New fire chief officially sworn in Monday

Milford’s new fire chief, Douglas Edo, and new Assistant Chief Gary Baker were sworn in Monday night, as were 12 new firefighters. A number of firefighters also were recognized for promotions during the hour-long ceremony.

Edo, a lifelong Milford resident, now officially takes the helm of the city’s fire department: His two assistants are Baker, and Robert Healey, who served as the acting fire chief during the nine months the fire commission was selecting a replacement for retired Chief Louis LaVecchia.

Mayor Ben Blake spoke at the ceremony, as did U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Blake said Milford has one of the best fire departments in the nation, but is always looking to be better.

“I know the chief will move the department forward now, in charge of the planning and overall administration of the department,” Blake said.

Edo started his career as a fire explorer in 1970, before becoming a member of Volunteer Company 5 and then a paid firefighter in 1980. He said he has several ideas he plans to pursue. Among those, he’d like to see the department receive more technical water rescue training. The department has larger water rescue boats, Marine 1 and 2, but each station also has smaller boats that are used to rescue people during floods.

When the tide rushes between the houses on Broadway, for example, navigating the current can be challenging. Edo said advanced technical training will focus on that kind of maneuvering.

He also wants to push community involvement, offering CPR and other life-saving classes and fire safety education to the community.

Edo thanked a host of people after being sworn in by his sister-in-law, Probate Judge Beverly Streit-Kefalas, and then pinned by two of his sons, who are also firefighters in Milford.

He thanked his team, his family, and especially his wife, Mary. He credited her for raising their four sons while he was often busy studying and taking firefighter exams.

Baker, sworn in as assistant chief, was appointed to the Milford Fire Department in 1986 after being honorably discharged from the United States Navy. He worked his way through the ranks, achieving captain in 1999, when he was transferred to headquarters and served with distinction as the department’s EMS/Safety/Hazmat officer for several years.

“He is known for the development of the engine company paramedic units, which at the time were the first and only such units in the State of Connecticut,” according to a bio the fire department compiled.

He is a recipient of several meritorious service awards, several unit citations, as well as the mayor’s extraordinary life saving award in 1997. Baker received the Milford Fire Department Medal of Valor, the department’s highest honor, in 2000.

A number of battalion chiefs were sworn in Monday, too. They act as shift commanders for the department.

Robert Turner was sworn in as battalion chief. Hired in 1985, he worked on Engine 6 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1998 and then captain in 2008. Then he was an Engine 1 company officer out of headquarters. He has received numerous unit citations and is a skilled coxswain of Marine 1, fire officials said. Turner now serves on Car 4 as a shift commander of C Shift out of Milford Fire Headquarters.

Russ “Chip” Chapman was also promoted to battalion chief. Hired in 1984, he began his career as a detail firefighter and then as a firefighter and driver/engineer on Engine 3, 4 and 1 until he became one of the department’s most notable paramedics, according to city officials.

Chapman served many years on the busy “Rescue 1” when that unit was the only paramedic unit in the city. He spent years after that refining his skills as a driver/pump operator and ladder operator, as well as becoming a state certified instructor. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2004 and captain of Engine 1 in 2009.

“Chapman’s promotion date was October 29, 2012, which you may remember was the day of hurricane Sandy,” according to a department press release. “He currently serves as the battalion chief of logistics where his many years of experience and passionate devotion to the job are a valuable asset to the department.”

Dan Wassmer, also sworn in as battalion chief, began his career in 1997 and spent his rookie year in Woodmont on Engine Company 5. After graduating paramedic school in 1999 Wassmer served for several years on Rescue 1 out of fire headquarters.

Wassmer is a member of the dive rescue team and the Hazmat Team. He is also a fire service and EMS instructor. Wassmer was promoted to lieutenant in 2004 and was assigned as a company officer on Engine 4 out of Devon. He was promoted to captain in 2009 and served as the department’s EMS/Safety/Hazmat officer until he was promoted to battalion chief, like Chapman, on the day of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. He has been awarded multiple unit citations and is a recipient of a meritorious award.

“At age 39 he is one of the youngest members of the department to be promoted to battalion chief,” according to a department press release.

He now serves as the battalion chief of planning out of the headquarters division.

Battalion Chief Ron Wetmore was hired in 1991. His experience includes service on Engine 1, Engine 4 as well as Tower 1. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2007 and served on Engine 6 as well as Engine 4 as a company officer. He was promoted to captain in 2010 and served as an Engine 1 company officer for two years.

“Battalion Chief Wetmore is also well known for his outstanding charitable work, most notably with the Connecticut Burn Camp,” according to a department release. “He is also a public safety diver on the department’s dive rescue unit, and has been a hazardous materials technician on the department’s hazmat team for many years. He has received multiple awards and commendations, including many unit citations.”

Wetmore was promoted to battalion chief in July and serves as the shift commander of B Shift.

The Milford Fire Department consists of 114 uniformed firefighters, plus higher ranking officers. More new firefighters will be hired in August, bringing the total number of new recruits to 16. Captain Kyle Brotherton said the influx is due to a large number of retirements recently.

The following promotions were also recognized:

Captains: Thomas Thornberg, Kyle Brotherton, Christopher Waiksnoris and Gregory Carman.

Lieutenants: Christopher Brown, John Slyman, Peter Phelan, Jason Hall, Thomas Piskura, Eric Mohr, Arthur Murphy and Gavin O’Brien.

Senior fire inspector: Anthony Fino.

Fire inspectors: Michael Geanacopoulos and Robert Buch.

Firefighters: Matthew Ramos, Joseph DeMartino, Marc Ruggiero, Ryan Antonino, Jeffrey Platek, Gregory Prior, Raul Benavides-Espinal, Michael O’Neil, Casey Bertollo, Jacob Cudgma, Matthew Colucci and Erik Voroba.