WILKES-BARRE — “Experience.”
That’s the one word that Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney used to describe two firefighters who were promoted Thursday. Captains John Ostrum and Alan Klapat were promoted assistant fire chief and deputy fire chief, respectively.
Mayor Tom Leighton swore the two in at a ceremony in City Hall.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the job they’ve done for the city of Wilkes-Barre for the last 59 (combined) years,” Leighton said.
A graduate of King’s College, Ostrum is the most senior member of the fire department. He has served as fire captain for the past 26 years.
He joined the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department as a firefighter in 1978 and has completed many fire and emergency response training programs, including some in water rescue, firefighter survival and emergency vehicle driver training.
Ostrum is a second-generation firefighter whose father and uncle were firefighters.
“I’m more than certain that if John’s dad were here today, he would really have a smile on his face in acknowledgement of his son,” Delaney said during the ceremony.
Ostrum was joined by his wife Mickie, his daughter Ali and his granddaughter Ala as he was sworn in. Given his family’s history in the force, he said his promotion was a long time coming.
“I put a lot of time in, and finally got to what would be the pinnacle of the department,” Ostrum said.
Klapat, formerly a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, has served on the force for 23 years. He has been the lead fire investigator, fire training officer and fire inspector for the city’s fire department.
Klapat also responsible for providing fire safety education programs to civic and social organizations, elementary schools, educators and child/adult caregivers.
“His credentials are unparalleled,” Delaney said.
Klapat was joined by his girlfriend, Nicole Marek, his daughter, Alaina, and his father, Frank.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” Klapat said. “I’ve looked forward to advancing in the fire department since I got on the job.”
Ostrum said that as assistant chief he will be responsible for supervising shifts at various times. Delaney said Klapat will have several new administrative duties — one of which is to assist in finding funds to replace the $1.2 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.
The city fire department hired 11 new firefighters last month, eight of whom Delaney said were hired using the grant.
“It runs out in two years,” he said. “Chief Klapat is going to work with me and the city administration to try to find additional funding so we can keep our fire department staffed at a reasonable level, and that’s not going to be easy to do.”
Those new firefighters, along with Ostrum and Klapat’s promotions, were advances that Delaney said would enable the department “to continue to offer quality emergency medical service and fire service to the city of Wilkes-Barre.”