Looking back on 62 years of service, former Malverne Fire Chief Amedeo dePoto, fondly known as “Moose” by neighbors and fellow firefighters at the Malverne Volunteer Fire Department, credited his outlook on respect for helping him succeed as a firefighter.
“How do you gain respect?” said dePoto, who was honored at the village’s Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 6 for his continued service at age 90. “By having respect for yourself.”
Over the course of nearly five decades, dePoto has striven to protect the village’s residents and property, becoming an emblem for Malverne while working with legislators, including former Gov. George Pataki and State Sen. Dean Skelos, to advance the needs of firefighters across the state.
At the start of his career — when firefighters received no formal training or advanced equipment to battle fires, which were less dangerous in those days, before the advent of many highly flammable chemicals and materials — dePoto joined the Valley Stream Fire Department in 1952, before working in Uniondale and Carle Place, and then moving to Malverne 47 years ago.
Of all the fires he has fought over the years, dePoto said he most vividly remembers the blaze that broke out at Our Lady of Lourdes church in 1976, which required eight other fire departments to extinguish after the fire quickly spread from the altar to the organ section in the rear.
“You go into a burning building, these guys are going to be your buddies — they’ve gotta get you out and you’ve gotta get them out,” dePoto said. “It’s something that nobody can experience unless you belong — it’s a brotherhood.”
He slowly worked his way up through the department’s ranks, serving as lieutenant, captain and assistant chief for 12 years — and leading the department’s Chipmunks drill team to victory at the 1981 4th Battalion tournament — before becoming chief in 1982.
DePoto said he acted as a strict but fair chief of the 65-man department, and eventually received a shield engraved with “Moose” for his white chief’s hat.
“Whether you’re a good chief or a bad chief, you’re still a chief,” he said. “You still try to do the best you can — you can’t fault a guy for that.”