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September 22, 2018

Firefighters Hired, Promoted


OSWEGO, NY – The city fire department welcomed four new firefighters Wednesday afternoon.

After they were sworn in, five veteran firefighters received promotions and one police officer moved up to the rank of sergeant.

Andrew Montalbano looks on as his mother pins his OFD badge on his shirt.

Andrew Montalbano looks on as his mother pins his OFD badge on his shirt.

“It’s truly great to see support here for these men today,” Oswego Police Capt. Tory DeCaire, the MC for the ceremony, told the large crowd of family, friends and co-workers packed into the Council Chambers at City Hall.

Mayor Randy Bateman recognized the experience and qualifications of the men, adding “The people that are being promoted and hired today, particularly the firefighters, are the best qualified that we have.”

The new firefighters are Michael Zalewski, Andrew Montalbano, Joseph Smegelsky Jr. and John Coughlin.

Promotions in the fire department were: Tom Miller who was promoted (from captain) to deputy chief; Ray “Buddy” Wilson was promoted (from lieutenant) to captain; Peter Coffey was promoted (from lieutenant) to captain; and firefighters Justin Norfleet and Dave Engle were promoted to lieutenant.

Charles Burger, the only police officer in the ceremony, was promoted to sergeant.

“What can I say? I’m honored to be here with the police and fire departments,” Police Chief Mike Dehm said. “We have representatives of the old and the new.”

He said the department was very fortunate to have hired Burger about six years ago.

Charles Burger is sworn into his new rank as his wife holds the Bible. Performing the ceremony is Mayor Randy Bateman.

Charles Burger is sworn into his new rank as his wife holds the Bible. Performing the ceremony is Mayor Randy Bateman.

“He’s been exemplary. He’s been a leader since day one,” the chief said.

Fire Chief Joe Perry was unable to attend the ceremony due to back problems, according to First Assistant Chief Jeff McCrobie.

“He did want to publicly thank everybody and honor these guys and their families for the commitment they’ve made and they’re about to make,” he said.

“I was just always interested in firefighting,” Coughlin said.

His first dream was baseball, he said, adding that he was involved with baseball until two years ago.

“But, the goal was eventually to become a firefighter,” the 1990 OHS grad continued. “And, now, the dream has come true.”

“I knew I wanted to be a police officer or a firefighter,” Smegelsky said. “I have relatives on both sides.”

After graduating from OHS in 1998 he became a member of the Minetto Volunteer Fire Department, serving the last eight years.

“That put me on the path to here,” he said.

A 2004 graduate of C.W. Baker High School (Baldwinsville), Montalbano said, “I started as a volunteer in Belgium Cold Springs when I turned 18. I became an EMT when I was 19.”

He was attending SUNY Oswego (public justice) when he decided to apply to become a city firefighter, he said.
“They said it was the greatest job in the world and now I see why,” Montalbano said, gesturing to the camaraderie displayed by the many firefighters in the room.

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