Bobby Troncillito has been the Marlboro Fire Chief for more years than any others who have served in the post: 36 consecutive years as Chief – and he is in his 52nd year with the company, having joined the service at 18 right out of high school. Last week he made it official and retired from his position and passed the torch to his peer, his first assistant and close friend Andy Polizzi.
When asked about his decision, he said, “I’ve got to keep my emotions under control; I get very sensitive. You know it’s been a hell of a run and in all honesty when your mind tells you it’s time, it’s time.” Troncillito turns 70 in September.
Troncillito said many have helped him reach his goals along the way.
“Everything that I’ve accomplished over the years doesn’t happen by yourself,” he said, with a catch in his voice. “I’ve been blessed all these years with good line officers, supportive Fire Commissioners, the house officers and their support, the support of the membership, the Ladies Auxiliary, and another key factor is your mutual aid [fire] companies, like Milton, Middle Hope and Plattekill who are our mainstays – no fire company can do it by themselves anymore, they’ve got to have mutual aid once in awhile.”
During his tenure Troncillito has been involved with numerous organizations- the Ulster County and New York State Fire Chiefs Associations, the Ulster County Fire Advisory Board and FASNY [Firemen’s Association of the State of New York].
“You get involved, you eat and sleep this business and it’s in your blood; I can’t make it any plainer than that,” he said.
Troncillito has long family ties to the department, from his father to a quartet of uncles and even cousins who have all served in the department in some capacity.
“Back then it was family oriented, which we have today; we have fathers and sons and multiple families where a wife is a member and their kids are members and it stays. That tradition kind of follows through with some of them,” he said.
Troncillito worked his way up the ranks, serving as a Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief “and went through the whole gauntlet, as they say.” He said being a part of the fire service takes a deep commitment: “Not everybody can be up at 2 a.m. when it’s 10 degrees outside. It’s got to be in you, you’ve got to be a special breed.”
Troncillito said during his long career he has come upon many difficult fire scenes “but when I can stand there being an incident commander and looking at my firefighters doing their job and say wow, they are doing great, whether it’s an auto extrication that went text-book or a great stop on a structure fire…My greatest reward is when a homeowner comes up to us and says thank you for what you do, thank you for your service, that’s all we ever look for. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve received that [and] to me that’s a special reward.”
Troncillito said although membership ebbs and flows, presently the department has approximately 50 active firefighters.
“We have a good influx of young people and I am very proud of all our lady firefighters who don’t take a back seat to nobody. They can kick ass as good as the guys can, let me tell you,” he said.
Troncillito said he would continue to be involved with the company by driving a fire truck.
“I’m still going to be active and very carefully I’ll voice my opinion,” he chuckled, but added that once a fireman, always a fireman –– “you just can’t turn the switch off and all of a sudden not go to calls. That’s not me.”
Troncillito thanked the people of Marlboro for allowing him to serve them for such a long period of time.
“We’ve always had the support of the public and I cannot thank them enough for that,” he said. “You always try to put your best foot forward [and] you always try to do the right thing and I’ve tried to accomplish that in my tenure,” he said.
Troncillito has confidence in his successor, Andy Polizzi.
“When somebody else comes into a position, such as Chief, they bring some new ideas, they’ve got some new feelings and that’s great. You are adding some new energy to the organization with some different thoughts,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that; to me I’ve always looked at that as being very positive, there’s nothing wrong with change.”
Polizzi said besides their work in the fire company, he and Troncillito are good friends, calling the fire service a “very close-knit family.”
“We’ve been through the children, the birthday parties, the funerals, the weddings and the grandchildren, so I don’t consider him a close friend, I consider him a brother, and not a fireman brother, a brother – brother,” Polizzi said.
Polizzi, who hits his 40th year with the company this year, said Troncillito has taught him “pretty much all I know” about the business of firefighting – “He was a phenomenal, phenomenal Chief and his knowledge is unbelievable.”
Polizzi said he is looking forward to the challenge of his new position “and I am taking everything I’ve learned from Bobby and classes and all I hope is that I’ll be able to fill his shoes, which are very, very big to fill. He’s taken the hose company into the 21st century. If I can turn out to be half the chief that he is, I’ll be more than satisfied. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here but we’ll continue building on what his legacy has left us.”
By Mark Reynolds