Mario Orangio got the "chance of a lifetime" when he became Watertown's Fire Chief, and Wednesday he became president of the organization the represents fire chiefs across Massachusetts.
Dozens of fire chiefs in their dress blues filled the ballroom at the Oakley Country Club for Orangio's installation as president of the Fire Chiefs' Association of Massachusetts.
Orangio said he ran for the presidency because he believes fire chiefs should be leaders in fire service and safety in the state. He takes over for Paul Zbikowski, fire chief of Ashburnham. Also installed Wednesday was First Vice President of FCAM, George Rogers, the chief of the Bridgewater Fire Department.
Fire departments across Massachusetts have faced budget cuts in recent years and Orangio said he fears they may have consequences.
"The economic downturn led to cuts to fire department budgets across Massachusetts, that have led to reduction of staffing, job losses and closing of fire houses," Orangio said. "Each time there is a cut we reach a new norm. I'm afraid we're reaching the breaking point."
Orangio became the youngest Watertown Fire Chief when he was appointed in Feburary 2004 at the age of 37. He was also the youngest in the MetroFire group of more than 30 departments in the Boston area, said Town Manager Michael Driscoll.
"It's the strength of character that makes a person truly great," Driscoll said. "Chief Orangio is a true gentleman, a devoted friend, loyal husband and doting father."
Attorney General Martha Coakley gave the oath of office to Orangio. She said she has always enjoyed working with fire chiefs, both as Attorney General and as Middlesex District Attorney.
"I think the support we can and should give, but it is never enough," Coakley said. "We need you and your association to hold us to it so we can make sure you have the equipment you need when you go to an emergency."