Rutland fire chief recovering from heart attack
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | February 23,2013
Cassandra Hotaling / Rutland Herald
Chief Robert Schlachter, of the Rutland Fire Department, poses for a photograph at Rutland City Hall on Wednesday.
A heart attack earlier this week hospitalized Rutland Fire Chief Robert Schlachter, who might not return to duty for two months, according to Mayor Christopher Louras.
“It was a mild heart attack,” Louras said. “The chief is back in Rutland and back home awaiting further medical procedures.”
Schlachter returned home Friday, three days after he began feeling pain Tuesday morning at a fire scene on Elm Street, the mayor said.
The chief drove himself to Rutland Regional Medical Center where he was evaluated and taken by ambulance to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
Despite his condition, Schlachter continued trying to work from his hospital bed, Louras said, phoning firefighters who later Tuesday were called on to evacuate 89 residents from a nursing home on Nichols Street.
“We had to tell him to turn off his pager and telephone and deal with his health issues,” the mayor said.
Louras said he was unsure what kind of physical activity the chief was engaged in when the heart attack occurred. He said he couldn’t discuss any of the medical options on the table for the chief’s recovery, but said estimates for Schlachter’s absence ranged from 30 to 60 days depending on the course he and his doctors pursued.
In his absence, Schlachter promoted Deputy Chief Bradley LaFaso to acting chief. While not the most senior of the three deputy chiefs at the department, LaFaso is the designated operator — a title that has traditionally brought with it the role of acting chief under Schlachter’s term as chief, the mayor said.
Louras said he would determine Monday who to assign as the city’s emergency management director in Schlachter’s absence.
Schlachter, 58, has served as the city’s fire chief since November 2001 when he was appointed by former Mayor John Cassarino.
He signed his most recent five-year contract with the city in 2011 and Louras said he has every expectation that Schlachter will return to the post once he’s recovered.
“He said he wants to return when he’s able to,” the mayor said.
Alderman Sean Sargeant, chairman of the board’s public safety committee, said he was looking forward to the chief’s return. But he said he believed the department and its 27 other full-time members would adapt to his absence.
“I have nothing but absolute confidence in the city fire department’s ability to handle incidents between now and when the chief comes back.”