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Schenectady welcomes new fire chief

25-year veteran Raymond Senecal praised as calm decision-maker

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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Schenectady Fire Chief Raymond Senecal is sworn in by Mayor Gary McCarthy at City Hall on Monday evening.
Schenectady Fire Chief Raymond Senecal is sworn in by Mayor Gary McCarthy at City Hall on Monday evening.

— A no-nonsense firefighter was appointed chief of the Schenectady Fire Department Monday night.

Raymond Senecal was calm even when things started to go wrong on his first day as assistant fire chief, Mayor Gary McCarthy recounted during the swearing-in ceremony.

First there was a car fire. Then a second fire. And finally, a third call.

“And nothing left to be deployed,” McCarthy said.

He watched as Senecal “walked through the fire scene, getting people freed up and redeploying them.”

There was no panic. No rush. Just calm, decisive action, McCarthy said.

“It was only your first day, but you made the right decision,” he added.

Senecal is a 25-year veteran of the department, with certifications in fire investigation and hazardous materials.

His father, retired Fire Capt. Raymond Senecal, assisted with the swearing-in and featured prominently in the new chief’s first speech.

Senecal was 1 when his father joined the Fire Department, so he grew up seeing how a firefighter interrupted his life for his work.

“Mother’s Day. Twenty-five people in the house. Phone rings. Gotta go. Christmas Day. Gotta go,” he said. “I had an idea what this job was about.”

He recently took time off from work to see his son play a Little League game. But there was another call, and he pulled into the parking lot well after the game started. As he parked, he heard cheers. His son had just won the game with a grand slam — and he’d missed it.

He thanked his family for understanding and supporting his career.

Then he issued a warning to his firefighters: Start training.

“Heart attacks are the leading cause of firefighter fatalities,” he said.

He plans to emphasize physical fitness to combat heart disease.

He will have an assistant chief to help him, unlike the last chief, Michael Della Rocco. When Della Rocco was promoted from assistant chief to chief, his former position was never filled.

Della Rocco argued passionately for more leadership positions in the department, saying that he was turning to union members to do management work because he didn’t have more staff.

The city chose to fill the position this time, promoting Deputy Chief Michael Gillespie to assistant chief.

Gillespie, a 28-year veteran of the department, is also a paramedic and a fire investigator.

The mayor also promoted 25-year veteran Michael O’Clair to deputy chief. He is a paramedic and a hazardous materials technician.

Christopher Keough and Michael Angelozzi were promoted to captain, and Matthew Reinemann and Joshua Canelli were promoted to lieutenant.

 
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