Friends and family gathered Friday morning at the headquarters of the Newport Fire Department to congratulate three firefighters on their promotions to higher ranks.
It was a time that the firefighting family took pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who swear to serve at the same time they celebrated the careers of the men who earned new badges: Capt. Andrew O. Elder, promoted to the rank of Deputy Fire Chief; Lt. Stephen D. Knapman, promoted to the rank of Captain; and Firefighter Shane Vieira, to the rank of Lieutenant.
Fire Chief Peter D. Connerton Sr. said since 2011, the fire department has made 22 promotions representing a 92 percent change in the leadership of the department.
“In reflecting upon this, while there have been periods of adjustment, our capabilities have not been reduced, but have actually been enhanced,” Connerton said.
That is a testament to the hard work of all members of the fire department and the men who were promoted.
“Under the direction of these new officers a restored sense of ownership has occurred. This empowerment has been demonstrated in both the emergency and non-emergency setting,” the chief said. “As chief of the department, I have full confidence that with the promotions of Drew, Steve and Shane, this tendency will continue.”
Elder joined the fire department on March of 1995 and served as a firefighter at headquarters and later at Station 5. In 2006, he was promoted to Lieutenant and became Captain in 2011.
Connerton said Elder has “consistently placed near the top in every examination for promotion that he has sat for and of even greater importance has possessed the knowledge and ability to take on each new role when the opportunity presented itself.”
Elder has spent a tremendous amount of time training, amassing numerous certifications, including fireground operations, incident command, incident safety, fire investigation and special rescue disciplines.
Knapman joined the fire department in 1993 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 2007.
Always an active member of the department, Connerton said Knapman has worked extensively on his special hazard training and has received certification in high angle rescue, confined space, marine rescue boat operations and is a former hazmat technician for the department. He’s also received qualifications in intermediate and advanced incident command and studied leadership techniques for supervising personnel in difficult situations.
“Steve has been preparing himself for his new duties and the knowledge and experience from all the aforementioned will serve him well in the position of fire captain,” Connerton said.
Vieira joined the department in 1998 after serving five years in the United States Marine Corps.
With 15 years under his belt, Vieira has become certified in special hazard disciplines and recently completed rescue swimmer training. He also holds firefighter I and hazmat operations certifications and is preparing to take part in a challenge program to get firefighter II qualifications. He’s also a EMT with cardiac level licensure, “which is an integral piece in performing the duties of his new function in the department, which is primarily the role of rescue officer,” Connerton said.
“Throughout his tenure, Shane has demonstrated that he is a skilled firefighter and that he can be counted on to make good decisions,” the chief said. “As a result he is now ready to take this next step.”
After the ceremony, Knapman hugged friends and family. His new badge, pinned to his uniform by his boy, Charlie, shone brightly.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Knapman said. “It’s a big change to come back to headquarters. I’ll be dealing with new guys and training and stuff like that. It’s part of the progression — getting promoted, getting more responsibilities.”
The promotion doesn’t mean Knapman will be stuck behind a desk all day. He’ll be out on the engine when the call comes in. In fact, he will probably be getting more chances to go out and work the front lines.
Otherwise, he’s excited to embrace the energy among the newer members of the department as he works to hone their skills and continue to elevate the department.
“It’s a lot of fun up there,” he said, referring to the station headquarters. “There’s new members, they all want to do stuff, and they’re all excited.”
His son, Charlie, said he is proud of his dad.
When asked if he wanted to be a firefighter some day, he shrugged.
“Maybe,“ he said.