A man in a Valley Regional Fire Authority firefighter uniform standing in front of an american flag, representing the dedication and service of the Fire Department.

His career defined by selfless service, VRFA Battalion Chief Pete Connell retires

Selfless service is defined as putting the welfare of the organization, community, and your subordinates before your own; serving by doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain.  Battalion Chief Pete Connell embodied this definition during his 29-year career with the Auburn Fire Department and Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA).  He will be missed as he moves to the next phase of his life, retirement.

“Pete truly lived a career of selfless service to his teammates and the communities he served.  We cannot possibly account for all of his accomplishments.  He is leaving the organization better than he found it,” said Fire Chief Brad Thompson.

Connell began his career in the fire service on August 4, 1993, after volunteering with the Mount Vernon Fire Department for seven years.  He had wanted to become a firefighter since his high school years.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t the same every day.  I wanted to push myself.  The role of Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) tests your potential and brings out your best or worst,” said Connell.

Deputy Chief Rick Olson would say the job has brought out the best, “Pete is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  His dedication to his craft has been a model that many of us have tried to emulate.  Pete never backed down from a project and was always willing to do the hard work to get the job done.  I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from such a dedicated professional.”

During his early years, Pete sought opportunities to expand his knowledge beyond firefighting and further connect with his co-workers and the community.  He served as a Public Information and Education Specialist and a Medical Services Specialist, worked on the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC), and served on the firefighters’ union executive board.  Connell also began teaching CPR and First Aid, going on to become the coordinator for the department program and eventually helping to expand instruction through a regional partnership.

Pete was promoted to Captain in 2005, and in 2008 accepted an assignment in the newly created VRFA Logistics Division.  He helped build the program, focusing on improving the work environment for his fellow firefighters.  Pete then tested for and was appointed to the EMS Training & Safety Officer position.  In this role, he assisted in the development of the VRFA Community Assistance, Referral, and Education Services (CARES) team, helped design and purchase a new model for the department’s medical aid vehicles, and ensured certification compliance for all VRFA EMT’s.

Connell said that his most recent promotion to Battalion Chief in 2019 has been the most challenging position he has held, but also the most rewarding.

“It is great working with the different station crews, listening to what they need, and serving them rather than myself,” said Connell.

With all of his accomplishments, it is not surprising that Pete received formal recognition.  He was awarded Firefighter of the Year in 2002 and named Fire Officer of the Year in 2009.  He received a medal of commendation for his work with JATC, and six Meritorious Unit Citations for his contributions at emergency incidents.

Though Pete will be retiring, he will maintain a connection to the fire service through his son Ryan, a Captain with the VRFA.

“It has been great watching him mature in the organization and grow into the person he is today.  It is satisfying to know he will continue in the fire service,” said Connell.

As he transitions away from work life, Pete says, “I would like to thank everyone for my time with the Auburn Fire Department and the VRFA.  It has been a rewarding career.  I can walk away knowing that I made a difference for people.”