When Craig Yanantuono raised his right hand to be sworn in as chief of the Baldwin Fire Department on April 5, he repeated the words of a man he has been looking up to his whole life: his father, ex-chief and current Fire Commissioner Paul A. Yanantuono.
Craig, who took over as the department’s 93rd chief on Jan. 1, comes from a family of Baldwin firefighters, and is now a third-generation chief. His grandfather, Paul F. Yanantuono, ran the department in 1967, and his father did the same in 1986 — and, 28 years later, this was the second time that an elder Yanantuono swore in his son. “It was a great experience,” Craig said of the ceremony.
“It was emotional,” his father added. “It wasn’t easy to keep it in, but you do what you have to do.”
Craig, 33, graduated from Baldwin High School in 1999. He was a junior firefighter in high school and officially joined the department in January 2000 with Hose Company One.
Although he doesn’t remember much from when his father was chief, aside from the department car parked in the driveway, becoming chief of the department was something he always aspired to. “It’s a cool role that you get to play,” Craig said. “Growing up around the firehouse, you see that role and it’s the coolest thing.”
He became the department’s third deputy assistant chief in 2011 and worked his way up from there. In his first few months as chief, Craig said, he has faced a few tests, but overall it has been a positive experience. “It’s challenging,” he said. “It’s rewarding. It’s fun to have this role.”
Over his 14-plus years in the department, Craig said, he has had a lot of good days, but there have been bad ones as well. His worst, he said, was in 2011, when he received word that a fellow firefighter, Michael Esposito, had suffered a heart attack on the way to a call. Craig rushed to the hospital, only to find out that Esposito had died. “I remember talking to him before he left,” Craig recalled.