When Mario Orangio was appointed Watertown’s fire chief in 2004, he was 37 years old and the youngest fire chief in the town’s history.
Soon after he took the post, the Globe ran a feature story about Mr. Orangio and reported how the newly appointed chief sported several tattoos, played the electric guitar, and was the youngest chief in the 34 Greater Boston communities that made up the Mass. MetroFire consortium.
“There’s always that perception of a fire chief; you think of an older guy with a handlebar mustache,” a clean-shaven Mr. Orangio said in the Globe interview. “But I think I’ve gotten the respect by the way I’ve conducted myself, how I’ve prepared myself for the job.”
His effect soon reached well beyond the borders of his hometown, as Mr. Orangio went on to serve as a mentor to many fire chiefs, including the state fire marshal.
Mr. Orangio, the former president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, died from cancer Nov. 7. He was 51. Fire and public safety officials around the state were in mourning.
His death is the second loss suffered by the Watertown Fire Department this year. In March, Watertown firefighter Joseph Toscano died after he collapsed while battling a two-alarm fire inside a home on Merrifield Avenue.
Provisional Fire Chief Bob Quinn said Mr. Orangio had developed pancreatic cancer, which he believes was job-related. “He was diagnosed just about a year ago,” Quinn said. “He clearly got it from his years here as a firefighter.”
Mr. Orangio grew up in Watertown and joined the Watertown Fire Department in 1989. He lived in Maynard with his wife, Sandra (whom he met in junior high), and had three daughters.
Quinn described Mr. Orangio as a devoted firefighter and dedicated family man.
“Mario was a good guy and extremely compassionate leader,” Quinn said. “He loved his family more than anything.”
Mr. Orangio retired as fire chief on Oct. 14, Quinn said.
“He was battling cancer, undergoing chemo, and working when he could,” Quinn said.
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey praised Mr. Orangio for his leadership and for being a great mentor.
“Mario Orangio was a great fire service leader tested by fires, the aftermath of the Marathon bombing which exploded into his town, and the loss of a firefighter,” Ostroskey said in a statement. “His leadership helped to guide the Department of Fire Services as chair of the Fire Training Council, and as mentor to many fire chiefs, including myself. He will be missed, and our deepest sympathies go to the broken hearts of his family, friends, and the members of the Watertown Fire Department.”
Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn was among the many public safety officials who expressed condolences to Mr. Orangio’s family on social media. “On behalf of Boston Fire, our condolences to the family, friends and the @WatertownFD on the passing of Chief Mario Orangio,” Finn wrote. “Chief Orangio was a true leader for the fire service. He always cared for his firefighters and the public. A fighter to the end.”
Watertown Town Manager Michael J. Driscoll watched Mr. Orangio rise through the ranks, and said he had the privilege of appointing him to lieutenant in 1997, to captain in 2000, and to fire chief in February 2004.
“For 13 years in his position of fire chief, Mario provided leadership and served with dedication and professionalism for the Watertown Fire Department, town administration, elected officials, businesses, and our community,” Driscoll said in a statement. “Chief Orangio contributed substantially to the department’s mission and improved the quality of life for all of us who work and live in Watertown.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.