Volume 78 / Number 21 - October 22 - 28, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photo by Lorcan Otway

At the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Chief James Savastano were, from left, his wife, Lorraine, and children, James, Janine, Karen and Laura.

Battalion Chief Savastano remembered at ‘Fort Pitt’

By Lorcan Otway

Fire Department officials and hundreds of firefighters gathered at the Pitt St. firehouse earlier this month to unveil a plaque for Battalion Chief James J. Savastano.

Savastano suffered a heart attack on Oct. 9, 2007, while jogging in Marine Park, Brooklyn, with friends. He was 54. Four other plaques were dedicated to a number of firefighters from the past who had served and died attached to the Pitt St. firehouse in the 19th and early 20th century.

The Pitt St. firehouse a.k.a. “Fort Pitt,” home of Engine 5 and Ladder 18, is located just south of the approach to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Savastano’s 29-year Fire Department career was remembered in eulogies by his fellow Bravest. They described him as bravely leading his men amid danger, for example directing efforts against an out-of-control apartment fire from the roof, as the flames began to spread to that roof. His knowledge and courage saved the building.

When Chief James Gansi died during the World Trade Center collapse, Savastano replaced him as the chief of the Fourth Battalion, directing numerous units and saving one of the complex’s buildings that burned for more than a day. Chief John Rail, who now serves in the late Chief Savastano’s role, remembered him with jokes and stories of bravery. He described him as being first into danger, and with his wife, Lorraine, involved in the rich social life of the F.D.N.Y.  

Savastano was very athletic, riding his bike to work over the Brooklyn Bridge year-round, skiing and playing hockey.

He loved to cook, both at home and the firehouse. He was an avid gardener and loved to sit in his garden reading novels and cookbooks, listening to classic rock.

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