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New Girard fire chief carries on family’s tradition of service

GIRARD — The third generation in his family to serve with the Girard Fire Department, Jim Petruzzi has begun serving as the city’s new fire chief.

Mayor James Melfi officially announced Petruzzi as the new chief at last week’s council meeting.

Petruzzi’s grandfather, Sam Revella, served as the city chief for many years, retiring in 1990. His father, James Petruzzi, worked many years as a part-time firefighter in the 1980s and 1990s and also as a water foreman.

“I grew up around the Girard Fire Department. It has been a childhood dream of mine to work here. I appreciate this opportunity to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. This means a lot to me,” Petruzzi said.

Petruzzi served 18 years with the McDonald Fire Department, including as chief. In 2003, he began as a firefighter / paramedic and then moved up the ranks to lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and chief.

He began serving as interim fire chief in Girard in late July when former fire Chief Ken Bornemiss retired Aug. 6.

Petruzzi said he moved from a part-time and volunteer fire department in McDonald to a full-time department in Girard. He said in his many years as a firefighter, the significant increase in continuing education requirements is one of the biggest changes.

“The changes in emergency medical care are more, and today more of our calls are for EMS. We are more than putting water on a fire,” he said.

Petruzzi said it has become more challenging to find firefighters.

He said in 2003 when he took his first test for a full-time firefighter position in Girard, more than 100 applicants at the high school cafeteria took the test. He said only seven people were at a test given two weeks ago for a full-time firefighter.

He said he will work with the city administration to make updates at the fire department.

“We will continue doing what we have always done to provide the best service that we can. We need some newer equipment and to look at the ways we are responding to emergencies,” Petruzzi said.

He said the department has a good group of firefighters. The department has a chief, three captains and nine firefighters at one fire station. There also is an accelerant-sniffing dog, Maya.

Petruzzi said most of the calls are emergency medical service for vehicle accidents and health-related emergencies.

He said he remembers when he worked part-time at the Vienna Fire Department and the crew responded to a call of a house fire in Howland. They rescued a family’s Rottweiler named Riley and take it to the vet for care.

“That was one fire that had a happy ending. This one had some smoke inhalation and did not put up a fight. We ran up there with the cot and did not know if it was going to be a parent or child. It was a Rottweiler they put on the cot,” he said.

Petruzzi said the call volume in McDonald was less than in Girard.

He said fire departments from Girard, Liberty, McDonald and Weathersfield try to work together through mutual aid.

“Because manpower is down, we help each other and work to make it safer for everyone. It is important to keep everyone safe. The mutual aid has worked very well since ambulances often get stuck at the hospital,” Petruzzi said.

After graduating from Girard High School in 2003, Petruzzi received fire training at the Howland Fire Training Center, paramedic training at University Hospitals, fire investigation at the State Fire Marshal’s Office and fire inspecting from the University of Akron.

“There is more and more training needed. Fire departments are training to do more with less people,” Petruzzi said.

Melfi said testing was done for the chief position and Petruzzi was the successful candidate.

“We are fortunate to have him,” Melfi said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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