While the flames of many raging infernos have been extinguished by the Village of Mamaroneck (VOM) firefighters, the bonds between members of the all-volunteer 265-member department have only grown stronger. Last night, the 127-year old department ushered in several new fire chiefs and honored a departing chief that will not be forgotten.
New Fire Chief Chris Szymanowski, a 13-year veteran of the department, initially became a firefighter to, “give back to the community” and to honor the “tradition and history” that defines the century-old permanent fixture in Mamaroneck.
Since 1998, Szymanowski has moved up within the ranks, serving as captain three times as well as second and first assistant chief. Following the mantra that firefighting is in your blood, several generations of previous Szymanowskis have served their community. Both Szymanowskis’s grandfather and father served in Port Chester fire departments and his brother was recently elected a lieutenant.
Acknowledging the immense sacrifices that wives and children of firefighters often make, Szymanowski was momentarily choked up as he looked at his own family seated in the front row.
“They just have to deal with it,” he said, recalling the times he was called away on duty, and his wife was left alone to take care of their two children.
Departing Chief Dean DeLitta spoke about those members of the department that nurtured him in his previous role.
“We always go to past chiefs when we needed guidance—they’ve always been there,” he said.
DeLitta also spoke about the flood that ravaged Mamaroneck in 2007, leaving many destroyed homes and buildings in its wake. “We started literally underwater four years ago—it really shows what this department can do.”
“[This is] the best department, clearly, in Westchester County,” he said, referring to the highly ranked department.
New First Assistant Chief Robert “Bubba” Pecchia, also choked back tears as he talked about DeLitta’s influence, a testament to the strong relationships that come from depending on one another to navigate through the perilous situations that often come with fire calls.
“We probably wouldn’t be where we are without your expertise,” he said, continuing, “Dean was like another father to me going through the chairs.”
Pecchia also credited Szymanowski with helping him along the way, “Chris was an amazing person coming up for the past two years.”
Further underscoring the feats of heroism that firefighters commonly undertake, Pecchia told the audience a story about, “one of the scariest moments of 17 years of firefighting,” in which a roof collapsed on him during a raging fire. He was then tackled down a flight of stairs and his only concern was getting up and continuing to pull people out of the building, many of whom were his “best friends and brothers.”
Mayor Norman Rosenblum expressed the sentiments of many when he said, “Chief Dean DeLitta is on of the best chiefs we’ve ever had,” to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were board of trustees members Toni Pergola Ryan, John Hofstetter and Sid Albert, Treasurer-Clerk Agostino Fusco, VOM Chief of Police Christopher Leahy, Police Lt. Dominick Falcone, Village Manager Richard Slingerland and Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff.