The Rye Fire Department will rectify one remaining state violation with the addition of its newly elected fire chief, according to the city manager.
Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano said the city has resolved the remaining violation relating to the training of the department’s volunteer fire chief with the promotion of David Larr to the post.
Volunteer Capt. Dan Bochicchio, a member of the Milton Point Engine and Hose Company, one of Rye’s three fire companies, has also been promoted to assistant chief.
The addition of Larr, who previously served in the department as the assistant fire chief prior to the appointment, marks the end of the city’s struggle to remedy 20 violations from the state Public Employee and Health Bureau, PESH, which provides policy guidance and conducts unannounced mandatory inspections for violations of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In January, PESH, which covers all state and local government workplaces, determined the Fire Department was in violation of 19 serious procedural policy and operational standards. The department was also handed one minor violation.
However, the announcement of a newly elected volunteer fire chief comes with added significance, as the department is also set to undergo several changes related to supervision, based on recommendations from the new Public Safety Commissioner Michael Corcoran.
The policy changes shouldn’t come as any surprise, following the appointment of Corcoran as public safety commissioner in January. Corcoran, who had initially been hired by the city last year to serve as its police commissioner, was appointed to the new role to review and find deficiencies within the Fire Department relating to volunteer supervision and the lack of paid staffing.
According to Councilman Richard Mecca, a Republican and member of the city Fire Advisory Committee, Corcoran has established a new policy, allowing only fully trained volunteers to serve as fire chiefs.
The change in policy comes as a way to avoid any further PESH violations relating to the chief’s training requirements, Mecca said.
The final violation to be resolved was prompted by former fire Chief Mike Billington’s lack of training. PESH determined that Billington did not receive enough training and education to hold the position, which requires the chief to have more training than the general membership of the department.
Mecca added that another policy change grants commanding power to the highest ranking paid firefighter on the scene of an emergency if a volunteer chief is not present or doesn’t meet the training requirements.
“If [the chiefs] meet the requirements they can control a fire scene,” the councilman said, “and nothing has really changed for them.”
Amidst the policy changes, the promotion of Larr as the new volunteer fire chief has created a stir amongst some of the professional firefighters.
According to John Castelhano, the president of the local firefighters’ union, the new fire chief doesn’t have all the necessary training necessary to lead the department.
“My understanding is that you need more training or equal training to the general membership of the department; [Larr] is not even close,” he said.
Castelhano explained that Larr has not completed his certification to become an interior firefighter, which is required to hold the position of fire chief.
However, according to Mecca, PESH has already determined that Larr meets the requirements to become the chief.
In the meantime, the Review has submitted a FOIL request for the training records of both Larr and Bochicchio.
Corcoran could not be reached for comment, as of press time.