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Ogdensburg Fire Chief Badlam retiring next month

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Steven M. Badlam retires from the Ogdensburg Fire Department as chief on Feb. 5, capping a 29-year career in firefighting that, to hear him tell it, went according to plan from the day he joined the department in January 1984.

Mr. Badlam was named captain of the fire department in June 1989 and assistant chief in April 1996. He made chief in August 2007.

“I came on with the department wanting to be chief,” Mr. Badlam, 58, said Tuesday. “That was my goal.”

Goal accomplished, it is time to move on.

“I feel it is in the best interests of my family,” said Mr. Badlam, who is the fire department’s 12th chief.

Mr. Badlam will not be specific about his post-retirement plans other than the certainty of not being idle.

“I’m keeping my options open,” he said. “Something in emergency services, possibly.”

Mr. Badlam said the scope and the responsibilities of the fire department - now with 28 firefighters and a $2.85 million budget - have evolved since he joined.

Thirty years ago, for instance, emergencies related to hazardous materials weren’t commonplace and the means to deal with them was technologically modest at best.

Not anymore, as hazmat training sessions are a regular occurrence at the Ford Street firehouse.

“A lot more technology has been developed,” Mr. Badlam said.

Basic firefighting equipment has also improved, most notably the firefighters’ signature air masks and back-strapped tanks. Today, they are lighter, yet sturdier and more efficient.

Mr. Badlam cannot say the same about their heavier, bulkier predecessors.

“It was a pain to deal with,” he said.

Modern technology and increased efficiency can also be found in the fire department’s motor pool and, as Mr. Badlam sees it, this has been a mixed blessing. Opening valves to release water from pumper trucks was once a manual process, strictly a hands-on application.

Nowadays, the valves are opened by electronic sensors. But sometimes, it doesn’t work at first.

“With advanced technology comes advanced glitches,” Mr. Badlam said.

Mr. Badlam gives high marks to City Hall department heads for their cooperation, but especially to his fellow firefighters.

“These men are truly dedicated,” he said.

Mr. Badlam and his wife, Ruthann J., have three daughters, Jessica B., 27, Emily R., 24, and Aubrey L., 20.

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