As the Fairfield Fire Department's top official, Chief Richard Felner gets a ton of thank-yous throughout the year for the lives the town's firefighters have touched. With 2011 nearing its end, the former Marine, who will mark 53 years with the department in February, wants to share some thanks of his own.

"I'm thankful for good health, good friends, good family, working with a great group of firefighters, working in a great community, for the troops that are fighting to keep our community safe, and I'm thankful the troops are getting out of Iraq," Felner said Wednesday afternoon.

Felner's grandson Aaron Reitz, a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, is currently stationed in Afghanistan. Felner is a former sergeant.

The chief said he's also thankful for "what we have in everyday life" as well as "for others who have jobs and security."

Overseeing a firefighting staff of 97 men and one woman split between five firehouses, Felner's office is on the second floor of Engine Co. 1, better known as the department's Reef Road headquarters.

"I feel that I'm working with the best fire department in the state," Felner said. Asked what makes Fairfield outstanding, he said, "Their caring and compassion for others.

"They put their lives on the line every day to take care of the residents."

Thankful for so much, the chief said he wants "only" one thing although it's no small matter: world peace.

Asked if that's too much to hope for, Felner responded, "One never knows. Think positive and hope for the best."

Felner, the father of four children, one of whom has died, and a six-time grandfather, joined the Fairfield Fire Department on Feb. 2, 1959. He has been chief for 13 years.