The Buffalo Fire Department is bidding farewell to its longtime chaplain, Father Joe Bayne, who served in the role for over 13 years.
Father Bayne, who also worked with the Erie County Department of Emergency Services, is relocating to Chicopee, Massachusetts to run St. Stanislaus Basilica, the Franciscan Order's largest parish.
During his tenure, "Father Joe" has been at the scene of countless fires and other emergencies across Erie County. In that time, he said he grew close to the men and women of the department.
"In the middle of the night at a fire, they get to trust you. They call you about their family issues, their kid issues, sometimes their own personal struggles. You build up a trust, a rapport. You can't put a price on that," Bayne said at a press conference Monday at Buffalo Fire headquarters.
Fire Commissioner William Renaldo says he has heard many times that if Father Joe wasn't a priest, he would be a firefighter.
"His passion, dedication, and professionalism are legendary and are second only to his care and compassion displayed during our darkest hours as he administered to our own sick, injured and fallen comrades on an all-too-frequent basis," Renaldo said Monday.
"I've taken the role seriously, having buried my own dad on the job," Bayne said. "I've been in the firehouse since I was in the womb."
Bayne said leaving Buffalo after nearly 30 years will be difficult.
"My stomach is in an uproar but, as a Franciscan, we get sent. So the boss called [and] I said okay. But when you get to love people and love a city, it's tough," Bayne said.
Along with working with local firefighters, Father Baynes has led the Franciscan Center, a shelter for troubled teens on Seneca Street, since 1989. It closed three months ago.