Firefighting and emergency medical service have been a focus for new Assistant Fire Chief Mickey Grasso since high school, when he and fellow Ridgefield High School Class of 1977 graduate Jerry Myers — now the fire chief he’ll be working with — signed up for a volunteer fire department outreach program.

“We got introduced into the fire service in high school,” Grasso said. “Jim Belote — he was the volunteer chief — came and said they’re looking for volunteers to help with brush fires. It got us out of school sometimes.

“Then we both got involved in the EMS aspect of it — I think it was called Rescue Squad 410, it was like a junior emergency medical service program,” Grasso said.

“Here we are 40-plus years later, chief and assistant chief.”

Grasso — the town’s fire marshal for the last two years and deputy fire marshal for 30 years before that — was appointed assistant chief on Friday, July 27, by a unanimous vote of the Board of Selectmen.

"I'm thrilled. I'm looking forward to being Jerry's assistant chief and keeping us moving forward. We've got a great path."

Fire Chief Myers had high praise for his new assistant chief.

“He’s one of the most senior men the department, highly experienced, well respected. He’s going to do a really great job,” Myers told The Press.

There are few duties that fall directly to Grasso, as the number tow officer in a 37-member department.

“Traditionally, the assistant chief is in charge of the training of the entire department, conducting the entire training program,” said Myers, who had a long tenure as assistant chief himself. “He normally supervises the buildings and the apparatus.”

Responsibilities

The department has two buildings — the Catoonah Street and Ridgebury firehouses. Its fleet of apparatus includes four fire engines, two tankers, a ladder truck, a rescue truck, three ambulances, a utility vehicle, three staff vehicles, and an ATV.

The town had been without an assistant chief for about a year and half, after Myers moved up to acting chief in December 2016, and then chief in 2017.

Grasso’s duties will include the training and other oversight.

“It’s going to be mostly administrative work,” he said. “I’m going to oversee the fire marshal’s office — we’re in the process of filling that.”

But Grasso will “still go to fires, still respond to serious calls,” he said.

“When there’s a serious car accident, or a fire call that’s of a serious nature.”

When there’s a “general alarm” — a larger fire — he will “absolutely” be on the scene, Grasso said.

He’s looking forward to working to advance the continual improvement of the department.

“Working with the chief to continue moving forward,” he said. “...Keeping up with technological change associated with our jobs — both sides, fire and EMS.”

In addition to his training concerning fire, firefighting and fire prevention — a major focus of the fire marshal’s office — Grasso is certified as an advanced emergency medical technician, certification which he’ll maintain as assistant chief of the department.

“There’s always new technology, always new training associated with our jobs.” he said.

Grasso is proud of his co-workers — the job they do, their preparedness.

“To brag a little bit, I think we have a premier fire and EMS service, where we’re able to provide both fire and EMS through the fire department,” Grasso said.

“Our guys work hard in providing the service they do for the town. They do a great job as professionals in doing that.

“We’re fortunate the town gives us the support and the most up-to-date equipment, that we’re able to use on both sides, fire and EMS.”

Climbing the ladder

Grasso is a veteran of almost four decades as a professional firefighter — more than three of them with the Ridgefield Fire Department.

He started with the fire department in 1979, then in 1980 left to become a police officer.

After five years of policing, he returned to the fire department.

He became deputy fire marshal in 1986; in 2016 was named fire marshal after the retirement of Dave Lathrop.

For all that, he expects there’ll be things he has to learn on the job as assistant chief.

“It’s a new position for me,” he said. “There’s always a learning curve with things that I have to be familiar with, and learn.”

He’ll be working closely with the volunteer fire department, as well.

“The career and volunteer departments work hand and hand and we have a good relationship,” Grasso said. “And my goal is to continue that good relationship and work together, including training for both components of the department — it’s really one department, with two components.”

Name game

Grasso’s given name is Michael.

“I’ve been ‘Mickey’ ever since I was two years old, named after my great-uncle Mickey,” he said.

So, it’ll be Assistant Chief Mickey Grasso.

He grew up in Ridgefield, one of eight children of Carol and the late Jack Grasso — his father was well known as a watercolor artist.

Assistant Chief Grasso, who lives in Bethel, has a considerable family himself.

“I’ve got five kids — three boys, two girls,” he said. “One of my sons is a lieutenant in the Westport Fire Department.

“Three grandchildren,” he added.