By Elio Gugliotti and Andreas Yilma, Staff
Appointment subject to contract approval by borough board
NAUGATUCK — The Fire Commission is turning to a former borough firefighter to help lead the Naugatuck Fire Department.
The commission unanimously appointed James Trzaski, a former Naugatuck firefighter, deputy fire chief during a virtual meeting July 6. The appointment is pending approval of a contract for Trzaski by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses. Officials are still in discussions with Trzaski on a contract and a possible start date.
Fire Chief Paul Russell said Trzaski, a Beacon Falls resident, is the best person to fill the role.
“If we could get Trzaski to come back to Naugatuck, that would be a home run for us,” Russell said. “That would be a home run is how highly I think of him.”
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, who is a voting member of the commission, said Trzaski is highly qualified and the best choice.
“I’ve known Jim Trzaski for a long time. I had the opportunity to work with him,” Hess said. “I hold him in the highest regard, not just for his firefighting knowledge but as a citizen and a human being.”
Commission members echoed Russell’s and Hess’ sentiments.
Trzaski, 54, is the deputy fire chief at the South Fire District in Middletown. His firefighting career stretches back 35 years. He started in 1985 as a member of Beacon Hose Co. No. 1, a volunteer department in Beacon Falls, and is a longtime member of Beacon Hose. In 1991, he started as a career firefighter with the Naugatuck Fire Department. He retired from the borough department as a captain in 2014 and receives a pension from the borough.
Trzaski said he retired in 2014 because it was time, but soon after felt he had more to give.
“I left after 23 years, then I realized I still had a lot of drive to do more for the fire service,” he said.
Trzaski became more involved with Beacon Hose after retiring, including serving as chief from 2014 to 2017. He said he enjoyed taking on leadership roles and helping to influence and enhance the department.
“It was a great challenge for me,” he said.
Trzaski returned to professional firefighting four years ago with the South Fire District in Middletown, rising to the rank of deputy chief. The Connecticut State Firefighters Association Hall of Fame selected him for induction as part of the class of 2020.
Trzaski said his fortunate to have the opportunity to return to Naugatuck. He feels he has a lot to offer with his experience and coming up through the ranks in Naugatuck, and can share his knowledge to nurture younger firefighters.
Trzaski fills the deputy chief role in Naugatuck that was vacated when Russell, who held the position, became chief July 1. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses July 7 approved a four-year contract that makes Russell chief through June 30, 2024.