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Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Chief William Halstead Passes Away



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The Newtown Bee has learned of the untimely death of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue (SHVFR) Chief William Halstead. Halstead was also Newtown's Director of Emergency Management, a post he had held since the position was created.

He was also a long-serving Newtown Fire Marshal until his retirement in 2016.

Preliminary reports indicate he passed away late Friday evening, July 8 at his home. A post on the fire company's social media site states: "After responding to a call on the evening of Friday, July 8, the chief returned to his home and became ill. Despite the efforts of SHVFR personnel, Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Newtown Police Department officers, the Newtown paramedic, and the NECC team, Chief Halstead passed shortly after the incident."

Fire company leaders and family members also request: "Please grant us the space and time to grieve." The Newtown Bee will update our reporting as further details become available.

A lifelong resident, Halstead was serving his 45th year as chief of the independent fire company, one of five chartered in Newtown.

A longstanding member of Connecticut State Firefighters Association, Halstead was elected president in 2020. Prior to that he served as the association’s second vice president and then first vice president. He also served several years ago as Fairfield County Fire Chiefs Emergency Plan president and vice president. He was inducted into CSFA's Hall of Fame in 2011.

In addition to serving as chief of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue, he is a member of Connecticut Fire Marshals Association, Connecticut Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Arson Investigators, Fairfield County Chiefs (and past president), Fairfield/New Haven County Fire Marshals Association, and Connecticut Parade Marshals.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal issued the following statement Saturday afternoon: "I am shocked and saddened at the news of Chief Halstead's passing.

"Not only was Bill the center of his family's universe, he was, without question, the foundation of Newtown's emergency services apparatus. In his 44 years as Sandy Hook Chief [57 years as a member] he led the department admirably and with distinction and built an extended family in the process," the first selectman stated.

"Bill always provided me with sound advice and I always slept well knowing Bill was our Emergency Management Director. His gifts to Newtown are immeasurable. I will miss hearing "401 [his call sign] is on," all the time on the scanner, but I will miss his smile and friendship most. My sincere condolences to his wife, Debbie, his family and his Sandy Hook family," Rosenthal concluded.

Halstead retired as fire chief of Fairfield Hills in 1997, where he also served as assistant chief. Halstead told The Bee in a 2019 feature that he joined SHVFR on his 16th birthday.

“I joined the fire company because my whole family was involved in the fire company,” he said. “My aunts, my mother, and my grandmother were in the auxiliary, and my uncles were in the company. Years ago, my father was in the company, and my brother was in the fire company.”

During the mid 1960s, when Halstead joined SHVFR, fire companies were very active in the town’s social scene, he said. Dances, tag sales, even carnivals were all regularly hosted by the town’s different companies.

“There were a lot of family-oriented events,” he said. “You look at all the companies, and they were hosting a lot of different events.”

Halstead has served as chief of SHVFR since 1978. Until his passing Friday, Halstead continued to set the bar for the firefighters in Sandy Hook, regularly appearing at the top of the monthly stats for call responses.

Among the members of the company is his daughter, Karin, who is SHVFR's EMS Captain. Halstead's wife is Debbie Aurelia Halstead, a member of the company's Ladies Auxiliary and Newtown's elected Town Clerk.

He has another daughter, Krista; a son, Bill Jr; and his grandchildren, Ryan and Nathan Halstead, Eliza and Evelyn Earle, and Emma Guilfoil.

Information on services will be forthcoming.


Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee.com.

has learned of the untimely death of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue (SHVFR) Chief William Halstead. Halstead was also Newtown's Director of Emergency Management, a post he had held sine the position was created. —photo courtesy Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company
On the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a Sandy Hook firefighter and eventual Chief, William Halstead is pictured sitting with one of the fire company's pieces of apparatus in this 2015 Bee file photo.
In this undated photo, Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Chief William Halstead is pictured in command at an emergency scene. The long-serving local fire chief, former Newtown Fire Marshal, and Director of Emergency management for the community passed away at home on July 8. —Bee file photo
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