Tag Archives: Fire Chief Robert Yost

Fire Chief Yost Retires; Kronick Named New Chief

Fire Chief Robert Yost has announced his retirement. It is effective January 1.

His replacement is a familiar face: Deputy Chief Michael Kronick. He will assume Yost’s other role too, as the town’s Emergency Management Director.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker says, “The town and its residents have been very fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Rob’s expertise and dedication throughout his 34 years. As Fire Chief, Rob has assured that our firefighters are appropriately recruited, trained, and equipped to serve in their roles of preventing and fighting fires and providing rescue services.

“As the Emergency Management Director, Rob has been on the front lines in protecting all our residents. On Rob’s watch, Westport has weathered some particularly devastating storms and tense situations. In addition, his attention to FEMA reimbursement regulations and opportunities has enabled many Westporters to receive federal financial assistance in repairing/replacing their storm damaged properties.

“On behalf of the residents of Westport, his fellow employees, and his firefighting colleagues, I am grateful for Rob’s longstanding, exemplary and dedicated service. I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Chief Robert Yost delivers a briefing in September. He served for 2 weeks in a support role, during wildfires in Minnesota..

Chief Yost notes, “It has been an honor to serve the town of Westport for the last 34 years, and a privilege to work with the finest Firefighters and coworkers in the State. I look forward to enjoying a new chapter in my life and I will always hold the Westport Fire Department near and dear to my heart.”

Tooker adds, “I am very confident that the command of the Westport Fire Department will remain in capable hands. Mike Kronick has the proven ability and expertise to seamlessly and effectively take over the role as chief. Like Chief Yost, Mike has a breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding that will ensure that the current high standards of safety and efficiency will be maintained in the Westport Fire Department.”

Yost began his career in the fire service in 1986 as a part-time firefighter in Mansfield, while attending the University of Connecticut. After briefly working for Xerox, he took a full-time position in Mansfield. He joined the Westport department in 1988.

He was the department’s first Emergency Medical Service instructor, then became a paramedic in 1995. In 2006, Yost was promoted to lieutenant. He was also Fire Department leader of the joint Fire and Police Dive Rescue Team.

In 2009 he was promoted to assistant chief. He was named fire chief and emergency management director in February 2017.

Yost’s father served as fire chief in Norwalk for 2 decades. A photo of Yost’s grandfather, also a firefighter, sitting atop a Norwalk fire truck adorns his desk.

During his career with Westport Fire Department he has obtained 3 Edmund Duffy Unit Citations, a John Gallagher Award for an Unusual Act of Valor, and a Certificate of Exemplary Police Action.  He is a member of the National Ski Patrol, Connecticut Interstate Wildfire Crew, and Connecticut West Incident Management Team. His other interests include skiing, bicycle riding, scuba diving, windsurfing and kiteboarding. He lives in Milford with his wife Tina.

Kronick — Westport’s new fire chief — joined the Westport Fire Department in 1998. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2009, and deputy chief in 2017. During his career in Westport he has earned the Edmund Duffy Unit Citation, and the Chief Shippey and Argenio awards for service to the department.

Westport’s new fire chief, Michael Kronick.

Kronick serves on the Connecticut Incident Management Team. He was instrumental in forming the Fairfield County Strike Team and Task Force system. He is a member of the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew, and been on several national wildfire deployments out West.

Kronick graduated from Fairfield High School in 1991. He has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Connecticut, and a masters in fire science from the University of New Haven.

He lives in Stratford with his fiancée Beth and his two young son, Sullivan (2 years old) and Anderson (3 weeks old).

(Earlier this month, Chief Yost was my guest on “06880: The Podcast.” Click below for that interview.)

“06880” Podcast: Fire Chief Robert Yost

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost is one of Westport’s most interesting public officials.

His department puts out blazes, sure. But they do much more. They respond to accidents, conduct inspections, even check on elderly residents and advise first-time homeowners how to use their fireplaces (pro tip: open the flue!).

The chief also oversees the town’s entire Emergency Management Team. Judging from our recent hurricanes, superstorms, floods and blizzards, that’s a full-time job itself.

Did Yost have a burning desire (ho ho) to become a fire chief? How has Westport — and firefighting — changed since he joined the department? What’s a typical day in his life like?

We talked about all that recently, at the Westport Library. Now you can watch our conversation (below).

When you’re done, I bet you’ll never think of our (amazing) Fire Department the same way again.

 

Roundup: Wildfires, Ice Cream Parlor, Staples Sports …

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Westport Fire Department chief Robert Yost has returned from a 2-week national assignment, supporting wildland firefighters in Minnesota.

He calls this “an incredible training opportunity in large-scale incident management. Connecticut is not immune to a wildfire or large-scale natural disaster. We need to be just as prepared as our western counterparts. As the fires continue to burn, please keep all the firefighters out on assignment nationwide in your thoughts and prayers.”

