New Orange fire chief brings deep experience, academic background to job
Seth Roberts , Special to the Register 06/08/2004
ORANGE — With 33 years of service to the Orange Volunteer Fire Department under his belt, Charles Sherwood has put an immeasurable amount of time and effort into the fire service.

As the department’s new chief, however, Sherwood knows he has stepped into a role that requires even more attention.

It’s clearly a role he relishes.

"As chief, I bear the ultimate responsibility for the performance of the organization. Not only do I now think about the direction of the organization, but I make sure other members are able to handle their given assignments," Sherwood said. "I have to think more strategically, which includes long-term planning about how we will achieve what we want to achieve."

Sherwood replaces former Chief Fred Knight, who served in that role for eight years. Knight recently retired from active duty.

Sherwood, an Orange native, worked his way up through the department, serving as a training officer for several years and as deputy chief for 15 years, eight under Knight’s leadership.

Knight said he is leaving the department in good hands, as he holds Sherwood in high regard.

"Charlie is a very intelligent man, and has always stood by me as deputy chief. He is well capable of doing the job and he is very well respected," Knight said.

Sherwood also is the director at the South Central Criminal Justice Administration, an agency that provides management support services for 18 area municipalities. He also is a part-time professor at University of New Haven, teaching criminal justice and management level courses.

Sherwood said he knew he wanted to be a firefighter since he was in middle school. The blare of the town siren, then used to alert local volunteer firemen that there was a fire, helped spark the young man’s interest. Sherwood said he collected a wide variety of Tonka trucks, and to no one’s surprise, it included an array of gleaming red fire engines.

The memories of a young man with aspirations of thrill and adventure are only part of what shaped the person he grew into.

"I am actually more academically oriented," said Sherwood, who earned a doctorate in management systems. "I enjoy higher education; seeing national parks and historical sites within the U.S."

"When you are younger, the idea of thrill in firefighting is stronger. Once you age, you have a much better grasp of how tragic firefighting events can be. It’s becoming even more acute in our world today," he said.

Despite the danger, Sherwood said, work as a volunteer firefighter is a worthwhile venture and a chance to give back to the community.

The volunteer Fire Department is not a municipal agency; it acts as a corporation and its funds for capital and operating expenses come from fund-raisers, along with substantial support from the town. The annual Orange Firemen’s Carnival serves as a huge moneymaker for the department.

Further improving quality and effectiveness of fund-raising is one of four main goals Sherwood hasfor his tenure as chief.

"The cost of equipment and apparatus is going up more rapidly than the inflation rate and we need to keep pace with that," he said. Enhancing partnerships with neighboring communities and public safety officials is another of Sherwood’s objectives, as is developing new leadership programsto maintain its level of qualified officers.

Sherwood’s goal also is to apply new technologies, such as developing mobile data terminal systems that call up an address and supply firefighters with a building’s layout, the number of occupants, its construction history, alarm system and hazardous material information.

©New Haven Register 2004

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