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Head of Fire Dept.'s arson unit promoted to deputy commissioner

A fire marshal who oversees arson investigations has become Buffalo's deputy fire commissioner in charge of field operations.

Joseph J. Tomizzi, an 11-year department veteran who previously headed the fire marshal unit, was appointed to the $94,350-a-year job Friday afternoon. He was among 18 people who were promoted within the Fire Department by Mayor Byron W. Brown in a City Hall ceremony that attracted more than 100 people.

Brown credited Tomizzi with helping to reduce arsons and to clear arson cases.

Tomizzi also has 20 years of management experience in the private sector, officials said.

He will oversee field operations in a department that now employs 693 people. Deputy Commissioner Vincent R. Gugliuzza, a former fire union president, oversees personnel and other administrative functions in the city's second-largest department.

Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. reminded those receiving promotions that firefighters and people in the community will be looking to them for leadership.

"All of our expectations of you will be raised, and you will be held to a higher standard," he said.

Other appointments made Friday include the promotion of James Miner to division chief, and William Webster and James Huynes to battalion chief.

Joseph Victor, Patrick Stanton and Daniel Renkas were promoted to captain.

Eleven firefighters were promoted to lieutenant. They are Kenneth Eason, Sean Fitzgerald, David Hartman, Patrick Lalley, William LaRusch, Catherine Keane, John Keany, James Otwell, David Schieber, David Schmitt and James Weitz.

Officials gave special recognition to Otwell, who served in Iraq. Schieber currently is serving in Afghanistan. His wife, Lisa, accepted her husband's badge during Friday's ceremony.

Brown, who has had stormy relations with the fire union as a result of a long-festering contract dispute, praised city firefighters.

"Each and every day they go to work [and] put their lives on the line for each and every one of us," the mayor said.

Last month, the city graduated a new class of 30 firefighters.