WEST WARWICK – The West Warwick Fire Department swore in five new firefighters and promoted several longtime members during their annual ceremony at West Warwick High School Monday night.
The West Warwick Fire Department Honor Guard performed the Presentation of Colors alongside the Rhode Island Professional Firefighters Pipes & Drums Band. Kyleigh Arenas, the daughter of West Warwick Firefighter Carlos Arenas, led the group gathered in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem, while Reverend Father Paul Lemoi of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church led the group in the Invocation and Benediction.
“We’re here tonight to honor and recognize the initiative and dedication of those who have chosen to become past, present and future leaders of the West Warwick Fire Department,” said West Warwick Fire Chief Jeffrey Varone in his opening remarks.
“Many members being promoted or being appointed here tonight come from a long line of career firefighters who have served before them in this department and in others,” he said.
The Oath of Office the firefighters took that evening, Varone said, has been recited by members before them for over 70 years. He told the members being promoted: “Your actions will be judged. You will be tested. You have earned this promotion. You have accepted its challenges.”
“To the new firefighters,” Varone said. “You have successfully completed a vigorous training program and have proven that you have the skills, courage and dedication necessary to represent the best department in the state. You will be expected to make life saving decisions, as well as risk your own lives in order to protect the residents of this town. I have the utmost confidence that each of you will live up to the high standards and proud traditions of the West Warwick Fire Department.”
“We are a small town, as you know, only eight square miles,” said West Warwick Town Councilman Jason Licciardi. “But it's amazing how much activity there is on a daily basis that challenges our first responders who are second to none.”
West Warwick Town Manager Ernest Zmyslinski welcomed the new recruitsand thanked those being promoted for their years of service to the town.
“Firefighting is a noble profession,” said Zmyslinski. “It takes a special person to rush into life-threatening situations for the benefit of others. The West Warwick Fire Department has an excellent reputation and is well equipped and well trained."
Representative Patricia Serpa also made some remarks, noting that many young children say they’d like to be a firefighter one day, but only a few actually go on to actually do it.
“It takes a special element of bravery,” she said of the job, quoting Mahatma Gandhi.
“Bravery is not a quality of the body,” she said. “It is a quality of the soul.”
“The young men being sworn in, I don’t think they really have any idea how much we trust them and rely on them,” Serpa said. “These firemen have been to my house on more than one occasion, but with the arrival of that truck I was immediately relieved and I knew my loved one was in good hands and would be safe, and he is.”
She welcomed the new recruits to the town and said she’s proud to be a West Warwick resident.
Captain Eric Norberg was promoted to Battalion Chief Monday night after serving the department for 24 years. Norberg joined the department in February of 1995 working as an emergency dispatcher. He was promoted to the rank of Firefighter in September of 1996, and achieved the rank of Lieutenant in 2005. Six years later he was promoted to Captain in 2011, now having worked his way up to the rank of Battalion Chief.
Norberg holds an Associate’s degree in Fire Science from the Community College of Rhode Island, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Providence College. In the past he has served on the RI Urban Search & Rescue Task Force (USAR) and was deployed to the Gulf Coast in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina. He’s also served as a department training officer.
He celebrated Monday night with his wife, Pamela, and their children, Emily and Meredith. He was also joined by his parents, Donald and Bonnie Norberg, and other family members and friends from neighboring fire departments. His wife, Pamela, pinned his badge.
Lieutenant Arthur J. Houle, III was promoted to Assistant Director of Communications.
Houle joined the WWFD in November of 1999 and was promoted to the rank of Firefighter in 2001. He was later promoted to Lieutenant in 2011, and joined the department’s Fire Communications Division in September of 2017 as the town’s Fire Alarm Technician.
He holds an Associate’s degree from CCRI, and has been certified as an EMS Instructor/Coordinator since 2004. He became a Certified Fire Inspector in 2018.
Houle was joined Monday evening by his wife, Jill, and their daughter, Abigale, who pinned his badge.
Lieutenant Christopher Coppolino was promoted to Captain after having joined the WWFD in 1997 as a dispatcher. Coppolino was promoted to Firefighter in 1999 and achieved the rank of Lieutenant in 2010. He is also the department’s SCBA officer, committed to ensuring that all department air packs are safe for use in emergencies. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Providence College in 2009 and is also a licensed master electrician.
