Helena Magazine

City Hall Faces – Peter Valenti

Published 9:35 am Monday, January 16, 2023

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Peter Valenti – Fire Chief at Helena Fire Department

Peter Valenti, the Helena Fire Department Fire Chief, said wanting to be a firefighter came from being a kid and also playing a role in helping firefighters one day in New Jersey.

While in New Jersey as a child, Peter said there was a gate where he used to hang out that required a code in order to be opened. As he hung out in the area often, he overheard the code from those that had access to it, committing it to memory. Then, one day when a brush fire was happening in the area, the responding firefighters were inhibited from getting to the fire due to the gate, so, Peter went over and told them the code. This interaction sparked its own flame in young Peter, inadvertently causing him to eventually pursue his own career in the profession.

Nailing down his favorite part of his job isn’t easy for Peter, someone who has spent years saving lives.

“All of it,” he said. “But, back when I would visit schools, working with the kids.”

Just as many people have special core memories of a Fire Chief teaching them to stop, drop and roll in their elementary school days, Peter has fond memories of working with kids when he would visit and conduct demonstrations. Relative to those instances, meeting people through his various different roles has also been one of his favorite aspects of the job.

Peter has been a part of the Helena Fire Department for more than three decades. When it comes to being a firefighter, Peter has done it all. From volunteering to taking on the role full time to being named Fire Chief of the HFD in 2006.

“When I started EMS as a paramedic, anything we did, we had to call a doctor,” Peter said. “If we wanted to start an IV on somebody, or even to give a patient oxygen, we had to call a doctor. Today we have protocols, and we do everything, including giving medications without calling a doctor. We call them later.”

Additionally, Peter has seen the profound change in machinery and technology over the years stating that when he began as a firefighter the fire engines didn’t have all the fancy buttons they do these days.

It’s not just protocols and machinery that have changed. Peter has also been witness to the growth of Helena. Peter reflected on the fact that despite having so many amazing places to eat these days, Helena didn’t always have as many options.

“When I first started here in Helena, one of our favorite places to eat was the school lunchroom,” Peter said laughing. “It served lunch, and they would either give us a discount or give it to us for free. But you know, that’s not why we ate there, it’s because all these places in town didn’t exist and this lovely lady cooked a mean lunch.”