Firefighting is deeply rooted in the Suarez family.
Ramon Suarez Jr., who has been a member of the Buffalo Fire Department for more than six years, is now a lieutenant.
His father, Deputy Fire Commissioner Ramon Suarez Sr. – a 27-year department veteran – was promoted to captain on the same day his son moved up the ranks.
“It’s awesome. I’m very proud of my son,” Suarez Sr. said.
“I’m very proud of my father. When I first came on he was just a firefighter, and he’s just been moving up the ranks. So I’ve been trying to catch up to him, and it’s difficult," Suarez Jr. joked.
The father-son duo were among 16 firefighters who were sworn into their new ranks during a ceremony Monday at Waterfront Elementary School. The promotions also included the son of a firefighter whose temporary recovery from a decadelong semiconscious state shocked the medical world before he eventually succumbed to his injuries in 2006.
Suarez Sr., who was appointed deputy fire commissioner of operations and arson by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Fire Commissioner William Renaldo in June, also has two older brothers who are Buffalo firefighters. He also has another son in the department who “may be promoted, probably next spring,” Suarez Sr. said.
“We love serving the community. I love the City of Buffalo, and I’m glad my sons ... walk in my footsteps to follow what I’ve been doing,” said Suarez Sr.
“Firefighting has a brotherhood to it ... a sisterhood, as well," Suarez Jr. said. "But I always tell everybody it’s a family business to me serving with my father and uncles and brother. We also have cousins on the department as well.”
Monday’s ceremony also was particularly poignant for newly promoted Lieutenant Patrick J. Herbert, “especially when the commissioner mentioned my father, the same with the mayor. It’s hard not to get emotional.”
Herbert is the son of Donald J. Herbert, a Buffalo firefighter who suffered a catastrophic brain injury in December 1995 when a roof collapsed on him while he was fighting a fire. He remained in a minimally conscious state for nearly 10 years before awakening temporarily in April 2005, only to succumb to his injuries the following February.
Patrick got a little choked up after the ceremony when speaking about his father.
“I don’t want to say I follow in his footsteps because those are big shoes to fill,” Patrick said. “I’m never going to fill his legacy within the Fire Department. I just hope to be a great leader.”
Also on Monday, Shannon Street, who was appointed deputy fire commissioner of administration and personnel last month, was promoted to captain.
Donald Woodhull was promoted to lieutenant. Woodhull is the brother-in-law of State Sen. Tim Kennedy and the son-in-law of Martin F. Kennedy, commissioner of assessment and taxation for the city. Both Kennedys attended the ceremony with other family members.
In addition, Matthew Hoare rose to the rank of battalion chief and Sean Eagen became a captain.
The following firefighters also were promoted to the rank of lieutenant:
- Andrew Heidinger
- Adam Markel
- Gregory Lorenc
- Justin Sumbrum
- Michael Paveljack
- John McKeown
- Norman Hillyard
- Joshua Korbs
- Aaron Tubbins
“These fire officers represent the best and brightest of the Buffalo Fire Department,” Brown said. “And it’s my pleasure to promote them to their new ranks, further bolstering the leadership of this great Fire Department.”