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New Britain fire chief on administrative leave, announces retirement

NEW BRITAIN —  New Britain Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter has announced that he will retire from the fire department after serving nearly 35 years.

“I was born and raised in New Britain, and I have been honored and privileged to serve the City for 35 years as a firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief and Chief of Department,” said Chief Ronalter.

His tenure is ending during a time of controversy that took place last month. New Britain’s mayor Erin Stewart, placed Chief Ronalter on leave after several claims of racial bias was reported including a refusal to hang up a photo of the city’s first black fire chief.

Chief Ronalter will continue on paid administrative leave until his retirement on October 2.

Chief Ronalter released the following statement regarding his retirement:

“I was born and raised in New Britain, and I have been honored and privileged to serve the City for 35 years as a firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Deputy Chief and Chief of Department. I am fortunate to have worked with talented New Britain firefighters and fire officers over these decades. Amongst both grandfathers, my brother and myself, we have given over 120 years of service to the Department.”

“We have accomplished much since I became Chief in 2012, particularly in upgrading the facilities and equipment used by the Fire Department. We have made our firefighters, and the people they protect, safer with all new firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) and the latest Vehicle Extrication Equipment.

We involved fire personnel in a participatory process to recommend design and specifications for these major purchases. We improved and innovated training and education programs for both firefighters and command staff. We have proudly conducted a first ever Annual Firefighter Memorial Service for fallen City firefighters and retired firefighters in 2016, and again in 2017,” stated Ronalter.

“I am proud of a one-million-dollar competitive Federal grant written and received to purchase a new ladder truck. The City recently ordered three new fire engines, which will be delivered next March. These new cutting-edge apparatus, will dramatically enhance firefighter safety and expand firefighters’ capabilities at emergency incidents. The engine apparatus will be the first in Connecticut to use Auxiliary Power Units (APU) to reduce fuel use by 20%,” said Chief Ronalter.

“We have increased engagement with all segments of the community. I am particularly proud of the fact that 50% of our new firefighter hires during my tenure have been minorities and women. This moves the Department closer to the important goal of a diverse workforce reflective of the residents we serve. Some of these talented individuals are bilingual in Spanish and Polish, military veterans, City residents, EMTs, volunteer firefighters and college graduates. These new firefighters also were the first to participate in a new, rigorous probationary firefighter training and evaluation program.

This program provides the foundation and guidance for these new firefighters to be productive and well-trained Department members for decades to come. They are the future of the New Britain Fire Department.  As to the future, I wish the next Fire Chief well as he builds on the solid foundation of great people, programs and facilities for continued progress within the New Britain Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter.