A packed room full of family, friends, current and retired firefighters, and town leaders congratulated five new and three promoted members of the at a ceremony at Friday afternoon.
Interim Chief Gary Allyn led the ceremony, beginning with a moment of silence for soldiers and firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Two West Hartford firefighters were promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and will be taking on the role of ambassadors and leaders of the organization – what Allyn called "making a large leap from firefighter to supervisor, or from 'buddy to boss.'"
Keith Albert, a charter member of the Capitol Region Hazardous Response Team, who has been a member of the West Hartford Fire Department since 2011, took the podium to tell the story of his journey from growing up in a French-speaking household in Southington, to reaching his goal of becoming a member of WHFD.
Jarrad Smith – who has been a firefighter for nine years, four of them in West Hartford – also received the lieutenant's badge. Smith was named West Hartford Firefighter of the Year in 2011, in part because of his role assisting in the rescue of resident Jonathan Metz, who tried to amputate his own arm when it was stuck in his furnace for three days in June 2010.
Robert Howe III was was recognized for his promotion to apparatus operator, what Allyn called "the job with perhaps the greatest responsibiltiy" since it requires the technical expertise to operate a vehicle weighing anywhere from 31,000 to 82,000 pounds. Howe, a 12 year veteran of the West Hartford Fire Department, is a third-generation firefighter and the son of retired chief Robert Howe II, who pinned his badge.
Allyn then introduced the five new recruits, who endured a rigorous screening and training process to attain their positions.
"Their preparation began in their childhood years, when something in their life guided them to the decision to become a firefighter," Allyn said.
The new recruits who received their badges on Friday are:
John Bigham, who joins the WHFD after 23 years of service with the Waterbury Fire Department. Bigham is a certified fire instructor who currently teaches at Burrville Fire School and Wolcott Fire School.
Brendon Coen joins the WHFD from the Willimantic Fire Department, where he worked for two years after serving four years with the U.S. Marine Corps, including two deployments to Iraq.
Neal Sinatro is a West Hartford native, a 2002 graduate who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years. He is a veteran of the East Farmington Volunteer Fire Department and New London Fire Department, who graduated from recruit school at the Connecticut Fire Academy in 2010 after deciding he wanted a career in the fire service.
David Skau, a 2009 graduate of Old Saybrook High School, is the youngest new recruit. Skau is completing an associate degree in Fire Technology and Administration at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and put himself through the Connecticut Fire Academy.
Daniel Syme II, the son of a retired lieutenant from the UConn Fire Department in Storrs, has returned to Connecticut from Howard County, MD, where he worked with the Howard County Department of Fire & Rescue Services.
"The fire service is changing, and the name no longer reflects the services we provide. When people have a unique situation and they believe it to be an emergency, they call the fire department. With the addition of new members, we continue to reinvent ourselves, using the collective knowledge and experience of all of our personnel to deliver the diverse services we are requested to provide. We are truly an 'all hazards emergency response organization,'" Allyn said.