Nuzback given honor as state’s top fire investigator
SCHENECTADY COUNTY John Nuzback’s hours at work can balloon, especially if there’s a fire to investigate.
The county’s veteran fire coordinator serves on a team of investigators that probes blazes in the towns and villages surrounding the city of Schenectady. On average, the 10-member group investigates about 30 fires a year around the county, and Nuzback’s work week can get fairly hectic when one of them involves a death.
The fatal fire in Rotterdam earlier this fall was a prime example. Nuzback was part of a team of investigators that determined a lighted cigar likely started the fire that killed 71-year-old John Trowbridge in the bedroom of his home in late October.
Nuzback clocked roughly 47 hours that week. And that’s despite being officially retired from county service since June 30.
Nuzback’s work with the county is now technically limited to part-time — about 18.5 hours per week. But that doesn’t stop him from helping out when his team of investigators is trying to figure out what ignited a blaze.
That’s why it was fitting for the International Association of Arson Investigation of New York to recognize Nuzback last month as investigator of the year. The designation came exactly a week after the fatal fire on Duanesburg Road, just days after crews were wrapping up their investigation.
Depending on what’s crackling across the scanner, Nuzback’s life in retirement sometimes seems much like it did when he was still full-time coordinator. But that’s a burden he quietly takes on as county leaders mull whether to appoint a successor.
Nuzback, a 34-year firefighter and former chief of Rotterdam’s Carman Fire Department, was hired by the county shortly after he retired from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in 2005. He’s also served on the White Eagle Ambulance and helped spearhead the company’s 2004 merger with Rotterdam Volunteer Emergency Medical Corps to create Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc.
As fire coordinator, Nuzback has expanded the team of fire investigators from four to 10, nine of whom are now state-certified. He’s also quick to credit his fellow team members for the state recognition he received last month.
“We call it a fire investigations team,” he told members of the county Legislature as they recognized his achievement Tuesday. “I don’t do anything on my own.”