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Albany Mayor Announces Appointment Of New City Fire Chief

Albany officials anticipate a seamless transfer of power following last week's announcement that Fire Chief Warren Abriel is retiring at the end of the month.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the appointment of Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Gregory as the new chief effective July 29th.   "We're losing a legend in Warren Abriel, who has served the department for several decades, who's been a great chief for the last nearly five years, and Joe Gregory has been part of the chief's command staff for a number of years now. He has tremendous experience in the fire service and he is gonna be leading a department that continues, I think, to deliver outstanding professional services to the city of Albany and is very excited about the opportunity."

July 6th, Abriel announced he will retire effective July 28th.  "This is something that he and I had been talking about for several months. He was coming up on one year, in January, the year that he would need to retire because of state law, and so we had a number of conversations around what he wanted to do and when he would be retiring," Sheehan said.

Abriel, a fourth-generation firefighter and a 46-year fire department veteran, had served as acting fire chief from the time Robert Forezzi retired at the end of 2013 after nearly four decades in the department.

Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, says in line with Gregory's appointment, there are some changes in the wind: "We've been speaking with the firefighters union about ambulances, about the delivery of emergency services, so this is something that we're gonna be continuing to look at as we move forward and as we build a department that is really predominately providing responses to emergency calls as opposed to fighting fires. Fighting fires is still a very important part of the work that our fire department does, but delivering those emergency services, those EMT calls, is something that we're really looking at. There are other departments in the region including Schenectady and Troy for example, that now have as prerequisite that you have to be a paramedic in order to be hired. We require that firefighters be EMTs in order to be hired but we have not made the prerequisite of being a paramedic... yet."

Made up of 16 companies, the department has approximately 245 members.

And who will fill the vacant Deputy Chief's slot? Sheehan says  "That is really gonna be up to Chief Gregory. It will create an open position. We did reduce the number of deputies from four to three, but this will leave a spot and that is something that Chief Gregory and I will be discussing. I wanna stress I've appointed him to this position upon Chief Abriel's retirement. This is a position that is subject to the council, does have to weigh in and approve this. So I've put his name in to the council and they now have 45 days to confirm the appointment."

Neither Common Council President Corey Ellis nor Incoming Chief Gregory were available for comment. An official says Gregory will be formally introduced to the community at a future event.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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