Donations and dedication help new rescue truck get on the road

Pictured in front of a brand new rescue truck acquired by the Westfield Fire Department are the group that collaborated in getting the truck funded. Left to right are: Rev. Albert Clody, department chaplain; Bradley Szymczak and Corry Fleck, department members and committee co-chairs; Chris Reese, second assistant fire chief; Chris Chased, department and committee member; Jill Santi, village of Westfield Trustee; David Brown, town of Westfield Councilman and Deputy Supervisor and Fire Department Liaison; Martha Bills, Westfield Town Supervisor; Marsha Holland, first assistant fire chief; and Westfield Mayor Mike VandeVelde. In back, Jack Bills, department and committee member and sales representative for Colden Equipment; William H. Bills, former chief, committee member and Hook and Ladder Lieutenant; Mike Catalano, Village of Westfield Trustee and fire department liaison; and William “Bill” Bills, department and committee member.

WESTFIELD — When the distinct fire whistle sounds, and the overhead doors of the fire hall rise to respond, members of the Westfield Fire Department will be seen driving a new rescue apparatus thanks to a collaborative funding project.

Department members and leaders gathered last month with leaders from the village and town of Westfield for an official dedication of a brand new and technologically-updated rescue truck, which has been part of its official fleet since January.

Former fire chief and current Hook and Ladder Lieutenant William H. Bills explained how the acquisition of the rescue truck got started as he was leaving his term as chief and current Fire Chief Jerry Ruch was entering.

After discussing the need for a new rescue vehicle with both the village and town boards, a joint committee was formed to make an informed decision about what vehicle would best serve the needs of the department.

“After several meetings of the committee took place, we began to solicit dealers who best represented what our concepts and ideas were with the funds we had available. Funding for this vehicle was provided by the department’s capital reserve fund through the village, donations made to the Westfield Rescue Squad Memorial Fund, donations made to the Westfield Fireman’s Exempt Association as well as contributions from an anonymous, private donor.”

Bills went on to explain, “With the village’s permission, we went out to bid and had one bid return from Colden Enterprises out of Buffalo. The cabin is a 2017 Ford F-550, the body is comprised of polypropylene, custom-manufactured by Colden; and the fire pump assembly was also custom-fabricated and delivered by Colden.”

The new truck replaces the former Rescue 291 vehicle, a converted ambulance, but a similar rescue-style apparatus.

“Both have similar equipment, however, the new truck has a portable winch with a 9,000-pound capacity, Hurst extrication tools, mounted power tools for rescue operations, a rope rescue set up, as well as cold water and water rescue equipment. This vehicle will be on call for motor vehicle accidents, gorge, beach and pier emergencies and all other fire calls as a support vehicle. It was designed not only to bring our equipment to current state NFPA standards, but to operate into the future with a 100 percent LED lighting package, USB charging ports inside the cab for GPS, cell, laptop and support equipment use, and compatibility with future equipment purchases. This vehicle will be expected to serve many residents in years to come.”

Department Chaplain Reverend Albert Clody, prior to his dedication of the truck, pointed out, “When we go back and think of firefighting, we think of the original steamers and white horses galloping in response. Compare that to now, when we think of ladders and engines. But what we might not think of is the rescue vehicle, which might be even more important than the pumper or the ladder. This rescue truck saves human lives, in an up-to-date and modern manner. And the people who operate it put their hearts and souls into rescuing and saving human lives. They volunteer freely, and often out of severe risk of harm to themselves.”

As he uttered that thought, a train whistle interrupted, prompting him to continue.

“Think of that train whistle as a reminder. We have two major railroads operating one of the busiest routes in the United States, cutting right through Westfield. We have a busy and dangerous intersection of interstate highway running through here. Think of what can happen, including the derailments and fatalities on the Norfolk/Southern rail line in Ripley. This truck is the partial answer to the things that we can do to save human lives.”

Bills recognized those who were instrumental in getting the truck in service and operational. Those included: Bradley Szymczak and Corry Fleck, Department Members and Chairmen of the Committee; Chris Reese, 2nd Assistant Fire Chief; Chris Chasse, Committee member; Jill Santi, Westfield Village Trustee; David Brown, Westfield Town Councilman, Deputy Town Supervisor and Town/Fire Department Liaison; Martha Bills, Westfield Town Supervisor; Marsha Holland, First Assistant Fire Chief; Jack Bills, Committee and Department Member as well as Sales Representative for Colden Enterprises who helped navigate the details of the truck’s design and delivery; Jon Belcher, Committee and Department Member; John Hannman, Committee and Department Member; Mike VandeVelde, Mayor for the Village of Westfield; William “Bill” Bills, Committee and Department Member; and Mike Catalano, Village Trustee and Village/Fire Department Liaison.

Mayor VandeVelde also proclaimed Feb. 21, 2018 as James Pacanowski, Clifford Brown and John Kolpien Day in the village of Westfield, recognizing the longstanding members with 50 years or more of service to the residents of Westfield through fire department activity. Pacanowski entered fire service for Westfield in April 1964 until his passing in March 2016. Brown has served in the department since 1967 and Kolpien since 1968, all three men holding various local, state and regional titles related to their fire department involvement.

Bills publicly thanked the Westfield village and town board members for their continued “support of our members and our mission as a department. We represent the town and village when the whistle blows, and we respond. That’s something we should all be proud of. And in the largest and smallest of ways, we should live up to the expectations the town and village have for us.”

Bills and Catalano commented later that having government liaisons working with department members has “worked tremendously by keeping lines of communication open and free-flowing,” facilitating projects such as the rescue truck acquisition and others. Bills not only acknowledged the town and village leadership for their assistance with the committee members to make the rescue truck come to fruition, but also acknowledged the donors of the funds, as well as the private donor.

“Many thanks and appreciation go out to the donors for their support of the fire department and recognizing the needs and the budget constraints that the village works within and for assisting us with obtaining a truck designed for the needs we have now, and the needs we will have in the future.”

He explained that the memorial funds are funds that have been donated by people in memoriam of a loved one and which are given at the time of a loved one’s passing. To donate to the department itself, or to one of the funds established for the department, donors may send a check or drop off a donation in person to 23 Elm Street, Westfield, and should indicate if the donation should be used towards the capital equipment fund reserve of a memorial fund.

Town Supervisor Martha Bills and Mayor VandeVelde shared their thanks and appreciation for the department and for the new truck being added to the fleet, and light refreshments were served following the dedication.