2017-11-22 / Around Town

New Fire Chiefs Take Top Slots

Newport

By Brooke Constance White

When Brian Dugan joined the Newport Fire Department in 1992, becoming chief never crossed his mind. Fast forward to 2017 and the Newport resident, who is deeply involved in the community, is now heading Fire Chief Brian Dugan up the department.

Although he’s served as interim chief since mid-July when then Fire Chief Peter Connerton retired, Dugan was appointed to the new position in October and officially sworn in on Nov. 17. In a phone interview on Nov. 20, he said it still feels surreal.

“It’s truly an honor to now be in this position,” said Dugan, 53. “But to be honest, I’m still taking it all in. I’m now responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly because there are a lot of people who are depending on me and that’s a lot of pressure. But we’ve got a great group of people here.”

Dugan’s journey to becoming a firefighter began when he worked at Newport Tent Company in the late 1980s. A co-worker of his, Jack Kane, was a retired firefighter and suggested that Dugan apply.

“At the time, I didn’t understand why guys would want to apply to be firefighters, quite honestly,” he said. “After discussing it with Jack, I learned that the job varies from day to day, there’s great camaraderie, job security and a true sense of service to the community.”

Dugan was first hired in Middletown where he learned the job and realized that at its core, being a firefighter is about serving people in the community and making a difference. A few years later he joined the Newport Fire Department.

It wasn’t until Dugan became a deputy chief in 2011 that he started thinking about the possibility of becoming chief. Before Connerton retired last summer, Dugan said the former chief had guided him through the process of applying for the position.

One area that Dugan said he’s most proud of is the department’s overall willingness to be proactive in offering new ideas and then running with them. Although he’s a good coordinator, he says he’d rather allow people to get things done in their own manner.

“We have a lot of capable people here,” Dugan said. “I always want [it] to be a department where people feel comfortable bringing new ideas to me. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve seen people stepping up to take initiative about a variety of things in the time I’ve been here.”

An area in which he’d like to see the department grow is long-term education. At the moment, the department has an officer development plan in place that offers a broader view and works to develop leaders for tomorrow. At the moment, Dugan is working toward a master’s degree in public administration at Roger Williams University.

In addition to his new role as chief, Dugan will serve as director of the city’s Emergency Management Agency. He’s hoping to advance the department’s preparation and ability to respond effectively to natural disasters and terrorism incidents.

“We’ve been looking at things like active shooters and mass casualty incidents and want to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row, should something like this ever happen here,” he said. “Hopefully it never will come to that but we do have a lot of big events and want to make sure that we’re better prepared in advance.”

Dugan, who grew up one of 11 children in the Fifth Ward and still lives locally with his wife, Susan, said he’d like the department to be an active participant in the community, assisting in a variety of capacities, including helping the needy. “The department is well respected in the community and I’m proud to be leading it.”

Middletown

By James Merolla

Peter Faerber Jr. was named Middletown’s new fire chief in a ceremony at town hall on Nov. 13.

The Middletown Town Council unanimously appointed Faerber, a lifelong Middletown resident, as a dozen past and present members of the department stood at the rear of the room. Faerber, promoted after nearly 22 years with the department, said he was humbled and honored.

“I am where I am today because of the efforts of past firefighters. I could not make it to this point without them,” he said.

Town Administrator Shawn Brown said the town didn’t need to look any farther than from within the department’s own staff to find the right man for the top job, even though a national search was conducted following the July retirement of former chief, Ron Doire, who was on hand to offer his congratulations.

“It’s a very exciting night for the town of Middletown, and a privilege,” Brown said.

Middletown received 40 applications for the post, including three internal candidates, and several from outside the state.

Other former chiefs, including Stephen Martin and David Carlisle, were also in attendance. The audience included Faerber’s mother, Mary, his sister, Jennifer, his wife, Alison, and his 9-year-old son, Broden, a fourth-grade student at Gaudet Learning Academy.

“It was a great pleasure for us to confirm you. It has been a stellar career,” Council President Robert Sylvia said. “Who do you want to be in a house fire with? Who do you to be with in a disaster? Yours was one of the names that always came up. I can’t say enough about Peter. He is the perfect candidate.”

Faerber, a 1993 Middletown High graduate, said that firefighting is all he ever wanted to do. While at the University of Rhode Island, he volunteered for the Kingston Fire Department, a commitment that sealed his future.

Coming from a family of firefighters (his uncle Paul is a captain in Newport), Faerber said the job was “in his blood.” He studied fire science at Providence College, and he has served the last two years as a training captain.

“I have seen Peter on countless fire calls,” Brown said. “Two aspects from Peter’s resume stood out: his proven skills [and] his expertise, [in addition to] his experience in all aspects of the Middletown Fire Department.”

Before being sworn in, Faerber thanked the council for having confidence in him.

“It’s been a privilege to be a member of the Middletown Fire Department for the past 21 years,” he said.

He praised his fellow firefighters for “always going above and beyond.”

“They are great professionals. I am humbled by their level of knowledge and bravery,” he said.

He said of Doire, “I have big shoes to fill,” and he also praised Chief Lt. Robert McCall, who has served as interim chief since July.

He thanked and hugged his family for their patience and support.

Faerber said his priorities include maintaining the high standard of service and professionalism that Middletown residents have come to expect and to keep his staff safe on the job.

“I look forward to the challenge ahead,” he said.

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