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Three Norwich firefighters promoted to officer positions

Norwich – New Norwich Fire Department Chief Tracy Montoya likened the chain of command in the fire department to a ladder, with leaders expected to climb to the top, but they can’t make it without strong and “blind” support from officers and firefighters surrounding them holding up the ladder.

Montoya presided at the first officer promotion ceremony of his tenure as chief Thursday, elevating 16-year Norwich Fire Department veteran Steve Fricke to lieutenant, 15-year veteran Lt. Patrick Curtin to captain and 20-year veteran Captain Marc Benjamin to battalion chief, second in command to the fire chief.

“This position carries all the authorities necessary to manage and direct the Norwich Fire Department,” Montoya said of Benjamin’s new rank.

Benjamin, 52, of Norwich, has been active in more than the fire department in Norwich. He has served on fire union committees over the years and has served on the city Zoning Board of Appeals for more than 25 years and currently is chairman. He also holds numerous state officer and instructional certifications, Montoya said “and has managed his collateral duties throughout his career in a commendable manner.”

Benjamin choked up several times when he took the podium to credit his family, fellow firefighters and his entire support network.

“There’s no way any of us can successfully do this job without the absolute and complete support from everyone in their lives, Benjamin said.

His wife, Kathy Benjamin and son, Daniel Benjamin, 18, attended, with Daniel pinning on his new badge. The couple’s adult daughters, Rebecca, 28 and Alicia, 26, could not attend.

The Fire Department conference room was crowded with current and retired firefighters, family members, city officials and other supporters.

The theme of family and peer support dominated all three officers’ remarks.

Curtin, 36, of Manchester, said every day, his kids tell him to “be safe, dad, I love you dad.” He said that comes from his wife, Megan Quigley, who “works hard to make my life very wonderful.” Their 3-year-old daughter, Beatrice pinned on Curtin’s new badge, as 1-year-old Fiona sat nearby and watched. Curtin recalled how his fellow firefighters created a “care basket” of baby items when Beatrice was born, drawing a laugh from the audience at the image of big, tough firefighters wandering through the baby aisle buying diapers and baby wipes.

Montoya described Fricke as “persistent and consistent” and he trusted him to be the “ground-floor supervisor maintaining operations and overall state of equipment readiness.” Fricke, 51, and his wife, Amy, live in East Lyme. Fricke called Amy “a ferocious supporter of mine.”

“Everybody knows, or if you don’t know you should know, this is the best job in the world,” Fricke said, “and I love the opportunity to take the next step.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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