The Cranston Fire Department held its first swearing-in ceremony in nearly a decade on Thursday inside the Cranston East auditorium, which included the promotion of nearly 30 firefighters and the induction of 16 new probationary officers.
The newest class of Cranston firefighters made history, too. The force inducted its first-ever female member, Rebecca Lema, into the ranks. She received a raucous round of applause as her children stepped on stage to officially pin her.
“It something that I’ve worked for my whole life,” Lema said. “It means everything to me. [I] just really appreciate being here. I’ve really wanted to be a firefighter since I was a little kid, specifically elementary school.”
Lema joined 15 others as new additions to the CFD: Kyle DeMerchant, Jeffrey Bibby, Jr., Justin DiMaio, Trevor Sheehan, John Campion, Salvatore Savattere, Christian Coupe, Michael Mollis, Robert McCormick, Butch Giguere, Gordon Simard, Gregory Duquette, Daniel Adamo and Scott Cute.
Giguere’s was one of the more emotional pinnings. Earlier in the evening, Butch pinned his father, Raymond, as he was promoted to lieutenant.
Shortly after, Raymond would pin his son as he officially began to follow in his footsteps.
“It was awesome,” Butch said. “It was really weird, I grew up around the department.” Butch said his friends growing up included children of other were being promoted, so his connections to the department run deep.
Even though some promotions actually occurred years ago, they weren’t formally recognized at a ceremony until Thursday.
Raymond Giguere joined 15 other officers who were pinned with their newest rank: Thomas Mizzoni, Michael Adamo, Carmino Mobilia, Walter Karbowski, Ronald Fontaine, Christian Lamothe, Armand Niquette, Ronald Gosselin, Charles Robbins, John Ireland, Christopher Corson, Richard Beaulieu, Gregory Marques, Joseph Giardina and Nocola Carcieri.
Stephen Macintosh, Kenneth Rouleau, James Beckman and Thomas Fredericks led off the ceremony with their promotions to deputy chief.
There were a handful of other promotions as well. Their experience ranged from four to 34 years.
Ronald Florio, Robert Ryan, Frank Ennis, Harold Hunt, Daniel Marcinko, Harvey Flanders and Charles Pollock ascended to the captain level. Paul Desorcy and Paul Casey also officially received promotions to superintendent of fire alarm and director of EMS, respectively. Lieutenant John O’Neill earned the title of lead lineman.
Mayor Allan W. Fung issued a short address to the assembled officers, acknowledging “we now have a full complement for the first time in years.
“You’ve made a pledge to put the lives of others before your own,” Fung said. “Because of you, the residents of Cranston can feel safe all day and sleep soundly at night. They know that when their lives are threatened, when danger knocks on their door, you will come running to help.”
Fire Chief William McKenna said the selection of May 4 for the ceremony was no coincidence, as it is the day of the Feast of St. Florian. St. Florian, a captain and general in the Roman army born in 250 A.D., is the patron saint of firefighters.
“As a general, he was asked to persecute those who held a different belief than those of the Roman authority,” McKenna said. “St. Florian said ‘No.’ He stood up for all those Christians within his community. As a result of that, St. Florian was put to death. St. Florian is credited with saving the lives of many people.”
McKenna continued on to say that St. Florian was reported to have performed miracles within the fire service. His name is invoked when situations seemed hopeless, and oftentimes he delivered.
“St. Florian is also pictured often with a small pitcher of water, putting it on a fire,” McKenna said. “He’s credited through the years with having extinguished large fires with very small amounts of water.”
Retired Deputy Chief Michael Procopio served as the master of ceremonies, taking the mic just following the entrance procession with the R.I. Professional Firefighters Pipe and Drum Corps performing.
Procopio focused a bulk of his opening speech about how family-oriented the fire department is, and how that differentiates itself from every other career.
“We’re different because of the way we live together,” Procopio said. “We don't only work and train together, but we live together. We prepare meals together, we eat together, we spend holidays together. We witness unspeakable tragedy together. We solve problems together. Sometimes, we cry together. That’s why we call each other brothers and sisters.”
Local 1363 President and Deputy Chief Paul L. Valletta echoed those sentiments, referring to the long-standing traditions of the fire department.
“Our traditions are who we are and how we conduct ourselves, both on and off the job,” Valletta said. “An important job of the senior firefighter is to instill these traditions in the newest members: Honor, pride [and] courage is what we govern our traditions by.”