By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
PROSPECT — Fire Chief William Lauber stepped down from the top position of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department on Sunday but will still be part of the organization.
Lauber, 40, whose term was up this year, said it was time to step down. Assistant Chief Michael Guastaferri has been named the new chief, and 2nd Lt. John Vance has become the new assistant chief, according to Lauber.
“It’s definitely bittersweet leaving, but it was by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Lauber said.
Lauber, who is married and has two sons, William and Tate, said it was time to focus on his family and career. He is the shop manager at BMW of Bridgeport.
Lauber joined the department in January 1999 when he was a senior at Masuk High School in Monroe, before the creation of Woodland High School for Prospect and Beacon Falls students.
He later rose to the rank of lieutenant in 2003 and became assistant fire chief in 2011. He took over as fire chief in August 2016.
Lauber held many other positions in the department, including foreman of different apparatuses, the department’s motor engineer and training officer, as well as chairman of both the department’s finance committee and several truck replacement committees, before he became assistant chief.
Lauber said one of his goals for the department was increasing membership.
“I would say the goal was growth and we’ve done that,” Lauber said.
Officials have seen a 10% to 15% growth in membership over his career. The junior cadet program has almost tripled in size over the last five years, as well as an increase in training opportunities, according to Lauber.
”I think we’re more trained than we have been in the past,” Lauber said. “I think we do exceed our expectations when we’re called to help people at emergencies.”
Although Lauber will no longer be top official of the department, he said he plans to still be out in the field and respond to fire calls with the department.
“I will still be visible in town,” Lauber said.
Lauber, who has been an assistant coach in the Prospect Little League that his sons are a part of, said he will begin as a league safety officer in the spring.
Mayor Robert J. Chatfield said Lauber has moved the department into the computer age regarding the apparatus and the overall fire service.
“He was very good with the men in his command,” Chatfield said. “He put in a lot of time.”
Chatfield recalled a fire alarm for a bank full of smoke on Waterbury Road. Chatfield, who was the fire chief at the time, told Lt. Lauber at the time to get the door open.
“Not many chiefs tell their officer to take the door of a bank,” Chatfield said. “His eyes got as big as silver dollars.”
Lauber respects the men in the department, which a majority of in the past was older than him, according to Chatfield. A fire chief spends a lot of time on administrative duties, which takes time away from family, Chatfield said.
Chatfield congratulated Lauber and Guastaferri.
“This will be a seamless transition in my mind,” Chatfield said.
Lauber said he’s grateful for his time as fire chief.
“I would like to thank the members of the fire department and citizens of Prospect who supported me during my time as chief,” Lauber said.