Monday, May 07, 2001

Bert Lugannani, long-time fire chief, dies

Firm but fair in his 14 years at the top

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bert Lugannani in 1980.
(File photo)
| ZOOM |
        Former longtime Cincinnati Fire Chief Bert Lugannani, who led the fire division during the riots of 1967 and '68, died of a stroke Sunday at his Sayler Park home. He was 86.

        Chief Lugannani became a firefighter in 1937 when they still rode on World War I-vintage pumpers. He rose to the helm in 1966 and retired in 1980 with 43 ears as a firefighter.

        “All the men loved him,” said his daughter, Glenda Haller of Fort Thomas.

        She and two siblings grew up with tales of their father's adventures on the force and even accompanied him on fire runs.

        “He was a fair person,” Mrs. Haller said, and “he loved the fire department.”

        “Fair” is a good word to describe the former chief, said Lt. Al Piening, 60, a paramedic supervisor who, with 40 years on the force, is the most senior member now in the fire division.

        “If you did something wrong, you would be punished,” Lt. Piening said. “But he wouldn't scream and holler. He would hear your side of the story.”

        Lt. Piening described his former boss as quiet and well-respected with a dry sense of humor.

        He led the fire division during 1960s riots in which firemen had rocks thrown at them during their runs in generally open firetrucks.

        Chief Lugannani was an athletic man. A former steeplejack and professional diver, he advocated that a regular fitness program with emphasis on calisthenics be put in place in every firehouse.

        “A fireman's life is one of continuous danger,” Chief Lugannani said shortly after taking over the top job, noting the need for physical fitness.

        Even late in his tenure, the white-haired chief accompanied his men to all the extra-alarm fires and personally directed firemen battling the blaze.

        “He was the strongest person I've ever met,” said son Steve of Sayler Park.

        The rigors of the job and the physical danger are not what prompted Chief Lugannani's retirement.

        “The physical part of it I think I can handle,” he said shortly before his retirement. “But the mental strain of trying to keep up with everything that's going on and keep informed — you have to respond to City Council, the city administration, union requests and demands — becomes something I just don't want to carry on.”

        Chief Lugannani's first wife, Dorothy, died in 1969.

        In addition to his daughter and son, surviving are his wife, Shirley; and two other daughters, Carolyn Dawn Guarino of Columbus and Joyce Peloquin of Los Angeles.

        Funeral arrangements were incomplete.


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