A New York Police Chief Joins Fire Department

(March 20, 2006)--EAST ROCHESTER-- David Pugliese has been fighting crime for more than 30 years. These days, he's adding fires to his resume.

Pugliese, who is East Rochester's chief of police, joined the Fairport Fire Department on Feb. 13.

He is the second member of his family to suit up for the volunteer department. His son, Brandon, 18, started out there four years ago as an Explorer Scout and is now a full-fledged volunteer.

Pugliese, 52, said he was looking for an outlet, somewhere he could be "just one of the guys."

For now, he's one of the half-dozen recruits sporting an orange helmet when the new pager goes off.

And he's "loving every minute of it," he said.

The father and son have been on a number of calls together during the new recruit's first month.

They've responded to broken water pipes, provided emergency medical service and even helped a child who was locked out of the house. Because David Pugliese is still a recruit, he and Brandon have yet to respond to an actual fire together. And while Pugliese has yet to pull a cat out of tree, on Feb. 22 there was a close call for a dog stuck in the canal near Perinton Park.

By the time they got there, the dog had pulled itself out after "doing a little swimming," the senior Pugliese said.

East Rochester Village Administrator Tony Argento said Pugliese's previous experience will probably be a big benefit to his new department and that it must be rewarding for a father to serve with his son.

While firefighting is a tradition for many families, it's often a father who starts it, not the youngest son. It seems as though Brandon Pugliese has sparked the interest of other family members, as well.

Mom Shana Pugliese was recently certified as an emergency medical technician at the Perinton Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The family's eldest son, Jordan, is a volunteer with the ambulance corps at Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta, where he is a student.

"Brandon is a great kid, one of those few kids who has a great head on his shoulders," said former Fairport fire chief and current firefighter Steve Schalabba. "He understands the responsibility that goes along with being a firefighter."

Among those duties is teaching dad a thing or two.

"I've been showing him some stuff," said Brandon, chuckling.

Brandon's father said he's learning where things are in the firehouseand other parts of the job.

"My all-time goal is to get into the (Greater Rochester International) airport fire department," said Brandon, who is studying fire protection technology at Monroe Community College in Brighton.

"Hopefully, it'll be a career for me."

As for David Pugliese, he knows there's no career in it for him. And though he's happy to have reached his childhood goal of becoming the police chief, he's glad his sons didn't follow in his footsteps.

"I probably would've tried to talk them out of it. The job was fun when I came on," said Pugliese. "It's not fun anymore."

Crime has become worse since 1975, when Pugliese joined the police department, he said. By 1985, he made sergeant and became acting chief in the summer of 1997. He was named chief in January 1998.

Still, he loves his position, in which he is charged with protecting and serving, and doesn't plan on leaving anytime soon.

"My main reason for becoming a cop was to help out," Pugliese said. "This is an extension of that, but the uniform is different."

"I still got it in me," he said, "I'm not about to slow down."


Republished with permission of The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.