The Fire Safety Officer

For Claudio Mostacci, commuting downtown means a brisk 10-minute walk to his office, adjacent to the “The Big House,” aka Fire Station 1.

Born in Hamilton, Claudio’s Mom soon returned with him to her native Italy. They stayed there until he was 5, and then came back to Hamilton. “So English is my second language as I like to tell people,” Claudio says. Growing up in the Crown Point neighbourhood near Gage Park, he went to Delta Secondary School.

Claudio graduated from the 3-year Architectural Technology program at Mohawk College after attending classes with two of his future colleagues—John Verbeek, who is currently Hamilton Fire Department Assistant Deputy Chief, and Pat Gallager, the now-retired Platoon Chief.

Fresh out of school, Claudio took a job with Stelco in their engineering department’s major projects group that was constructing the coke ovens at that time. Three years later he applied for a job with the fire department.

“John started a year before I did, as an inspector. I started as a firefighter at the Kenilworth station, not too far from where I grew up.”

When an opening came up in Fire Prevention, Claudio spoke with his old classmate John Verbeek about it, ultimately deciding to make the transfer. As a fire inspector, Claudio made sure buildings in the city complied with fire safety legislation, and promoted fire-safe practices in the community through public speaking.

He became a fire safety officer 20 years later, working on the school program. “I would provide an education program for children inside the schools, and then do inspections of the schools to make sure they complied with the Ontario Fire Code,” says Claudio.

“Then I did a 2-year stint for the safe neighbourhoods project, along with an inspector.” This fire prevention and education program targeted high-risk neighbourhoods, and piloted interventions in the lower city. “We could see from statistics where the fires were originating, and we went into those areas to connect with residents and bring fire safety messaging to them.”

Claudio was asked if he would be interested in the public information officer (PIO) role, which he accepted in 2012. As PIO, Claudio is the face of the Hamilton Fire Department, responding to emergency incidents as the official spokesperson. He also writes media releases and Public Service Advisories (PSA), and designs fire safety media campaigns for print, radio and TV.

Claudio Mostacci is Public Information Officer for the Hamilton Fire Department

Festitalia Hamilton recognized Claudio’s fire safety efforts in 2015 with the Italian Heritage Award of Distinction in the Emergency Services category.

Outside of work, Claudio enjoys cycling—70km at a time. “It’s a nice long distance, but it feels great once you get into it and you’re getting into a good rhythm; its amazing how that just kind of releases everything.”

The sports that he was most interested in growing up were football and hockey. “As I’m getting older I don’t play as many sports, the body just won’t put up with the hard stops and starts but I do love skating,” says Claudio.

Claudio has 2 daughters and a son, and he enjoyed coaching them while they were growing up, playing hockey. “My daughter started in the Hawks program, which is the women’s hockey league, when she was five and went up to university, played all the way through,” says Claudio. “It’s really amazing what the women’s hockey is doing now.”

From a professional standpoint, Claudio’s biggest challenge right now is having people understand the importance of smoke alarms.

A new home fire safety education program has firefighters knocking on doors for fire safety visits, testing smoke alarms, and installing the required number of smoke alarms or batteries as needed. Since June, firefighters have visited 12,000 homes, installing 1,400 new smoke alarms, and 300 batteries in existing alarms.

“It’s frustrating when we go to fatal fires and find there were no working smoke alarms. We try to get the message out—it’s your first line of defense,” says Claudio. “Under the Fire Code smoke alarms and CO alarms are required, so while we can issue a ticket or fine, we would rather everyone understand the reason why you need those smoke alarms and how they can save you and your family. It’s all about education.”

The biggest causes of fires in the home are careless smoking, and cooking. In a recent PSA, the Fire Dept. calls Cooking, Smoking and Alcohol – A Dangerous Mix. For the holidays, Claudio also reminds people to water their live Christmas trees, and make sure candles are never left unattended, especially with small children and pets.

“And make sure you have an escape plan, it’s really important that everybody know what to do if there’s ever a fire in your home,” Claudio says. “The tragedies that I’ve gone to, the common message I keep hearing is I can’t believe how quickly it got going, I can’t believe I couldn’t see anything. When I talk to people, those are the things they always say, I didn’t believe it could happen to me.”

“It’s complacency, but we need to take that into consideration and make sure to have those working smoke alarms and an escape plan.”

Claudio Mostacci, Fire Safety Officer – Public Information, will celebrate 35 years of service with the Hamilton Fire Department in January, 2018.

UPDATE: Claudio Mostacci retired as Assistant Chief Fire Prevention Officer in 2020.

Next Episode is The Winter Haven

About the Author

Van Hansen

While Van is not allowed to sing, he is allowed to write songs and stories. Mostly stories. Published in magazines such as Canadian Aviator, Canadian Geographic, Costco Connection, Photography Monthly, and The Walrus, Van now shares with you the Profiles and everyday adventures of the People in Your Neighbourhood™, Community Spotlights, plus News & Reviews in the NEW Hansen House Blog! Van is a Certified Executor Advisor, and a Real Estate Broker with the full-service boutique brokerage Apex Results Realty Inc. in Burlington, ON.

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