WALLINGFORD — The fire department honored a total of nine first responders during a promotion and swearing-in ceremony Thursday evening.
As both firefighters and newly named EMTs gathered in the fire station garage, flanked by colleagues, loved ones and hanging flags, Fire Chief Joe Czentnar invited each individual honored at the event to raise their right hands and swear an oath to the town, state and the nation.
Jeff Dingler was promoted from lieutenant to battalion chief after 15 years with the department, while Dan Collins and Brian Gaity each moved up to the rank of lieutenant after 14 years of service.
New hires included paramedics Matthew Behuniak and Joshua Bean, alongside recently appointed EMTs Ryan Ceritello, Israel Leonardo, Alex Nelson and Carl Smith.
Thursday’s celebration marked the first of what will likely be multiple ceremonies over the course of the year, Czentnar said.
“We try to get a bunch of promotions and new hires and have a swearing-in ceremony maybe about three times a year, Czentnar said. “It’s more efficient.”
The promotions come as Wallingford experienced a slew of retirements in recent years, Czentnar said. The department is both looking to fill open roles and planning in advance of looming exits from veteran firefighters.
“We believe in succession planning here at the Wallingford Fire Department and building our people up,” Czentnar said. “We invest heavily in our people.”
“We’re going through an aging out process right now, where we have a lot of retirements,” he added.
Of the new hires sybolically brought into the fold this week, many draw on decades of experience serving in fire stations and the medical field.
Bean, a career firefighter, was named paramedic after relocating to Wallingford from South Carolina. Bean grew up in New Haven and fought fires in West Haven, moving south with his wife and child before returning to Connecticut.
Bean had his eyes on a Wallingford career for several years after working as a student with the department and said he was warmly received by fellow first responders.
“I’ve always admired the Wallingford Fire Department,” Bean said. “Now getting onto the department is really nice. Everyone’s been great. I feel very lucky to be here.”