WESTPORT, Conn. — Chief Andrew Kingsbury, who saved the Saugatuck Congregational Church during his tenure of leading the Westport Fire Department, will retire effective March 1, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe announced Wednesday.
“It is with regret that I accept Chief Kingsbury’s retirement letter. The town of Westport and its residents have been very fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Andy’s expertise and dedication throughout the years," Marpe said in a statement.
Kingsbury will be replaced by Assistant Fire Chief Robert Yost.
“I am proud of the accomplishment we have been able to achieve as a department," Kingsbury said. "Whether safely navigating the storms during 2011-13, or saving the Saugatuck Congregational Church from that devastating fire, I was fortunate to command such a dedicated and talented group of firefighters and fire officers. I know that the department will be in good hands under Robert Yost.”
Marpe praised Kingsbury's leadership.
"As fire chief, Andy has assured that our firefighters are appropriately recruited, trained and equipped to serve in their roles of preventing and fighting fires and providing rescue services in 21st-century Westport," Marpe said. "His actions in commanding over 100 firefighters in the November 2011 Saugatuck Church fire prevented far greater damage from occurring and kept the firefighters from significant injury."
Kingsbury joined the fire service in 1980 in his hometown of Trumbull. He was appointed to the Westport Fire Department in 1986 and promoted to lieutenant in 2003. In 2007, he was promoted to assistant chief. In 2011, he was appointed Chief of Department and Westport’s Emergency Management Director.
During his tenure as chief, he guided Westport through five Presidentially Declared Disasters, including Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and as Emergency Management Director assisted residents and business owners with the rebuilding process.
"As the Emergency Services Director, Andy has been on the front lines in protecting all our residents," Marpe said. "On Andy’s watch, Westport has weathered some particularly devastating storms and tense situations with superb preparation and minimal impact because he has been supremely focused and proficient."
Marpe also announced Yost's promotion to chief and emergency services director upon Kingsbury’s retirement.
"Rob Yost has the proven ability and expertise to seamlessly and effectively take over the role as chief. Like Chief Kingsbury, Rob has a breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding that will ensure that the current high standards of safety and efficiency will be maintained in the Westport Fire Department,” Marpe said.
Yost started his career in the fire service in 1986 as a part-time firefighter for the Mansfield Volunteer Fire Co. while attending the University of Connecticut. After briefly working for Xerox Corp., he took a full-time position in Mansfield. He was sworn in as a Westport Firefighter in 1988.
After becoming the department’s first Emergency Medical Service Instructor, he became a paramedic in 1995. In 2006, Yost was promoted to lieutenant. He was the Fire Department leader of the joint Fire and Police Dive Rescue Team.
In 2009, he was promoted to assistant chief, and in 2011, was promoted to assistant chief training officer.
He is a member of the National Ski Patrol, the Connecticut Interstate Wildfire Crew, and the Connecticut West Incident Management Team. His other interests include skiing, bicycle riding, scuba diving, windsurfing and kiteboarding. He lives in Milford with his wife, Tina.
Also, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Kepchar submitted his retirement request several weeks ago, effective as of May 31, Marpe said.
Kepchar, a 38-year veteran of the Westport Fire Department, will focus on supporting Yost in the transition to his new responsibilities. Kepchar will then remain with the Fire Department in an advisory capacity until September to ensure a smooth transition within the department.
“Bob Kepchar is the embodiment of the leadership, spirit and experience of our Westport firefighters. His ability to anticipate problems and opportunities, and to act on that anticipation, has made a real difference in the quality of the Westport Fire Department," Marpe said. "Moreover, Bob’s calm demeanor and genuine sense of humor made an important difference to all his responsibilities, whether in emergency preparation and response or administrative support. We will miss Bob’s knowledge and steady hand and appreciate his willingness to assist in the upcoming leadership transition.”