CHATHAM — On Friday, Peter Connick raised his right hand and became Chatham's fire chief, only the fourth professional chief in the town's history.
Connick takes the place of Michael Ambriscoe, who retired at the mandatory retirement age of 65, having served Chatham for a dozen years.
“He made us what we are,” Connick said. “He's left this place so much better than he found it.”
“It's been an honor and a pleasure to be your fire chief,” Ambriscoe told the gathering of firefighters, other town employees, friends and family Friday. The ceremony took place in one of the equipment bays of the new fire station, which is Ambriscoe's most visible legacy.
“My plan was to do 10 years here. That was two years ago,” the outgoing chief said.
Ambriscoe led the charge for a new fire headquarters, building support for the $11 million project and shepherding it through several setbacks, including the discovery of groundwater pollution on the site and the rejection of an initial design at town meeting.
“I wanted to get it done, and get it done right,” Ambriscoe said.
In a final address to the members of his department, Ambriscoe said he is proud of their service and dedication.
“It's been an honor and a pleasure to be your fire chief,” he said. “You're the best of the best.”
Ambriscoe started his career as a firefighter on May 1, 1973.
“I remember the day,” he said with a chuckle. Ambriscoe was a volunteer member of the Milford, Conn., fire department. “I remember my first fire. I was the only one who showed up.”
That same year, 1973, Connick started his career in the fire service as a call member in Wellfleet, the town where he grew up. The new chief expects to serve until May, 2020, when he faces mandatory retirement. Having served as Ambriscoe's deputy for several years, Connick started work in Chatham in 1979, under the town's first paid fire chief, Robert Greenough, and later served under Chief William Schwerdtfeger.
Connick said he's inherited a department that's in an excellent state.
“I'm coming in at an all-time high,” he said. “It's exciting.” The now-vacant deputy chief's position will be posted internally very soon, and should one of the department's captains take the post, a current lieutenant would move up to fill that vacancy. That means that in the next year or two, there will likely be another firefighter hired, including any who are needed to fill the places of retiring firefighters. The department will also be receiving two new pumpers near the end of this year or in early 2018.