NORWALK — Veteran firefighter Chris King has taken over as second of command of the city’s nearly 150-member fire department.
On Monday afternoon, Mayor Harry Rilling and fellow fire commissioner Oscar Destruge offered King the position of assistant fire chief and King accepted.
“I’m looking forward to bringing the department and its good tradition forward with a great bunch of guys,” King said afterward. “Hopefully, it’s going to be a seamless transition and I’m looking forward to the challenges.”
King and fellow Deputy Fire Chief Al Bassett applied for the position of assistant chief, which was left vacant after Gino Gatto was appointed acting fire chief in May 2017 and chief of the department in February 2018.
Bassett and King were interviewed Thursday and called to City Hall on Monday afternoon to sit down individually with Rilling and Destruge.
Rilling, chairman of the city’s Board of Fire Commissioners, said the board had “two excellent candidates” to consider for the post.
“The commission looked at the resumes, looked at the experience within the fire department, and certainly relied on a recommendation from the chief. And we felt at this time that Chris was the best suited for the position,” Rilling said. “We’re looking forward to Chris taking over as second in command of the department, and between he and Chief Gatto, what direction and what their vision is for the future.”
King, a Norwalk resident, started his career with the Norwalk Fire Department in 1987, advancing from lieutenant to captain to deputy fire chief in April 2011, according to his resume.
In his capacity as shift commander since October 2011, King has overseen fire, rescue, accidents and hazardous materials calls, supervised fire apparatus and 33 firefighters on a daily basis, logged all calls, events, injuries and drills, and ensured that all protocols were current with the latest standards.
King sits on the city’s Emergency Management Team, supervises all mobile and portable fire service radios, oversees medical supplies, inventories and budgets, and has developed action plans for events such as the Norwalk Oyster Festival and Fourth of July fireworks.
Bassett, also a Norwalk resident, started his career with the Norwalk Fire Department in 1992 and has advanced from dispatcher to firefighter, lieutenant, captain and deputy chief.
As deputy chief of training since 2015, Bassett has trained firefighters, helped them with career planning and goal setting, chaired the department’s safety committee, and managed its hazardous materials program, according to his resume.
Basset co-chairs the Fairfield County Hazardous Incident Response team, and chairs the Department of Emergency and Homeland Security Regional Emergency Planning Team ESF-10, where he has researched and developed local plans, such as deploying personal protective clothing to support the region’s strategic plan.
“He’s young. He’s got a good future with the fire department. He does a great job in the training division, and we certainly appreciate all the hard work that he does,” Rilling said.
In addition to Bassett, the department is served by Deputy Fire Chiefs Ed Prescott, Steve Shay and Todd Smiths. The leadership changes come after two retirements at the top.
Fire Chief Larry Reilly retired June 1, 2017, after 42 years service with the department. Fire Chief Denis McCarthy left at the end of September 2015 to head the Fairfield Fire Department.