Division Chief Terry Tokarz, second from left, and Assistant Chief Mike Carpenter, third from left, were honored by city administration recently for their efforts in helping to set up a COVID-19 vaccination site at Highland Recreation Center. Shown with them are Fire Chief Chad Pittman, left, and Deputy Chief Joe Pennino.

LARGO — The Largo and Clearwater fire departments are two of the best in the country, according to an agency that measures the firefighting capabilities of communities around the U.S.

In fact, the two departments are in the top 1%, each once again earning the top Insurance Services Office rating.

“This is a very proud moment for Largo Fire Rescue,” Chris McDonald, Largo’s division chief of operations, told city commissioners April 6.

ISO recently evaluated the departments to assess their equipment, staffing, operations, training, and fire prevention methods.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Largo and Clearwater Fire each received the Class 1 rating, which is reported to local homeowners insurance companies.

Out of the nearly 40,000 fire departments in the U.S. that are rated by ISO, Largo and Clearwater are two of less than 400 that have a Class 1 rating. 

“The lower the ISO rating is for the fire department, there’s a potential cost-savings of homeowners insurance,” McDonald said.

According to a memo informing Clearwater of its designation, most U.S. insurers use information from ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program as part of their decision-making process when deciding what coverages to offer or prices to charge for personal or commercial property insurance.

Deputy fire chief gets new post

A longtime member of Largo Fire Rescue is taking on a new role as a fire chief in Georgia.

The city of Roswell has selected Joe Pennino to lead its department.

Pennino has been with the Largo Fire Rescue for over 18 years, where he has served in many capacities, from firefighter to interim fire chief. He has served since 2017 as Largo’s deputy fire chief, where he has overseen the department's five operational divisions

“I am excited to join the talented team of professionals at the Roswell Fire Department and to be a part of the City of Roswell's bright future,” said Pennino in a news release.

The Roswell Fire Department has 210 employees, with more than 180 firefighters and seven fire stations.

Pennino will start as Roswell’s new fire chief June 1.

Recognition for vaccine efforts

City Manager Henry Schubert honored two members of Largo Fire Rescue whose leadership helped aid residents in need during the pandemic.

When the first batch of vaccines was expected to arrive in Pinellas County, Largo Fire Rescue collaborated with Pinellas County and other neighboring cities to identify opportunities to protect the most vulnerable residents. 

With only days’ notice, Schubert said, training and logistics were organized and the Highland Recreation Center was selected as a vaccine site, where Division Chief Terry Tokarz and Assistant Chief Mike Carpenter took the lead as on-site coordinators. 

Schubert said they spent 10-12 hours a day to ensure a safe and efficient environment for those who needed vaccines. In total, the site administered nearly 12,000 shots.