WALLINGFORD — The fire department held a badge pinning ceremony Thursday to catch up on swearing in personnel hired or promoted during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Included at the ceremony were 16 EMTs — part of the department’s new transport unit that went into effect with a change in service delivery model July 1, 2020 — and seven other senior staff, including a battalion chief, EMS lieutenant, three other lieutenants and two firefighter/paramedics.
Fire Chief Joseph Czentnar said the swearing in ceremony was scheduled originally for March 19, 2020 — two days after Gov. Ned Lamont’s statewide shutdown due to COVID-19 took effect.
The ceremony kept being delayed, but with the relaxation of social distancing protocols, the fire department seized the opportunity.
“The department needs to move forward and recognize these individuals who've been out doing some dedicated work out there in the field,” Czentnar said.
He said that the new staff along with the existing members have had to adapt and “work seamlessly together” amid COVID-19, and that they “rose to the challenge of meeting and fighting this pandemic.”
“It's got to be one of the most difficult times in my career,” he said. “You would never envision that when you go into this kind of career, having something like that to deal with. We deal with emergencies all day long, and we get used to that, but to deal with a global pandemic — I want to put it behind us.”
In attendance at the ceremony were Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni.
Among the staff honored Thursday were Battalion Chief Patrick Hagerty, currently the department’s longest-serving member at 33 years, and EMS Lieutenant Michael Krupinski.
Krupinski handled much of the department’s pandemic response, including providing COVID-19 vaccinations during clinics at the Wallingford Senior Center, Czentnar said.
“He has really been a big force in us dealing with the pandemic and providing service to the community,” Czentnar said about Krupinski. “He's out there and he's the face of the department, when we're dealing with the public at that level, getting them the vaccinations and everything else."Leadership changes
The fire department experienced a change in leadership upon the retirement of former Fire Chief Richard Heidgerd in April, after nearly 40 years of fire service in Wallingford.
Wallingford has two deputy fire chiefs — one for administration and operations, and one for EMS and training.
Czentnar, then deputy fire chief for administration and operations, served as the acting chief and was promoted in July.
Deputy Fire Chief Sam Wilson, who was promoted to that position in January 2020, covers EMS and training.
The department currently is seeking to fill the deputy fire chief for administration and operations position, as well as a battalion chief position recently vacated by Rick Gibson, who retired earlier this month after 30 years in Wallingford.