'It's a dangerous job': York City swears in new fire chief

Brandon Addeo
York Dispatch
York City Fire Chief William Sleeger Jr. (left) speaks at a swearing-in ceremony Monday, July 19, 2021, as York City Mayor Michael Helfrich (right) listens.

A longtime York City firefighter was sworn in to lead his department Monday afternoon. 

William Sleeger Jr., a 29-year veteran of the York City Fire Department, took the oath of office at a ceremony at York City Hall. 

City Mayor Michael Helfrich said the city's fire department is great at training firefighters for leadership, and he felt Sleeger — who's been serving as acting chief since former Chief Chad Deardorff's retirement in March — was "prepared to take over the reins" of the department. 

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"Thank you to the mayor for giving me this opportunity, and obviously all my predecessors that came before me," Sleeger said. 

Sleeger, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he appreciated the support of his family, who watched from the audience gathered in York City Hall's council chambers. 

"My wife and girls have really been supportive of it," Sleeger said. "It’s a dangerous job, a tough job."

Helfrich highlighted some of Sleeger's career accomplishments with the city's fire department:

  • In 2004, while he was treating a victim in a motor vehicle accident, the vehicle's driver reached for a handgun; Sleeger was able to secure the handgun and assisted police with handcuffing the suspect.
  • In 2015, Sleeger worked at a "chaotic and dangerous scene," treating two victims with gunshot wounds after a large fight broke out in front of the fire department's Station 2. He received an award for his efforts. 
  • In 2018, Sleeger received a commendation for his role in helping rescue firefighters trapped in the collapse of the Weaver Organ & Piano factory building.
Deputy Chief Adam Smith (left) signs a document while Mayor Michael Helfrich (center) and Chief William Sleeger Jr. (right) watch on Monday, July 19, 2021.

Deputy chief sworn in: Another York City firefighter also took an oath of office. Adam Smith, who's been with the department for 11 years, was sworn in as the department's new deputy chief.  

"I’m confident he’ll fill his position … with enthusiasm and dedication," Sleeger said. 

In his time with the fire department, Smith received an award for rescuing a woman trapped on the second story of a West Philadelphia Street building during a 2017 fire. Smith also received a commendation for his actions during the rescue of firefighters at the Weaver Organ & Piano building collapse. 

Former chief honored: Sleeger's immediate predecessor also received recognition from a local legislator. 

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, honored Deardorff with a state House of Representatives citation. 

"Throughout his tenure, Chief Deardorff has made himself available at all hours of the day and night, often at great personal risk, to protect the lives and property of those in his community," Hill-Evans said. "He is a sterling example of the most cherished traditions of duty, sacrifice and citizenship that deserves our most heartfelt gratitude."

Added Deardorff: "I appreciate everybody’s support over my career and look forward to seeing how Chief Sleeger and Chief Smith move the department forward."