The last thing Fire Chief Brian Rooney might have wanted was a City Hall reception, but members of the department he led for 10 years insisted on a chance to say thank you.
So Rooney, his wife Adrianna, and their two grown children greeted well-wishers and listen to a proclamation declaring Friday “Chief Brian Rooney Day” in Bridgeport.
The 44-year department veteran has completed the two five-year terms the City Charter sets as a limit, and Rooney will work his last day on Tuesday.
Since he joined the city fire department in August, 1972, and answered his first call, five Bridgeport firefighters have died in the line of duty, Rooney said.
Others have died from heart attacks and the department will bury popular firefighter Jimmie Jones on Saturday. Jones died in a car crash last weekend. Rooney was visibly moved in recalling the fallen members of his department Friday, just as Deputy Chief Dom Carfi, Rooney’s good friend, choked up while addressing the audience of about 30 people.
“He is one of the greatest leaders the city of Bridgeport has ever known,” Carfi said. “When he started, it wasn’t unusual to have three or four house fires a day. Arson was rampant. ‘Baptism by fire’ is a real thing.”