Town hires first paid assistant fire chief in department history
NEW CANAAN — Norwalk Fire Department veteran Albert Bassett was recently named as the first paid assistant fire chief for the New Canaan Fire Department in its long history. Bassett is planned to start in the role on Sept. 20.
Bassett has served as assistant fire chief in the coastal city since 1992, and prior to that, he was deputy fire chief and shift commander.
New Canaan Fire Chief John Hennessey has been trying to get funding for a career assistant chief “for a number of years,” he said Monday. Without an assistant career chief, Hennessey has been on call constantly which can be “exhausting,” he said.
The hiring of Bassett was approved unanimously by the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 17. His salary of $120,810 is in the 2021-22 budget, Personnel Director Cheryl Jones said Monday.
Bassett “has tremendous experience in many facets of fire safety, personnel management and firefighter training,” Fire Commissioner Jack Horner said at the selectmen meeting. “Albert will be a tremendous asset to New Canaan.”
The department will have two assistant chief officers. Bassett will lead the 24 career firefighters and volunteers. Assistant Fire Chief Russ Kimes works with the 30 volunteer firefighters. Kimes is also the town’s emergency management director.
Hennessey said he has felt stretched thin serving as fire chief and director of fire service. He has been responsible for the career firefighters, the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Volunteer Fire Company, he explained.
Having the new assistant chief “will improve services and safety of all of our personnel and the people of New Canaan,” Hennessey said, adding he will “assist the director of fire services with many tasks that are currently not being adequately administered.”
Bassett has been cochairperson of the Fairfield County Hazardous Incident Response Team since 2001. He is the Emergency Support Function chair for ESF-10, which oversees hazardous materials response for the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He is also currently an instructor at the State of Connecticut Fire Academy.
“I have known Assistant Chief Bassett for many years and he will be a fine addition to our department,” Hennessey said.
Bassett received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New Haven in 2008, a Master of Business Administration from University of New Haven in 2013 and a Master of Science in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology in 2018.