NAUGATUCK — They were among 540 candidates who took the test to be Naugatuck career firefighters — and among the only four chosen.
The Naugatuck Fire Department has hired three new members to replace longtime veterans who recently retired. The new recruits all took the test in July 2013, and finished second, third and fourth; current Naugatuck Firefighter T.J. Hawks, who was hired in August, finished first.
All of the recent hires are volunteers in other communities, and one recently retired from a career department.
Dave Proulx of Middlebury is a member of the Middlebury Volunteer Fire Department. He retired recently from the career Hamden Fire Department. Shane Henion of Beacon Falls is a member of Beacon Falls Hose Company No. 1, a volunteer company. And Nate Peragallo of Prospect is a member of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department.
“All of these guys are good guys, they have solid personalities, are very friendly and are very motivated,” Fire Chief Ken Hanks said.
Last summer, they took an exam consisting of a written portion testing math, reasoning, reading skill and mechanical aptitude. The top scorers were interviewed by the Naugatuck Board of Fire Commissioners, who gave them a conditional offer of employment contingent upon their successful completion of the 14-week CT Fire Academy in Windsor Locks.
Even though Proulx was a career firefighter, he has to go to the academy per the Naugatuck firefighters union contract because he had not been to an academy within five years. Hanks said that may change in future contracts.
All three have already passed background checks and pre-employment medical exams. They also passed the candidate physical ability test, a physical agility exam designed to determine if someone has the strength and aerobic capacity to perform firefighter tasks.
They will replace firefighters Jim Trzaski, Bob Ragauskas and Jim Roberts, who have all retired.
The Naugatuck Fire Department anticipates five retirements this year — two others may retire before the end of the year. Those two positions will not be filled and will be reviewed in the next budget cycle, Hanks said.
The Naugatuck Fire Department has a minimum manpower clause of eight people per shift. So while the new hires are in the academy, their positions will be filled by firefighters on overtime, Hanks said. They should be out of the academy in January.
First-year firefighters in Naugatuck will be paid $50,361 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to the union contract.