New East Rockaway Fire Department Chief Ronald Roeill said that his job as a firefighter can be unpredictable.
“No two building fires are alike,” he said. “I’m only human, so I’m always nervous going on a call. You always have that fear in the back of your mind that something could go wrong.”
Roeill was sworn in as the chief of the department on April 21 in a private ceremony to maintain social distancing protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.
An iPad was used in the room to enable family members and friends to watch the ceremony. The department took six firefighters in at a time in intervals, to allow for each member being sworn in to have a chance to receive their honor.
“It was challenging to figure out who to pick for which time slots,” Roeill said. “Overall, the ceremony went better than we expected.”
In his new role as chief, Roeill is responsible for overseeing the firefighting duties of 192 volunteers. He is also tasked with preparing the fiscal budget of the Fire Department, making sure the ERFD has the correct equipment and overseeing probationary firefighters.
“We are a team like a machine,” Roeill said. “If one part breaks, the whole can’t operate. We have some of the most intelligent and educated people in the department, from all different career paths. They are top notch and work hard with different skills that they all bring to the table.”
Roeill is the first chief in his family, however, he is not the first firefighter. His grandfather was a firefighter for the East Rockaway Fire Department and his father was a firefighter for the Oceanside Fire Department. Roeill now holds his grandfather’s badge number, 51.
“It is an honor and a great achievement to be the first chief in my family,” Roeill said. “I had the time and passion to do it, so I went for it. My father always pushed me to be better and I know he’s proud of me.”
During his time as chief, Roeill has updated the department’s pre-planned position, a book with multiple commercial picture sites to help firefighters know where to place apparatus, fire trucks, the engine, the ladders and other vehicles on the scene of an emergency. The book also helps identify where fire hydrants are when they are not illuminating. Roeill has also updated graphs, spreadsheets and many protocols and procedures for the department. Additionally, he updated the Critical Care and Member Assistance Program, which enables members to have other volunteers talk with them and lift their spirits after tough calls.
“I’m looking to move the department forward and make it better than it is,” he said. “I have to come up with new ideas, new technology and recruit new young people into the department.”