Four new firefighters were sworn into the city’s bravest at City Hall today, alongside two new promotions to lieutenant and captain. The four new arrivals recently completed 14 weeks of intense training at the Utica Fire Academy.
“The foundation of a strong community is enhanced by strong police and fire departments,” said Fire Chief Ronald M. Brement this morning. He noted the new recruits’ “long road” to get here, through testing and interviews.
“The day that you stop caring, the day that you think you know it all, the day that your compassion has reached an end; that should be the last day that you are a firefighter.”
The four new recruits were among the top contenders through a civil service test, an agility test, extensive background checks and then a round of interviews with the top brass. They graduated the fire academy in July. The starting salary for a new firefighter is $42,430.
• Philip Urtz, a former employee at St. Elizabeth Medical Center and a licensed radiologic technologist.
• Kriston “Matty” Campos, a Utica College graduate and currently a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve.
• Michael Bottini, a Rome Free Academy and Mohawk Valley Community College graduate, and former codes enforcement officer for the City of Rome.
• Ryan Thayer, a Rome Free Academy and Mohawk Valley Community College graduate, and former state corrections officer.
“No one calls us when they’re having a good day,” Chief Brement warned the new recruits, noting that they have already “tested their core to see if they have what it takes” to be firefighters.
• Captain Daniel Gifford, a 19-year veteran with the department.
• Lieutenant Joseph Zwijacz, an 11-year veteran.
“I can speak firsthand as to the positive impact they have made on this department…they have gone above and beyond the duties of firefighter,” Chief Brement said. “They are not only committed to their families, but to the community of the City of Rome. They will help lead the fire department to new highs.”
The new firefighters and officers were joined by their families at the ceremony at City Hall. Several of their fellow firefighters, as well as members of the Rome Police Department, attended the ceremony, along with Public Safety Commissioner Frank Retrosi and Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo. “If you’ve ever been to the scene of a fire, there are a lot of moving parts, and our firefighters are some of the best trained,” said Izzo.
“It just amazes me each time how the department comes together” to fight a fire, she said, “and they do a great job.”
The new recruits bring the department up to 78 members, which is their authorized strength. The fire department’s annual budget for 2019 is $6.4 million.