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SALEM — After 38 years of service, Salem Fire Chief Gerry Giunta announced Thursday that he will be retiring from the department next month.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to have the ultimate profession,” said Giunta. “I was able to help people throughout my career with the possibility that every day, I could save a life. What an incredible responsibility to have. I tried my best throughout my career to be ready for that day and I feel that every first responder should welcome this challenge by being the best they can be every single day.”
Giunta joined the Salem Fire Department in 1983, serving on Engine 1 and Ladder 2.
He served as a lieutenant with Engines 1, 2, and 4 from 1986 to 1993, captain on Ladder 1 and Tower 2 from 1993 to 2007, and as deputy chief from 2007 to 2018.
Giunta was a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Massachusetts Urban Search and Rescue Task Force and led that team from 2006 to 2018. In his time with the Task Force, Giunta was deployed in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irene, and Katrina, the 2011 Springfield tornadoes, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and as operations leader with a 70-member team deployed to New York City following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
He was appointed fire chief in 2018 by Mayor Kimberley Driscoll.
“Salem and the Salem Fire Department are better for having had Gerry in the many roles he has held in the department for the last nearly four decades of his service,” said Driscoll. “He’s been a steady hand leading the department during incredibly challenging times.
“Chief Giunta has earned the respect and admiration of the men and women of the Salem Fire Department and the gratitude of the people of Salem. He has made our community safer, stronger, and better for all who live, work, learn, and visit here.”
As chief, Giunta oversaw major capital investments in fire stations and equipment, provided expanded training and professional development opportunities for firefighters, secured state and federal grants to upgrade equipment, and increased the diversity of the department’s workforce.
Giunta also served as a key member of the city’s COVID Response Task Force, leading efforts around personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution, community coordination, and emergency preparedness.
“Although it’s not over, I can see the beginning of the end with the vaccines being distributed and our department starting the vaccination process this week,” said Giunta in a parting letter to his crew. “I hope this keeps everyone safe from the virus.”
“In my parting, I offer you all one final challenge,” said Giunta. “Be better today than you were yesterday. This job is a life and death profession, and the only way to be the best you can be is by being accountable to everyone around you and knowing you have their backs and they have yours.”
Giunta’s final day on the job will be Feb. 26.