Former fire chief leaves lasting legacy

Beacon Falls firefighters march alongside Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s 1929 Seagrave truck carrying the casket of former Fire Chief Roger Brennan on North Main Street Jan. 27 during Brennan’s funeral procession. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Beacon Falls firefighters march alongside Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s 1929 Seagrave truck carrying the casket of former Fire Chief Roger Brennan on North Main Street Jan. 27 during Brennan’s funeral procession. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Beacon Hose Company No. 1 mourned the loss of one of its own last week with the passing of former Chief Roger Brennan.

“He’s a fabulous man,” said Ted Smith, a close friend of Brennan who joined the department in 1969 when Brennan was chief. “He was well liked by everyone in Beacon Falls.”

Brennan died Jan. 23 at the age of 77.

Brennan was born in Waterbury on May 12, 1936, and lived his entire life in Beacon Falls. He graduated from Naugatuck High School in 1954. During his time at Naugatuck High, Brennan made a name for himself on the athletic fields, including as the starting quarterback for the Greyhounds.  

For the past 57 years, Brennan made more than his presence felt at Beacon Hose Company No. 1.

He joined the department in May of 1957. Nine years later, Brennan rose to the rank of chief — a position he held until 1971.

Beacon Hose Company No. 1 spokesman Jeremy Rodorigo said Brennan was influential in modernizing the way things were run at the department.

“Roger was instrumental in modernizing fire service in that he introduced the first radio system. Instead of just relying on the whistle we had a system that a dispatcher could put over receiver and guys could receive calls at home,” Rodorigo said. “That was a big deal back in the ‘60s.”

At the time he was chief, 911 calls would come directly to his house and Brennan would then dispatch the call before going to the scene. Brennan was also on the building committee for the firehouse at 35 North Main St. in the 1960s.

Although he stepped down as chief in 1971, Brennan remained an active member of the company for the rest of his life and served as fire marshal from 1971 to 1986.

Rodorigo said Brennan remained up to date on all the new firefighting technology and brought years of experience to the department.

“He had experience from being there for more than 50 years and was able to put a historical perspective on things,” Rodorigo said.

Although Brennan didn’t respond to fires in his later years, he still played a crucial role at the firehouse.

“Until he passed he was relied on as someone we would go to for advice and counsel. He was always very active and always had a great joke,” Rodorigo said.

Fire Chief Michael Pratt said Brennan was always there to help whenever someone had a problem. 

“He was a great guy. He did a lot for this department,” Pratt said. “If you ever had a problem you could go to him and talk to him. He’s definitely going to be missed by many.”

First Selectman Chris Bielik said it would be very difficult to find someone who was as revered as Brennan in everything he did.  

The firefighting gear of the late Roger Brennan, a former fire chief of Beacon Hose Company No. 1, is laid out on the sidewalk in front of the firehouse on North Main Street in Beacon Falls as firefighters stand at attention Jan. 27 during Brennan’s funeral procession. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The firefighting gear of the late Roger Brennan, a former fire chief of Beacon Hose Company No. 1, is laid out on the sidewalk in front of the firehouse on North Main Street in Beacon Falls as firefighters stand at attention Jan. 27 during Brennan’s funeral procession. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“Roger was an icon in this town,” Bielik said.

In addition to volunteering with the fire department, Brennan worked for more than three decades with Northeast Utilities, eventually retiring as a line supervisor.

Bielik said Brennan’s passing leaves a large hole in town. However, he added, Brennan’s legacy lives on with his family.  

Brennan is survived by his wife of 55 years Joan, four children Paul, Michael, John, and Allison, as well as 11 grandchildren.

Two of Brennan’s sons, Paul and Michael, have served with Beacon Hose Company No. 1 for 25 years, and Brennan’s grandson Cal has volunteered with the department for five years.

Family, friends and firefighters alike came together Monday morning to pay their last respects to Brennan. Firefighters led the funeral procession through downtown Beacon Falls to St. Michael’s Church on Maple Avenue. The procession, led by the company’s 1929 Seagrave truck carrying Brennan’s casket, concluded at St. James Cemetery in Naugatuck, where their friend and brother was laid to rest.

“He was a brother’s brother,” Pratt said. “He was the true meaning of fire service.”

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.

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