Village of Pelham Fire Captain Robert Benkwitt III promoted to chief as James DiNapoli retires


Captain Robert Benkwitt III (left) was promoted Tuesday to chief of the Pelham Fire Department, replacing retiring Chief James DiNapoli.

Captain Robert Benkwitt III was promoted Tuesday to chief of the Pelham Fire Department by the Village of Pelham Board of Trustees, which also honored retiring Chief James DiNapoli.

Mayor Chance Mullen delivered a proclamation at the Pelham fire station naming May 25 as Chief James DiNapoli Day in the village, while the rest of the board attended the meeting over Zoom.

“As I get ready to move on, I’m excited for my future,” said DiNapoli. “In the 22 years I’ve been here, we’ve come a long way. My goal was to leave this place better than I found it. I think I’ve moved us in that direction.” 

Benkwitt has 21 years of service with the Pelham department. He was promoted from to lieutenant to captain on Feb. 25 with the creation of that rank  and has been second in command since the promotion. He grew up in Pelham and graduated from Pelham Memorial High School.

DiNapoli is retiring after a total of 33 years of service as a firefighter. He worked the last five years as the Pelham department’s first full-time chief.

DiNapoli joined the Pelham Fire Department as a firefighter/EMT in 1999 after serving in the Mount Vernon department for 11 years, and was promoted to lieutenant in December 2006, the first time the department rostered paid officers. In March 2016, he became Pelham’s acting chief and was officially sworn in as the department’s first paid fire chief in September of that year.

“During his tenure, Chief DiNapoli helped the department improve immensely,” said the mayor’s proclamation. “Included in these efforts are grant awards for a new rescue vehicle and hiring of two firefighters through a prestigious SAFER Grant. Chief DiNapoli was also instrumental in establishing the first paid fire captain position which allows for seamless succession of management in the department.”

The next village board meeting is scheduled for June 8.