When Yost arrived, the Greenwood Fire was 6,000 acres and 0% percent. During his deployment it grew to 26,000 acres, directly threatening the town of Isabella.

Yost was the medical unit leader trainee responsible for the entire incident, along with 7 fire line medics, 2 medical ATVs and 2 incident ambulances.

Chief Robert Yost at Greenwood Fire briefing.

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Yesterday’s “Unsung Hero” story highlighted a Saugatuck Elementary School custodian, hard at work cleaning drains after Hurricane Ida.

Now we can put a name to his dedication. He’s Al Orozco, head custodian at SES. As several readers — and staff members — noted, he is a gem. And well deserving of his Unsung honor.

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Butzi Moffitt — who as Butsy Beach owned the original ice cream parlor on Main Street in the 1950s — stopped in to Cold Fusion on Tuesday. The new gelato shop is just a few doors down from the first Ice Cream Parlor (where Brandy Melville is now).

Butzi — 93 years young — brought owners Eric and Kelly Emmert an original menu from 1954.

Bitzi Moffett shows Eric Emmert an original Ice Cream Parlor menu.

The menu.

Butzi — who also owned clothing stores on Main Street — was joined at Cold Fusion by her daughter Maggie Moffitt Rahe, a teacher at Coleytown Elementary School. Butzi also brought a photo of herself, outside the first shop.

From left: Amy Greene, and Bob and Butzi Beach, owners of the Ice Cream Parlor.

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The Staples football team’s home opener is tomorrow (7 p.m.). It should be a great game — the opponent is former coach Marce Petroccio’s Trumbull High — and getting tickets has never been easier.

Click here to purchase online; then have your phone ready to show at the gate. You can also click on the QR code below:

You can make Friday a Staples sports doubleheader, too. At 4 p.m., the boys soccer team hosts Ridgefield, in their 2021 season opener. Admission is free!

Reese Watkins, for the Wreckers. (Photo/Brian Watkins)

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The Westport Artists Collective’s pop-up shows pop up regularly. They’re eclectic, inspiring — and fun.

The next one runs from Wednesday, September 15 through Sunday, September 19 (2 to 6 p.m., Westport Country Playhouse). There’s an artists’ talk that final Sunday, at 3 p.m.

Like any pop-up, it will pop down quickly. Be sure to get there before it goes!

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Westport-based Fairfield County Writers’ Studio’s fall classes will be held via Zoom — at least for now.

There are some intriguing ones. Topics include Writing for Children; LGBTQ+ Workshop; Writing Your Memoir; Creative Writing; Novel Writing, and Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror.

Click here for details, and registration information.

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Among all our woodland creatures, we tend to overlook squirrels. They’re the Muzak of our backyard lives.

But Jamie Walsh captured this intriguing shot, reminding us to not overlook every living thing in our “Westport … Naturally” world.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

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And finally … today is September 9 — 9/9. Which means, of course:

 

 

 

Wildfires Consume West; Westporters Help

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost is used to the hundreds of calls his department handles: house fires, accidents on I-95 and the Merritt, false alarms.

As the town’s director of emergency management, he plans for and coordinates responses to hurricanes, blizzards and, now, a virus pandemic.

But he’s a professional. And as millions of acres burn out west, he and Deputy Chief Michael Kronick answered the call.

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost, as a medical assistant in Colorado.

The pair are members of the Connecticut Interstate Wildfire Crew. It’s our contribution to a national mutual aid pact. Members help states on an as-needed basis, with any kind of weather event.

(And yes, Yost says, Connecticut has wildfires. The most recent were around 1940.)

This summer, Connecticut sent firefighters to several western states. Yost — who was posted to Idaho and Wyoming in 2016, and Montana in 2018 — went this year to Colorado, as a medical assistant.

Assistant Chief Kronick also served before, in California and Colorado.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Kronick in Colorado, 2 years ago.

Yost got the call this year at 11 p.m., on a Saturday. The next day, he was on a plane to Ft. Collins. The 100,oo0-plus acre Cameron Peak fire threatened homes, and the University of Colorado mountain campus. It is still only 4% contained.

Yost and his crew set up structure protection. They ran hoses and pumps, wrapped homes in preventive material, bulldozed lines and started back fires.

It’s nothing like fighting a Westport fire. “This is a long game, and a logistics war,”” Yost says. Feeding and supplying 1,000 firefighters takes as much coordination as the actual firefighting.

COVID complicated everything, of course. Rather than one central camp, firefighters were deployed to “spike” camps that reduced co-mingling.

For Yost, the opportunity to observe incident management was important too. He sat in on planning meetings, with the command staff. The insights he gained will serve him well in planning for, and reacting to, disasters here, he says.

Whatever they are.

