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Joe King ends 28 years as Pittsburgh firefighters' president

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 11:47 p.m.

Joe King called it a career on Thursday night.

Joseph E. King, the fiery, controversial and longtime president of the Pittsburgh firefighters union, has reached the mandatory retirement age of 65.

“I'm done. Today was the last day for me,” King said after swearing in union vice president Ralph Sicuro to replace him as president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 1.

“You look back, and you knew this day was coming,” said King, a 40-year veteran firefighter who became union president 28 years ago.

“For the first time, I can sit back and really enjoy my family, not being responsible for 630 families, 900 veterans and 340 widows,” said King, a Brighton Heights resident.

“I always tried to do the best to protect the firefighters and the people. I did the best I could and think I accomplished that,” said King, who was as well known for battling for the safety, benefits and pensions of union members as he was for delivering union votes for the politicians who supported them.

Sicuro, 42, who was first elected to the union executive board in 2006, is a master firefighter who works out of Engine and Truck Co. 13 in Hazelwood not far from where he grew up. The Lincoln Place resident is a 17-year veteran firefighter, husband, father and grandfather.

“I take this as a huge honor to represent the men and women in the firefighting field,” Sicuro said. “I am really anxious to go to work to protect their rights though things such as collective bargaining, protect their pensions and to protect their health benefits as well as other benefits and working conditions.”

King said he is comfortable with Sicuro leading the union through the changing times and difficult economy, adding the union is “always up to the challenges.”

City emergency dispatchers announced King's retirement shortly after 9:30 p.m. and wished him well, prompting several firefighters to respond over the air with best wishes, good luck, thanks, appreciation and brotherly love.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820.

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