus Operator Kyle Chapin pins Appparatus Operator David Skau with his new badge. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Skau, originally from Old Saybrook, attended Three Rivers Community College and the Connecticut Fire Academy before accepting a job with the West Hartford Fire Department nine years ago.

Skau’s family was unable to attend the ceremony, and Apparatus Operator Kyle Chapin, in honor of the late Joe Mangione, pinned him with his new badge.

“The intense responsibility that you will face in your new role is something that you have each noted and embraced in the process,” Priest told the three new apparatus operators. “Your crews, their families, your family, as well as the public, depend on you to master y our craft and provide for their safety.”

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Department members attend a ceremony honoring newly-promoted apparatus operators. West Hartford Fire Department Station No. 3. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Fire Department Station No. 3 on New Britain Ave.. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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