Henry A. Galotta, 73, a former chief of the D.C. Fire Department who helped upgrade the department to the top national fire rating before he retired in 1968, died of cancer Sept. 15 at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Galotta was the fire chief during the April riots of 1968. He maintained a nearly round-the-clock schedule to supervise his 1,419- member force, which sometimes fought as many as 40 fires at once.

When Mr. Galotta became chief in 1964, the department had just been downgraded from a Class 1 to a Class 2 fire rating by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. He pledged to strengthen the training of both rookies and veteran firefighters in the department and regain the top rating.

"No trainee is going to see the inside of a firehouse until he has had his basic training," Mr. Galotta vowed when he took office, according to a report in The Washington Post. In 1966, the fire department regained its Class 1 status and ranked second in the nation after Los Angeles.

Mr. Galotta was born in New York City. He grew up in Washington and graduated from the old Business High School. He attended the old Devitt Preparatory School before joining the Fire Department in 1933.

He was voted "Man of the Year" in 1968 by the Lido Club, an organization of Italian-Americans. He also received certificates of merit from the American Legion and the District government. He was a member of the Free State Senior Golf Association and the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Washington.

Survivors include his wife, Mary, of Washington; a daughter, Mary Hedrick of Hyattsville; a son, Henry Jr. of Laurel, and five grandchildren.