Coppolino celebrated Monday night with his wife, Gina, and their children, Ryan and Cameron, who pinned his badge.
Lieutenant Christopher Seelenbrandt was promoted to Captain Monday after joining the WWFD as an emergency dispatcher in 1995. He was promoted to Firefighter in 1996 and to Lieutenant in 2010.
Seelenbrandt holds a Bachelor’s degree from Providence College and has earned his NFPA 1041 certification as a Fire Service Instructor and his NFPA 1021 certification as a Fire Officer. He has previously served as a member of the WWFD Hazmat Team and has also been a department SCBA officer. He is a former secretary of the IAFF Local 1104, and every year helps coordinate the annual Christmas Is - Fill the Boot Drive to benefit local children and families.
Seelenbrandt is also the President of the Rhode Island chapter of the Pink Heals, a volunteer organization helping to ease the many difficulties associated with battling cancer. He is the son-in-law of the late WWFD Captain Karl Swanson.
He celebrated with this wife, Kerie, who pinned his badge, and their children, Elizabeth and Nicholas.
Private Jeffrey Centracchio was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
Centracchio joined the WWFD as an emergency dispatcher in the spring of 2002. He was promoted to Firefighter in 2007. He carries on a family tradition in the fire service, according to Varone. His father, the late Chief Don Centracchio, was a career firefighter at the WWFD who served as chief of the department from 1984 to 1993. His brother, Corey Centracchio, also served with the West Warwick Fire Department until his retirement in 2003.
Centracchio celebrated with his wife, Nicole, and their children, Brooke, Julianna, Colton and Mila, as well as his granddaughter, Sophia, and his mother, Donna, who pinned his badge.
Private Eric Galloway was also promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
Galloway joined the department in 2002 as a firefighter. He was joined by his wife, Pamela, and their children, Ryan, Patrick and Morgan.
The new recruits to the WWFD include Luke Hogan, Ryan O’Mara, Domenico Della Torre, Stephen DeLuca, and Christopher Hanson.
Hogan joins the department as a graduate of class 003 of the Rhode Island Fire Academy, completing his training in January of 2018. He is actively pursuing his paramedic accreditation at Roger Williams University.
He celebrated Monday night with his parents, Tom and Rose Hogan. His mother pinned his badge.
Ryan O’Mara is also a graduate of class 003 of the Rhode Island Fire Academy and also completed his training in January 2018.
Like many of his colleagues, O’Mara also carries on a family tradition of public service. He was joined by his father, retired Providence Police Detective Kerion O’Mara, and his mother, Ann Marie O’Mara, who pinned his badge. Also in attendance were his grandfather, retired Providence Fire Battalion Chief Thomas O’Mara, and his Godfather, Robert Thurber, the retired Chief of the Prudence Island Fire Department and a retired Captain of the Pawtucket Fire Department.
Domenico Della Torre graduated from the most recent class of the Rhode Island Fire Academy, having completed his training on January 3, 2019. He celebrated with his parents, Cosimo and Lucrezia Della Torre.
Stephen DeLuca also graduated from the most recent class with the Rhode Island Fire Academy. He celebrated with his parents, Bob and Debbie DeLuca, and his fiancé, Kalyn Archer.
Christopher Hanson as well was part of the January 2019 class of the Rhode Island Fire Academy. He was joined by his parents, Dave and Sonya Hanson, and his grandparents, Richard Hanson and Lil Salisbury. His brothers, Eric and Ben, were also in attendance. His mother, Sonya, pinned his badge.
The West Warwick Fire Department also recognized a number of recently retired members, including retired Chief Joseph Baris, Jr., who served as Chief for 10 years; Retired Battalion Chief Frank Parente, Jr., with 41 years of service; Retired Captain Roger St. Jean, Jr., with 32 years of service; and Retired Lieutenant Bernard Langlais with 26 years of service.
Others in attendance Monday night include Representatives James Jackson and Thomas Noret, and West Warwick Town Councilwoman Maribeth Williamson.
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