WILTON — Capt. Jim Blanchfield was elevated to deputy fire chief of the Wilton Fire Department on July 1, beginning his journey toward becoming chief when interim Chief Geoff Herald steps down on Nov. 1. Blanchfield was named to the position, which has been empty for 17 months, on June 19.

A small crowd of fire service and police personnel assembled at the firehouse Wednesday morning for the “pinning ceremony” as Herald offered a few words.

“This is a momentous occasion, both for Jim personally and for the department,” he said. “It’s a rare thing historically for somebody to start off as a volunteer, come into a career department and work his way up through the ranks and come in to a command assignment, which is what Captain, now Deputy Chief Blanchfield has done.

“It’s a momentous occasion for the department, too, to be able to recognize and honor that progression. We are a department steeped in history both locally here in Wilton as well as the fire service in general. And it’s very critical that we honor that,” he said.

“In honoring that and recognizing the responsibilities that have increased to the fire service, especially in this time and age of COVID-19 and terrorism, biochemical hazards, EMS, oh, and yes, fire, we are definitely an all-hazard department. We do it all — bells and smells — when they don’t know who to call they call us. And we go to things sometimes not knowing what we’re going to find, not knowing what’s going to present to us when we get there.

“Having that command ability and understanding what has to happen, that training and the decision-making potential for a deputy chief is something that is different and changing, sometimes daily,” he said.

“So as we move forward with the Wilton Fire Department and accepting a new chief into the service, and taking his knowledge, his training, and his history and combining it with the history of the fire service in general and the men of the fire department here represented is something that we all look forward to and acknowledge as being the natural progression.”

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With that, Herald welcomed Blanchfield as deputy chief and said he looked forward to “working with him and learning from him as I have learned from you for the last year.” He added that under Blanchfield, he was confident the good relationship between the fire department and the community would continue in the coming years.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice congratulated Blanchfield, saying “it’s always wonderful when somebody can be promoted from within. … we know you’re going to do a great job.”

She also thanked the members of the fire and police departments for their work during the past months of the lockdown and then reopening.

After taking the oath of office from Town Clerk Lori Kaback, Blanchfield received the pin and badge of his office.

“I’m not here today if not for the team we have, not just the Wilton Fire Department , but PD, EMS, everything. It is a real collaborative team that we have in Wilton. We’re not the biggest town but I think we operate in a fashion where we are lean, we are mean and we work very hard,” Blanchfield said.

“I’m lucky to be here today. I’m honored to be here today and I hope that with respect to working here for as long as I have I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot, not just here but also from the community. I think if I take those thoughts and what I’ve learned and bring it to the front office I think we’re going to be in good shape.

“I look forward to working with you all. It’s just a different hat, but the same people. It’s just fantastic and I’m very appreciative.”

The fire service is actually Blanchfield’s second career. He graduated from the Quinnipiac College School of Law and worked as a real estate attorney for many years. At the same time, he served as a volunteer in Trumbull, working his way up to captain.

He joined Wilton’s paid service 14 years ago as a firefighter and worked his way up to captain by 2015.