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Changes at the Brattleboro Fire Department

Assistant Fire Chief Pete Lynch steps down; Captain Leonard Howard will succeed him

BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Fire Department will see the first of multiple staff changes this month.

Assistant Fire Chief Pete Lynch steps down this month after 32 years with the Department. Lynch will take the position of Chief of Fire Service Training for the State of Vermont at the Vermont Fire Academy.

Captain Leonard Howard III takes over the role of assistant fire chief in early September.

A second captain, Mark Geno, also recently stepped down.

These staffing changes have triggered promotions across the department. Two lieutenants will be promoted to captain, two firefighters will be promoted to lieutenant, and the department will hire two new firefighters.

Outgoing Assistant Chief Lynch described the promotions and changes as exciting.

It’s a real opportunity for some very good people “to stretch their legs,” Lynch said.

Town Manager Peter Elwell echoed Lynch’s excitement. Challenges will likely accompany the multiple staffing changes, he said, but they also mean a lot of new opportunities.

“[Lynch] is a first-class person,” Elwell said. “He is a very professional person and really aware of the world around him and the impact of his actions, and our actions.”

Elwell pointed to the School Crisis Emergency Response Plan as one example of Lynch’s leadership in the wake of shootings elsewhere in the country.

“That is going to to be an enduring legacy for him,” Elwell said.

Fire Chief Michael Bucossi said Lynch’s leadership drove the plan’s creation. After the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Bucossi said town leaders asked themselves, “are we ready to handle something like this?”

The answer was no, and that was unacceptable, Bucossi said.

“Basically, Pete took the helm” as chair of the working group, Bucossi said.

According to Bucossi, the town’s school response plan “is second to none,” with much of the credit going to Lynch.

Bucossi said there is much to appreciate about Lynch’s years of service and his professionalism.

“I am going to miss his ability to keep me grounded,” Bucossi said.

As much as he will miss working with Lynch, Bucossi said he looks forward to Howard’s leadership as assistant chief.

Bucossi described Howard’s promotion as the natural next step.

“He prepared himself for this and he moved himself into this,” Bucossi said.

According to a news release, Howard has served 29 years in the Department. He joined the call staff in 1987 and was hired to the career staff in 1997. His promotion to lieutenant came in 2001, followed by a promotion to shift captain in 2007.

“Throughout his career, Captain Howard has been a very strong advocate of training and he holds many certifications,” according to the news release.

Howard’s certifications include: Fire Officer II, National Registered Emergency Medical Technician, and Fire Service Instructor. He is a National Fire Protection Association certified Fire Inspector. Howard has trained extensively in arson investigation.

Elwell said Howard’s background and training in management stood out when he interviewed for the post of assistant chief.

Howard received a unanimous recommendation from those who interviewed him, according to the Department’s press release. First, Howard interviewed before a five-person board made up of representatives of the town, community, and two out-of-town fire officials.

In a second round of interviews, Howard met with Elwell, Fire Chief Michael Bucossi, and Lynch.

Elwell said he appreciated Howard’s training and how he prepared to step into a management role.

Lynch’s last day as assistant chief is Aug. 26. Howard will officially start his duties as assistant chief Sept. 6.

The application process for the two new firefighter positions closed last week. Bucossi said the applicants will take a written and oral test Sept. 2. If all goes well, the two new firefighters will start full time the first week in October.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #371 (Wednesday, August 24, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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