BEACON FALLS — When James Trzaski was named Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s fire chief three years ago, he asked Brian DeGeorge to run as assistant chief in order to have someone in the position with experience and who would accept the challenge of moving up to chief when his tenure ended.
“I accepted the assistant job because I really had a good feeling we were going to be a good team,” said DeGeorge, a 40-year-old Beacon Falls native.
The plan was for Trzaski to stay on as chief for the maximum five consecutive years, and then DeGeorge would step up. That time came a couple of years sooner than expected.
DeGeorge was sworn in as the company’s fire chief during a ceremony April 29 at the firehouse.
DeGeorge is the service manager at Gabe’s Service Station in Beacon Falls — where he has worked since he was a teenager — and is in the process of buying the business. He has been a member of Beacon Hose for 20 years and previously served as chief from 2005 to 2009.
DeGeorge said he first got involved because he’s rooted to the town. His grandfather was a past fire chief in Oxford, and his brothers are all involved with Beacon Hose.
Trzaski, 50, said he stepped down due to work obligations. Trzaski retired from the Naugatuck Fire Department as a captain in 2014. He is a full-time firefighter in Middletown now and works part-time as a recruit program lead instructor at the Connecticut Fire Academy.
“That really ate away at my time, and I wasn’t really able to put the time into the chief position that it demanded,” Trzaski said.
Beacon Hose Company No. 1 is one of the few companies in the state that runs fire response and emergency medical services, Trzaski said. Aside from overseeing the emergency response aspect of the company, he said, the chief position has a host of other duties, including meeting with town officials and handling the department’s two full-time positions and budget.
Trzaski, who has been a member of the company for 30 years, plans to stay involved, just not in a leadership role.
The company’s new assistant chief is 55-year-old Howard Leeper, a past captain and 16-year member of the company.
“It’s an honor to move up to the position,” said Leeper before being sworn in on Saturday. “I’m honored that the members of the company entrusted me with the position to help our chief lead the department.”
As DeGeorge enters his second stint as chief, he said finalizing the details for the department’s new fire engine is among his main goals, but added he simply wants to pick up where Trzaski left off.
“Jim did a phenomenal job,” he said. “I’m looking to just keep it where it is.”
DeGeorge said the company doesn’t have a lot of “true fire calls,” but when they do the firefighters do a phenomenal job.
DeGeorge pointed to a garage fire last month on the Blackberry Hill Road. Firefighters were en route in 4 minutes after the call came in and had water on the fire in 8 minutes, he said. The fire destroyed the detached garage, but firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading to a nearby house.
“When you put that together you obviously know you’re doing something right,” DeGeorge said.