He may have retired years ago, but the legacy of one local fire chief will now live on forever.

In a meaningful ceremony, one fire station underwent a permanent change to honor a beloved member of their team.

Served for More Than 40 Years

Central Fire Station, located on Bleeker Street in Utica, will now be called the Chief Russell E. Brooks II Central Fire Station, after retired Fire Chief Russell "Russ" Brooks.

The name was made official Wednesday, December 13, in a meaningful ceremony attended by over 100 firefighters, local leaders, and supporters of Brooks.

Brooks commanded Utica's firefighters between 2004 and 2018. During his tenure, he's credited for starting the city’s ambulance service as well as the Utica Fire Academy. 

Despite retiring more than five years ago, that didn't stop him from continuing to make a positive impact on his community.

Brooks continued stepping up to help with community outreach efforts, such as standing in front of the station to hand out Thanksgiving feasts to local residents.


Jeff Monaksi, WIBX
Jeff Monaksi, WIBX

Brooks is also a generational firefighter. His father was a firefighter in Utica, as his is son.

Those close to the retired chief know he's been battling cancer for years, of which his doctors say was caused by helping his fellow first responders at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terror attacks.

Read More: Utica Fire Chief Reveals Cancer Battle Tied to 9/11 Toxic Dust

Brooks is one of many firefighters, police officers, and other first responders battling cancer attributed to being exposed to the building dust, smoke and jet fuel at the scene.

Research has found the toxic material contained carcinogens.

Following Brook's diagnosis, the community rallied behind him to show their support.

Jim Zecca
Jim Zecca

In the latest move to honor his legacy, the name of the Central Fire Department was officially changed last month, but Brooks was unable to make the celebration due to a conflicting doctor's appointment he couldn't miss.

However, he was able to make the official unveiling ceremony of the building's new lettering on December 13.

Mayor Palmieri Praises Chief Brooks

During the unveiling ceremony, political leaders like Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri were on hand to congratulate the retired chief. Mayor Palmieri celebrated Brooks' legacy in a poignant speech:

We all know Russ. Russ was loyal. Russ loved his community. But more importantly, Russ loved the fire department. I think the beautiful thing about it is not the name, it’s a legacy of who you are.

Also in attendance was State Senator Joe Griffo, who praised Brooks for inspiring "so many people" during his career. One of those people inspired by the chief was current Utica Firefighter Thomas Carcone, who heads the Utica Firefighters Associations Local 32.

Carcone became overwhelmed with emotion and was seen wiping away tears at the ceremony. He said:

No matter what the problems were, his door was always open. And that made him the perfect leader for imperfect men.

Brooks was moved by the high praise and honor. He, along with his wife and children, were in attendance.

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