The West Hartford Fire Department held a ceremony in late December at Town Hall.
By Ronni Newton
Several new members of the West Hartford Fire Department and the promotion of a firefighter to the role of apparatus operator were recognized during a ceremony in Room 400 of Town Hall on Dec. 20, 2022.
The newest hire, Chris Guard, was sworn in in advance of heading to the fire academy and Isaiah Colon and David Kent, who have just graduated from the academy, were given their badges. In addition, James Paul was welcomed to the department as a fire inspector and Ryan McConville has been promoted to apparatus operator.
“Starting from our newest members, Chris, Isaiah, and David, James, the oath you are going to take is bigger than you,” Chief Greg Priest said at the event, which was attended by family, friends, other members of the West Hartford Fire Department, and town officials. “It’s a symbol and ceremony that binds you into a group of people who have dedicated their lives to the simple principle of service before self, affirming to all that they will risk their own life for the life of another, in most cases complete strangers. The oath is accompanied with core values and attributes like loyalty, dedication, commitment, excellence, honor, and duty.”
Priest said that when he walks into one of the firehouses, or sees department members who responding to calls or working on a project, those attributes are clearly evident. “They could not be stronger and the takeaway for you four is that by taking the oath, you are joining men and women who have set a high bar.
“It is your responsibility to treat the oath with great reverence, maybe as a reminder to get you through the hard times, but more importantly to always remember your commitment to our community and your brother and sister firefighters, and fire marshals. Relish in the moment that today offers and try to remember how you feel. I hope and expect you are filled with sense of duty and pride, and those feelings will be important reminders as you navigate your careers. Above all, never lose sight that our citizens and our Department rely upon you now and in the future,” Priest said.
He also noted that moving to the role of apparatus operator is a promotion, and that the oath should be treated with great reverence. Although he said it with a laugh, telling McConville not to crash isn’t a joke, Priest said, because the role is a critical one, which requires training, specialized skills, competence, and key decision making.
“Every day, multiple times a day, your job entails operating heavy apparatus through city-like streets with lights and siren. While always with due regard, your actions, made under stress and time-compression, directly impact the safety of other drivers as well as the firefighters on your truck. This is an enormous responsibility. While this is the most frequent activity, there is far more to this role,” Priest said. “It starts with the extensive and exhaustive attention to detail in ensure the truck is ready, includes mentoring other firefighters, supporting the officer, and extends all the way to a fire scene where your knowledge and abilities to operate aerial devices or ensure the appropriate volume and pressure of water reach firefighters in situations where that water or device may be the difference between their life and death.”
Town Manager Rick Ledwith also welcomed the new hires and congratulated McConville and along with Mayor Shari Cantor administered the oath of office.
Deputy Chief Jarrad Smith served as emcee for the ceremony.
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