For O'Connor, end of an era City fire chief retiring after 38 years.

March 24, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

After nearly 40 years of service in the city Fire Department, Chief Peter J. O'Connor reported for his last day of work today.

"I'm relieved to be finally retiring and a little concerned about the future of the department," the chief said today.

"When you live and breathe the department for 38 years, it's part of you, a family. I'll always have concerns about the department even though I'm stepping out. I'm concerned about the morale, who will be my successor, the 1,800 men and women of the department."

"If you were a firefighter, you looked forward to the inconveniences," he said. "I loved the fire service. It was never a chore."

Chief O'Connor, who headed the department for 12 years, saidhe had no specific plans except some traveling and "getting use to sleeping late. I also plan to play a lot of golf. . . the Lord knows my game needs improving."

Chief O'Connor's official retirement date is June 29 but he will take accrued vacation time and retirement leave time, said Capt. Hector Torres, department spokesman.

On March 15, Deputy Chief Herbert W. Catterton, the department's second in command, retired.

That job is expected to be filled within a week, Captain Torres said, and the new deputy chief will serve as acting chief. There are four top candidates for the position.

The two vacancies will be filled by the city's new Board of Fire Commissioners, President Harry X. Peaker, Delaphine S. Henson and J. Hollis R. Albert 3d. They will choose the new chief in consultation with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Captain Torres said there is no date set when the chief's position will be filled.

Chief O'Connor was born in the 1400 block of E. Lanvale St. and later moved with his family to the 400 block of S. Washington St.

Chief O'Connor, 58, began his career with the department in 1954 at Engine Company 50 at Holabird Avenue and Newkirk Street in Canton.

He went to Engine Company 6 in Oldtown where he spent most of his formative years. For about 10 years, he was president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, Local 964.

He returned to Oldtown for about three years and was promoted to captain. He was then assigned to Walbrook, Engine 20, and then to Engine Company 5 in Fells Point.

In 1972, he went back to Oldtown and was promoted in 1976 to battalion commander. He was promoted to deputy chief three years later.

Chief O'Connor was selected for a staff postion where he directed fire prevention efforts.

On July 30, 1980, he was promoted chief of the fire department.

"It was a great ride," the chief said.

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