There has been a lot of drama in recent weeks centered around the Westfield Fire Department and the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners. Residents can hear about it in grocery checkout lines and on street corners in the Village.
But regardless of the political and local power struggles that can exist within any organization, the real work of our volunteer firefighters continues. Firefighters train, they work on equipment, they roll out of bed at all hours and in any weather to fight a fire or help at an accident scene and they just might be called upon to save you, your home or a cherished family member one day.
In Westfield, the work of the Fire Department can last for generations. In the ranks of the Westfield Fire Department there are 11 members with more than 35 years of service as firefighters. At the recent graduation from the Firefighter 1 certification course, the national training course for firefighters, four Westfield Fire Department members received certificates showing that they are now fully trained as firefighters.
Photo by Connie O’Connor
Newly certified Firefighters Jeremy Ruch, Colin Cleland, Chris Chasse and Matt Gross pose for a picture after being inducted into the Westfield Fire Department. The Department is currently mired in controversy and these inductions serve as the only good news to come from the Department recently.
This membership is often a family tradition in Westfield. Seen in the accompanying photo are Jeremy Ruch, whose diploma was handed to him by his father, Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Ruch. Colin Cleland and Matt Gross received their diplomas from Acting Chief William Bills, whose uncle of the same name also serves in the Department, and Chris Chasse was given his diploma by his grandfather Ed Kneer, who still serves as a member of the Department after 45 years. Kneer also presented his grandson with his treasured fireman's ring, something that only a few of the older generation of firefighters still wear.
Regardless of the politics of the moment, every generation of firefighters deserves something simple from all of us: a word of thanks.