William A. Warner, 74, former assistant fire chief

William A. Warner, retired assistant fire chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department and a 27-year veteran firefighter, died Friday, Feb. 10, at his home in Danbury. He was 74 years old.

A Ridgefield native, Warner was the son of Grace and Francis Warner.

He joined the department as a firefighter in 1965, rising through the ranks over two and a half decades to become a lieutenant in 1970 and be promoted to executive assistant fire chief in 1985. He served as acting fire chief in 1989.

Warner retired from the fire department on June 30, 1992.

He was one of the first firefighters in the Ridgefield department to be trained and become an emergency medical technician to improve ambulance service.

He was a state-certified first aid instructor and emergency medical technician.

“He was a mentor for me,” said Jerry Myers, acting chief of the Ridgefield Fire Department. “He was my first lieutenant when I was hired. And he was the adviser of the fire department Explorer post all the time I was in high school — so some of us were members of that.

“He was a good guy,” Myers said. “He was a good boss to work for.”

Warner was a charter member and past president of the Ridgefield Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 1739.

Although Ridgefield had been paying firefighters for more than 60 years, it wasn’t until 1965 that members of the department began thinking about unionizing.

“We needed someone to fight for us, we needed a voice,” Warner told The Press in a 2007 interview on the union’s 40th anniversary.

But with just eight paid staff, the Ridgefield department didn’t meet IFFA guidelines for a local, which requires a minimum of 10. When the town hired two more firefighters in 1967, the members jumped at the chance to unionize.

“We needed the protection,” Warner said. “In the old days there was no pension, which was something we deserved.”

Although it didn’t come without a fight, the town and the union signed their contract in 1967.

Warner had three children — Jeffrey, Jennifer and William James Warner.

His brother Jimmy had been paralyzed from the neck down in a high school car accident, and Warner had traveled to California several times with his brother, and spoke admiringly of him at his death in 2002.

“If you meet Jimmy, you loved Jimmy,” he said. “He always had that smile.”

He also had a sister, Barbara, and brother Francis.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced by the Jowdy-Kane Funeral Home.

—by the staff