ITHACA, N.Y.—After a decade at the helm of the Ithaca Fire Department, Chief Tom Parsons has announced his retirement.

Before he worked as chief, the city’s release states that Parsons worked at the Ithaca Fire Department and in the greater Ithaca community for nearly 40 years.

“His leadership guided the Fire Department through numerous opportunities and challenges that come with being home to Cornell University and Ithaca College; tourist attractions which include special events, gorges, and other natural features; increased populations; and substantial development in both the City and Town of Ithaca,” read the city’s announcement. “Chief Parsons’ primary focus has always been on fire prevention and public safety, and our community is a safer place as a result.”

Parsons departs at a time of measured evolution in the fire department that he helped jumpstart, as it aims to convert to an electric fleet of firetrucks by the mid-2030s and generally improve its sustainability, such as with the construction of a new fire station in Collegetown.

Chief Tom Parsons in 2014. File photo courtesy of the fire department

Acting Mayor Laura Lewis also expressed her gratitude for Parsons years of service to the community.

 “It has been a privilege and pleasure to serve the City of Ithaca in the capacity of Fire Chief for the last 10 years,” Parsons said in a statement. “I have been honored since 1985 to work with dedicated, highly skilled, and motivated firefighters and officers within the Ithaca Fire Department. Working within the Fire Department has been tremendously rewarding and I would like to thank the leadership of both the City of Ithaca and the Town of Ithaca but most importantly the community that I have served, who have supported the mission and values of the Ithaca Fire Department.”

Parsons was dedicated to fire safety even off the clock—including once helpfully advising this reporter, via social media, not to set an apartment ablaze when dealing with a small wasp problem.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at