By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — You could say, for Jeffrey Meacham, that firefighting is in his blood.
His grandfather, Cyril Clive, served as a Falls firefighter for 34 years. On Friday, Meacham, a 17-year veteran, moved the family legacy up the ranks as he was sworn-in as one of two new captains on the force.
"I'm ready for the next chapter of my life," Meacham said with a broad smile. "I'm excited."
He'll get that chance quickly. Meacham and the department's other newly minted captain, John Castellani, took their first turns of duty on the Friday night shift. Next week, they'll leave for advanced command training in New York City.
"They're throwing us right into the fire," Meacham said.
Meacham said it may take him a little time to get out of "firefighter mentality" and into the command and leadership role of a fire captain.
"I'm going to have to get used to not getting off the truck and grabbing a hose, but instead taking a look at what we're facing and assessing it," he said.
Castellani, a 12-year veteran, sees many of the same challenges.
"I'm excited," he said of his promotion. "I want to make sure I provide good leadership and safe leadership (to the men and women he commands)."
Castellani is also the chairman of the Falls Firefighters Toy Fund. He says his new duties won't change his commitment or passion for that role.
"I was voted into the chairmanship again this year, so that will continue," Castellani said. "I want to continue to make the people who have supported me and helped me get here, proud."
Fire Chief Tom Colangelo, who joined Mayor Paul Dyster and City Administrator Donna Owens in administering the captain's oaths to Meacham and Castellani, said it was nice to able to promote firefighters he has known and worked with over the years.
"I've been on the job with (Meacham and Castellani) and it's nice to promote someone one you know and someone you know is going to do a good job," Colangelo said.
Colangelo said he's also pleased to be able to send Meacham and Castellani to their state mandated officer training so quickly.
"The earlier the better to get that training done," the fire chief said. "It will teach them to train officers under their command."
In additional to promoting the captains, the fire department also conferred full firefighter status to four probationary firemen who have completed their recruit training and are "one the line" in the city's fire stations.
Firefighters Adam Farinas, Scott Furman, Earl Bas and Nicholas Falsetti received their official badges doing the ceremonies at Niagara Falls City Hall.
Colangelo also got some help to keep his ranks full with the swearing-in of four new firefighter recruits. Silvio Martelli, Gregory Dusher, Joseph Bongiovanni and Noah Masur will begin a week of local training on Feb. 25 and then head to the state Fire Academy in Montour Falls.
The chief said the recruits will help keep the ranks filled and account for firefighters who are injured and off duty.
"This administration has been very good at filling our (vacant) positions and filling them quickly," Colangelo said.