It took a blazing fire next door and a busy female firefighter at the scene for Janine Romano to cement her desire to become a firefighter on the Chelsea Fire Department.
Romano, 32, was sworn in Monday night at City Hall as the first-ever female firefighter in the history of Chelsea.
While Romano had always dreamed of serving the City in some capacity – hopefully as a firefighter – her heart really got behind the idea the night before she took the firefighter exam.
As fate would have it, that night the house next to hers burst into flames and fire crews from Chelsea and neighboring communities rushed to the scene to fight the blaze.
However, it was one female firefighter from Somerville who truly inspired Romano.
“The thing that really go me interested completely is last year the night before I took the fire exam, the house next door to me caught on fire,” Romano told the Record. “I felt like that was really something that signaled me to go for it. That was mostly because there was actually a female firefighter, from Somerville I think, working the fire. I watched her in total awe. She was definitely helping put out the fire and was working really hard at the scene. It was awe-inspiring. As I watched her, I figured that if she could do it, I could certainly do it too. I saw right there that nothing could hold me back.”
City Manager Jay Ash said this is something he has been hoping would happen for quite some time.
“I’m very excited about swearing in our first female firefighter and have been looking forward to this night for years,” said Ash. “The women of our police force do a great job, and I’m sure this will be the same with Janine Romano and all others that follow in her footsteps in the Fire Department. I’m pleased to welcome her aboard and am sure that she’s ready to make a great department even better.”
Interim Fire Chief David LaFond said Romano has already shown to be a good fit in the department since coming on in late September.
“She has the distinction of being the first female firefighter in Chelsea, but certainly not the last,” he said. “She exhibits a very strong work ethic so far – all of the new firefighters have shown that. Because she was a daughter of Chelsea – born and raised here – this has been a life-long ambition that has been realized.”
Romano was born and raised in Chelsea, attending school at the Mary Burke, the Williams School and the Williams School Annex. She went to high school at a private institution in Boston.
Her mother is Doris Romano and her father is Angelo Romano. Her sisters are Maria Romano and Alison Addario.
Prior to becoming a firefighter, she worked with children.
She will set off for the state Fire Academy in the next couple of weeks.
“This has been a life-long ambition of mine,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to serve the City of Chelsea in some way. It’s an exciting time for me I have to say, and I’m excited for this new journey in my life.”
The historic first was accompanied by the swearing in of five additional new firefighters, all of which are desperately needed according to Interim Fire Chief David LaFond.
Two lateral transfers were among that group.
Michael Lee came on from the Winchester Fire Department and Phillip Rogers came to Chelsea from the Wakefield Fire Department.
“Those two transfers have an immediate effect on the operations here because they don’t have to be trained or go to the academy,” said LaFond.
Also Carlos Carasquillo, an Army veteran and Purple Heart designee, was sworn in, as was Nick Quatieri, the son of current Fire Deputy John Quatieri.
Finally, Efrain Vasquerano also joined the ranks of the department.
All of the firefighters were hired using a federal grant named the SAFER Grant, which comes from the federal Stimulus legislation.
“I’m grateful the City Council and City Manager support the effort to replace firefighters that have retired or resigned so that we can keep staffing levels up,” said LaFond.
The new firefighters bring the Chelsea contingent up to 92.
LaFond said that the federal grant allows for an additional four firefighters that the City has yet to hire.