No, those are not clouds. They’re part of Colorado’s Cameron Peak fire.

Town’s COVID-19 Forum: Many Questions. Lots Of Answers. Much Unknown.

A small, well-spaced-apart crowd was joined by many more online participants this afternoon. They gathered, in real space and cyberspace, to hear from experts about the looming threat from COVID-19.

The Westport Library event — called “a forum in the Forum” by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — provided plenty of detailed information. Presentations were clear and cogent; questions were wide-ranging and thoughtful; answers were direct and honest.

It was a powerful display of active, coordinated town leadership on many levels, and a reminder that good government has a powerful place in society.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (far right), and today’s COVID-19 panel at the Westport Library.

The key takeaways, from Marpe, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper, fire chief and director of emergency management Robert Yost, Westport Public Schools health services supervisor Suzanne Levasseur and others:

It is virtually inevitable that COVID-19 will come to Westport. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Our population is too mobile, and the virus is too relentless. In fact, it may already be here.

Town officials — including the 1st Selectman, Health District and public schools — are in constant contact with the state and CDC. Conversations are frequent, ongoing and productive.

There are dozens of “what-ifs.” No one knows how many people will be affected or how. Planning is taking place to cover many scenarios.

The best precautions include rigorous hand-washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces, and careful monitoring of surroundings and contacts. Plus, self-monitoring. And save face masks for health care providers and people who are already sick.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left), who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrate the best way to say hello, COVID-19-style.

If you feel ill but have not traveled to somewhere affected, are not in a high-risk category, or had contact with someone who is ill, contact your health care provider.

If, however, you have traveled to a high-risk area, or are in a high-risk category (elderly or immuno-compromised), contact the WWHD (www.wwhd.org; 203-227-9571).

The Westport Schools are being very proactive. This includes enhanced cleaning; education about the disease and proper hygiene procedures. and monitoring of student health. Nurses are on heightened awareness; there are signs, videos and plenty of soap and sanitizers in every school. Discussions are “ongoing” about things like field trips.

Here are some of the key questions from audience members and online participants — and the answers:

Should people over 60 be particularly worried? Those in this higher-risk group should follow CDC guidelines to limit exposure — particularly people with underlying health issues.

Where is testing being done? Right now, only in hospitals.

The in-person audience was small. But many more residents viewed the forum on the Westport Library’s streaming feed and Facebook page.

How is the Senior Center handling this? Director Sue Pfister said that, thanks to the day and night custodians, “it’s never been cleaner.” There are wipes and signs throughout the building, with an information table out front. “We are operating as normally as possible,” she said. “We are monitoring and educating, without panicking.” Clients are self-monitoring too, and not coming in if they don’t feel well. The staff is making contingency plans for meals for people who depend on the Center, in the event of closure.

Can we trust the CDC? Cooper said the organization is filled with excellent scientists, who are coordinating with colleagues around the world.

Who decides if schools will close? The superintendent — though Governor Lamont could make an emergency declaration. The cause could be infected students or staff, or as a preventive measure to avoid further spread. Daycare centers are also making contingency plans. Marpe noted that because many teachers — and other town employees — live elsewhere, decisions on closing are “complex.” For that reason, they may be made on a regional or statewide basis, rather than town by town.

What about budget implications? Marpe said he and the town’s legal staff are examining the implications of not being able to meet publicly for discussions  — though public meetings are mandated for things like budget decisions.

What about Metro-North? They have enhanced their cleaning procedures — and have seen a drop in ridership. The most at-risk riders should think about using alternative travel methods.

What about restaurants? Owners should check the CDC for checklists. Clorox solutions are the best way to clean. The WWHD will send owners detailed information, if the risk increases.

What about gyms, fitness centers and the Y? They are no more (or less) at risk than other gathering places. Most places seem to be wiping their equipment well; users can do the same.  “Social distancing” is important, as is good hygiene. There is no evidence that the virus is spread by sweat; it is spread through coughing, sneezing, and on surfaces.

What about Westport business with many employees who live elsewhere? Some are encouraging them to work from home. Bridgewater, for example, has taken the virus “extremely seriously.” They are in contact with the WWHD, and have limited travel by their employees.

Do Westport’s first responders have enough equipment? Yost says we have been very proactive. And if the situation goes on for a very long period of time? “Probably.”

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff were out in force at today’s COVID-19 forum.

Anything else we should know? Our emergency responders and the Health District are watching everything carefully — and everything else too. “We could have severe weather tomorrow that takes out power to everyone,” one panelist said. “We’re preparing for that too.”

In conclusion: Every action has a reaction. We don’t know what the reaction to all this will be, but town officials are planning assiduously and relentlessly. As for the tipping point of this pandemic: “We don’t know when it will come. But we do know it won’t disappear. We’ll keep watching, offering information, and making recommendations.”

The best sources of information: