The spirit of Thanksgiving filled the Council Board Room at the City Centre on Monday night when two City of Batavia firefighters were honored upon their retirement and the department received “invaluable” parting gifts from one of them in return.
Council members Robert Bialkowski and Kathleen Briggs read proclamations recognizing the work of Tom Douglas and Tim Stengel, who served the city for 22 and 20 years, respectively.
After each of the men had a chance to briefly express their feelings, Douglas presented – to a standing ovation -- the department with 10 personal thermal imaging cameras for each crew member to have when confronting a fire.
“We’ve always both believed that when you’re done with something, you should give something back,” Douglas said, looking at his wife, Debbie, who stood by his side.
He said he brought his idea to fellow employees, Adam Palumbo (the union president) and to Chief Stefano Napolitano and “we all came to an agreement.”
Douglas said the cameras will help keep firefighters safe.
“If we get a big incident, we’re covering a large warehouse or something, trying to find something, we’ve got two or three cameras,” he said. “Now, each one of the guys on the crew will have a personal camera that can go in to either help them find what they need or else to help them get out or locate a body and things like that.”
Napolitano, acknowledging the generous gift, said that “unless you’re in our line of work, you don’t really realize what an invaluable tool this is.”
“The ability of each firefighter to carry their own personal imaging camera while they’re inside of a structure doing an initial size-up is invaluable. This is an example of Tom and Tim as senior firefighters, even in retirement, they’re still giving and still mentoring.”
The chief said losing their experience hurts the department, but he is proud to know that the younger firefighters have “learned from two of the best.”
“The result is they learned how to become a senior firefighter because they’re going to do things better, they’re going to do things more smartly,” he said. “These 10 tools are going to enhance getting them to where you two guys are.”
Douglas started as part of the city’s ambulance crew before being promoted to firefighter in September 2000. He was respected as the driving force behind the department’s Emergency Medical Services program, being certified in several areas. He retired on Oct. 15.
Stengel, who retired on May 26, was recognized for being a mentor to new employees by sharing his knowledge and his professionalism.
Both expressed their love for the community and thanked city leaders, coworkers and family for their support.
Top photo: City Council Member Robert Bialkowski and retired firefighter Tom Douglas; bottom photo, City Council Member Kathleen Briggs and retired firefighter Tim Stengel. Photos by Mike Pettinella.