Rochester, N.Y. (WROC) — Stefano Napolitano has been in the business of fighting fires for 38 years serving as chief in Batavia before moving up to the state level as deputy fire administrator.
Earlier this month, he became the Chief of the Rochester Fire Department.
He now commands a department more than ten times the size of Batavia’s and a department stung by some serious allegations.
Friday, at a press event, News 8 asked him about all of that.
Sitting in front of reporters for the first time since taking the job, Napolitano addressed a number of issues including the one that’s received national attention: the issue stemming from the incident in which a Black Rochester firefighter was taken by a supervisor to a Juneteenth spoof party.
In the subsequent lawsuit, that firefighter blamed cultural issues within the department.
Napolitano says he found the incident troubling.
“But I disagree that there is a sustained culture of that in this department,” Napolitano said. “I’ve only been here for five days and while any agency could have a few bad apples if you will, from what I’ve seen in five days we have a tremendous amount of solid individuals, this department is very solid operationally.”
On diversity, the new chief said RFD, with minorities making up 32% of the department, the department is ahead of the curve.
“That’s not good enough for me. Diversity means we have to reflect the community that we serve and my answer to diversity is to start off with access,” he said.
As for moving from a department with a few dozen firefighters to one with around 500, Napolitano says his math skills will serve him well.
“So this is a matter of scaling my processes, my ideas with my executive team and it’s a matter of span of control so I’m extremely comfortable with that, I have no reservations nor should anyone else,” he said.
The new chief went on to say one of his top priorities will be to bolster programs that focus on preventing fires so his department has fewer to fight.