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Fellow chiefs, dignitaries give retiring Norwich fire chief emotional sendoff

September 1, 2018

Norwich — Norwich Fire Chief Kenneth Scandariato’s mission statement during his 13-year tenure as head of the city’s paid fire department included a goal to bring all firefighters under his command home to their families every day.

“Chief,” fire Lt. Jacob Manke said at the close of Scandariato’s retirement ceremony Friday at Norwich Fire Department headquarters, “I want to congratulate you on the successful completion of your mission.”

Firetrucks were removed from the huge four-bay garage to accommodate a full house of guests from fire departments across the state and city, retired firefighters, politicians and supporters attending the ceremony. The current ranks of the Norwich Fire Department stood at attention for the entire hourlong ceremony, which started with Scandariato and Battalion Chief Tracy Montoya inspecting the group. Scandariato had quiet words, a handshake or pat for each member in line.

Scandariato, who will retire officially next Thursday after 13 years as fire chief and fire marshal — for the past 21 months, he’s also served as city emergency management director — was feted with several plaques and official proclamations from the city and the state, as well as emotional words of farewell.

Retired Norwich fire Lt. Thomas LaFreniere wore shorts and a short-sleeve shirt in contrast to the formal dress uniforms of those around him. “This is your uniform from now on,” LaFreniere said, giving Scandariato a new golf bag and urging him to enjoy a stress-free retirement.

Chiefs from several departments across the state praised Scandariato’s accomplishments in Norwich, noting the 51 fire investigations completed, numerous training protocols that have made the department better prepared for duties and the total revamping of the city’s outdated emergency management department. There were more than a few jokes about pronouncing his name, grateful that he routinely shortened it to “Chief Scand.”

“I aspire to be like that guy,” East Hartford Fire Chief John Oates said, pointing to Scandariato in the front row. “For 13 years, he has set an example of what a fire chief should be.”

Chiefs from Wilton, Willimantic and Manchester recalled that Scandariato sat on their promotion interview panels and admitted being nervous when they saw that he would be evaluating them. Scandariato had asked current Willimantic Chief Marc Scrivener to define “the friction of command.” Scrivener was silent and then had to explain that he was not familiar with the term.

Some months later, Scandariato asked him if he ever learned what it meant, and Scrivener had to tell him he struck out after asking fellow chiefs and trying to find it on the internet. Scandariato explained that it was an old Navy term describing the time between when you call for back-up in an emergency and when it arrives. Scandariato admitted he’d asked the question to see how Scrivener would respond to a question he couldn’t answer.

Scandariato received several standing ovations and had to delay his own speech until the applause died down.

“If you’re wondering where I got the energy from,” Scandariato said, “it was ignited by my responsibility for the safety of my personnel, the identification of the city’s needs and honoring the trust of the people who do this as firefighters. These are the things that I think that we live for. These are the things I think we’ve accomplished.”

Scandariato turned to the firefighters standing at attention, said they are “second to none” and said he was proud to have the opportunity to support them in their careers and accomplishments.

“I can’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished as a system, as a department and as a group of people who are working toward one goal: the service of our city,” Scandariato said. “These are the things I take away and I thank you for that, because it’s been a privilege every minute.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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