Lombard fire chief retiring July 6
There have been many memorable moments for Paul DiRienzo in his 34 years of service with the Lombard Fire Department, but a silent parade marking the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was one of the most striking.
"It was very humbling and it made me very proud to be a Lombardian," he said. "The emotions were palpable for sure."
As DiRienzo, 53, prepares to retire July 6 from his position as fire chief, countless other memories come to mind as well: Helping deliver several babies, breaking down walls during house fires and holding hands with people in distress.
"I miss it already," he said.
The Lombard native took a paid on-call position with the fire department in October 1982. He became a full-time employee on July 6, 1986, exactly 30 years prior to his upcoming retirement date.
When DiRienzo started working full-time for the department there was a minimum of four firefighters on duty each day. That number has grown to 15, to accommodate the more than 7,000 calls a year the department receives.
During his four years as chief, DiRienzo set a goal to have three ambulances running at the same time, instead of two, to better meet that increased demand.
"We rely on our neighboring towns quite a bit for ambulance coverage," he said.
Negotiations are still ongoing to make that happen and likely won't conclude until after DiRienzo leaves, but he feels confident the change could happen in the near future.
DiRienzo said he stayed with the department so long because he enjoyed serving the town he grew up in and felt reinvigorated with each promotion. He became a lieutenant in 2001 and took on the role of battalion chief in 2012 for a short period before becoming chief.
As chief, DiRienzo said he always wanted things that would make the department better: more stations, more rigs, more manpower. But as he prepares to leave he feels good about the state of the fire department and its future.
"We have professional firefighter paramedics that are certainly trying to do their best all the time," he said. "(The residents) are protected by if not the best, one of the best departments in the state."
DiRienzo is looking forward to extended time off to spend with his wife, four children and two grandchildren, but said returning to work at another fire department is a possibility.
Village Manager Scott Niehaus said a national search is underway to find DiRienzo's replacement. Last week, the village board agreed to pay Patrick Gericke, a retired Matteson fire chief, $60 per hour to serve as interim fire chief for three months, or until a new chief is hired. Gericke served as interim chief in Lombard in 2012 as well, prior to DiRienzo's promotion.