Rows of volunteer and career firefighters and police officers lined the east side of the Cortland Fire Department parking lot Friday afternoon to send Deputy Fire Chief Duane Pierce off into retirement.
Pierce retired Friday after 33 years as a firefighter — 21 of which were spent at the fire department as a paid firefighter.
He began his career as a volunteer firefighter for the Greene Fire Department in 1988 when he was 20, he said.
“His entire career, he’s been an upstanding firefighter,” said Chief Wayne Friedman. “He has the knowledge and attributes to work with people that made him exactly why I selected him as deputy chief.”
Pierce was hired in Cortland in 2000 and promoted to shift captain in 2009, Friedman said.
In 2010, Pierce was promoted to municipal training officer before being chosen as deputy chief by Friedman in 2019, following Friedman’s promotion to chief.
“I took a pay cut to come here for a job that I love and I’d take a pay cut again today,” Pierce said. “It’s added years to my life.”
“He’s my No. 2 — he’s the boss when I’m not here,” Friedman said. “He can work with anybody and he’s very well respected in the firehouse and the community.”
As deputy chief, Pierce’s responsibilities are both administrative and operational, Friedman said.
When Pierce was hired, the two had aspirations to bring change to the department that was halted because of COVID-19.
Pierce’s focus shifted and he secured personal protective equipment, managed shift changes and maintained social distancing within the firehouse and the community, Friedman said.
“Duane took to the unknown to work through protecting us here while still providing service to the community,” Friedman said.
Pierce, who watched his grandfathers and father work as firefighters, said he has enjoyed serving the community and working with his second family, the fire department. But the job is demanding; 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I need a change of pace, it’s a demanding job,” Pierce said. “Change is good in every organization, the timing is good and my family is excited.”
Friedman has three Civil Service eligible candidates for the deputy chief position, he said.
He will begin the interview process in the next two weeks and hopes to have the position filled within a month.
We are not taking the interview process lightly,” Friedman said. “We want someone that’s for the people to care for the people.”
Pierce advised the next deputy chief, whoever that is, to put family first and take care of the Cortland community.
“Trust is the most important thing you can have within the department,” Pierce said. “I appreciate my family’s patience with the path I’ve chosen and I’m coming home.”