New Boston commish aims to improve firefighters’ health

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Boston Herald

BOSTON — Boston fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn — the consummate player-coach after 30 years of riding rigs and battling blazes — got off to a running start at his swearing-in ceremony yesterday, announcing five-alarm changes to his command staff, including the creation of two key civilian deputy commissioner posts and a deputy chief job to whip the department into shape and find out why so many jakes are being stricken with cancer.

“We need to be proactive and implement a cancer-prevention program,” said Finn, 53.

Standing in the Engine 20 firehouse in Dorchester where he played as a child and his late firefighter father Paul served the city, the Marine Corps veteran’s emotions got the better of him only when he spoke with regret that his infirm mother Rita could not be there to witness him sworn in as Boston’s 42nd fire commissioner.

Richard Paris, a longtime friend and president of Boston Firefighters Local 718, quipped to the crowd, “Not bad for a kid from Dorchester. With your continued success, we’re going to get the job straightened out and bring it into the future. No one is more deserving of this than Joe Finn.”

Finn announced he has already named former acting Commissioner John Hasson chief of operations for field services and Deputy Chief Gerard Fontana chief of operations for support services.

In addition, Finn will appoint a diversity officer to recruit minority veterans and a deputy chief tasked with reducing injuries and promoting exercise and healthy living.

He also wants to fill two new civilian deputy commissioner posts: one, a budget director; the other, an attorney to handle labor and legal affairs.

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