Chief Tappe looks back

“It’s been a long run,” former Fire Chief Kevin Tappe said, looking back on close to five decades of fire fighting and “a wonderful 10 years” as assistant chief and then chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department.

Tappe spoke Thursday, Jan. 5, a day after the Board of Selectmen voted to formally accept his retirement, cutting short an investigation into an unspecified violation of town policy.

“I can’t comment on what the town is doing,” Tappe said when asked about situation town Human Resources Director Laurie Fernandez had been looking into.

The selectmen’s vote Wednesday night came after nearly an hour of closed door executive session discussions as the Fire Commission — a meeting that Tappe did not attend.

“We thank him for his service,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said after the selectmen accepted Tappe’s retirement.

Tappe offered a statement to The Press early Thursday afternoon.

“I am happy to be retiring from the Ridgefield Fire Department. It’s been a wonderful 10 years, but I think now the time is right,” Tappe said. “It’s been a privilege to work with the excellent men and women of the department. They are highly skilled and resourceful and it’s helped me tremendously over the years.

“I am grateful to have been part of a group that has made a couple of significant changes for the better. They say that if one leaves an organization a little better off than the way they found it, then they can consider themselves successful. And I think that the Ridgefield Fire Department is a little better off today than it was three years ago.”

Tappe led the Ridgefield department for three years — two and half as chief after six months as acting chief following former Chief Heather Burford’s move to a department in Florida.

The position crowned a long career battling fires.

“I’ve been in the fire service for 48 years,” Tappe said Thursday, when asked to look back.

“I started as a volunteer at 16 years old in a combination department in Stamford, the Bellltown Fire Department. When I went away to college I was a firefighter at the Clemson University Fire Department in South Carolina — ‘student firemen’ they called us.

Back in Stamford after Clemson he became a professional firefighter, first in Belltown and then with the Stamford Fire Department where he spent 20 years rising through the ranks — lieutenant, captain, and 10 years as deputy chief.

He retired from the Stamford department, did some teaching and came to Ridgefield as assistant chief 10 years ago.

Tappe plans to stay active.

“I’ve got stuff lined up,” he said. “I teach for the Connecticut Fire Academy. They’ll keep my busy for quite a while. I’ve got other things lined up, too.”

Ridgefielders can expect to see him around.

“I still live in town,” he said. “I still plan to be active in the community.”