I’m taking this opportunity to pen a few lines of appreciation to all the members of the Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department for their constant dedication and devotion to all of us Lakewood residents, but especially after the recent general alarm activation.
I recently joined the fire police (at fire scenes, we ensure safety of fire personnel and fire apparatus by maintaining roadblocks and redirecting vehicular and pedestrian access away from fire scenes), and as such, I’m an “insider” member of the fire department, yet I’m also not actually a firefighter, and therefore, I’m really writing this letter as a regular resident of Lakewood, representing no-one else but myself.
This past Thursday evening, we were dispatched to a general alarm in Westgate and I was on scene as fire police.
Dozens of volunteer firefighters from multiple fire companies responded to a heavy smoke condition in some sort of townhouse style complex. It took almost an hour a half until we received the “all clear.”
Numerous passers-by asked me what was going on, and I answered 100% truthful (“I don’t know, I didn’t start the fire”) and basically, the situation was very manageable. At some point though as the fire dwindled, some children remarked to me, “the firefighters look bored, why are they all still here?”
This is the point of my letter here. The Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department is just – a 100% volunteer department made up of dedicated men and women, both young and old, who either live or work in town, or live in a neighbouring municipality. I had a family waiting for me to come home that night, as did all the other members on scene. No one gets paid “to watch the show”, everyone is there because they’re a necessary part of the firefighting, whether we understand all the dynamics of firefighting or not.
I want to hitch a ride here and tell you something that happened during the blizzard Lakewood experienced a number of weeks ago. Personally, I stayed home for most of the time. I didn’t even venture out to shovel out my car until after all the snow stopped falling. However, many of our volunteer firefighters actually camped in inside their fire houses for the better part of 30 hours, before and during the blizzard! The firehouses don’t have any beds, only a few small couches, and that’s where the firefighters slept while staying ready to jump out at a moment’s notice. In total, the firefighters responded to approximately 30 calls during the blizzard. Some calls can take just a few minutes to clear up while others could have taken closer to an hour of their time.
These are our Lakewood Volunteer Firefighters!
Chief Mike D’elia Jr and his 2 assistant chief officers run the department from the very top. Chief D’elia attended the OEM special meeting ahead of the blizzard and following that, he mobilized all the station captains to arrange and set up groups of firefighters to cover the fire houses during the blizzard.
I can personally attest from personal experience, and I heard the same from many firefighters as well that the chief officers are practically always readily available to all the members of the department to help smooth things out in any way they can help. They are true department chiefs! Similarly, the station captains stand at the helm of their respective companies and are truly a breath of fresh air to watch at fire scenes (from a safe distance!) the way they manage and control their firefighters, while at the same time, knowing their place and deferring appropriately to the chief officers.
As a new member of the fire police, I was properly outfitted, immediately, with safety gear for maintaining my post on fire scenes. That did not happen on its own. Our fire chiefs worked hand in hand with the Board of Fire Commissioners, and specifically, our district staff Mr. Vinnie Vitiello and Yehuda Beer to make sure we were all properly looked after. Vinnie and Yehuda truly are the battery and oil, respectively, of the entire department. We know we have what it takes to do our jobs because of the support we receive from the Lakewood Fire District.
In closing I just want to note that the firefighters really don’t make too much noise in town (besides for when using their sirens to get to fire scenes), they really don’t ask for much at all, in fact at least one firefighter brought his own snow plow in case of need to plow the firehouse during the blizzard! All I am asking for – and I’m fully speaking for only myself here – is for you to consider voting in support of the fire budget this upcoming election next month so you can show our firefighters that you recognize and appreciate their efforts year-round.
Thank you very much.