Newton Falls – The Community Center in Newton Falls is a busy place and the first Saturday in April was no exception as dozens of firefighters and EMTs converged on the town’s meeting place.
But unlike most other occasions when hordes of first-responders gather in one location, no lights and sirens were necessary as the purpose was one of celebration and gratitude for all those other times when the reason for the meeting is not joyful and calm.
The members of the Newton Falls Joint Fire District, their families and guests joined together for an appreciation dinner and awards ceremony honoring them for the hard work they do throughout the year. After the meal, which was catered by Don and Missy Placer through Sam’s Pizza, those in attendance were privileged to hear a talk given by Paul Nelson, the historian at the Western Reserve Fire Museum in Cleveland, where Station 43’s antique hand pumper currently resides. Mr. Nelson gave a brief but enlightening synopsis of the history of firefighting, dating all the way back to Roman times (though historically their attempts weren’t very successful) and then up to the 1500s when insurance companies in England organized firefighting brigades. Other notable facts included Ben Franklin’s involvement with firefighting efforts before the United States’ official independence in 1735-1752 and the Union Fire Company out of Philadelphia and the Friendship Fire Company in Alexandria as being some of the first actual firefighting institutions. The most familiar piece of information relayed was probably Mr. Nelson’s mentioning that the first fire suppression activity known is the Bucket Brigade. Centuries ago each home was required to have a leather bucket on hand so that when the shouts of “Fire” rang through the town, the man of the house would rush out and step in the line of water carriers. (Or if he wasn’t home, the woman of the house would toss the bucket out the window into the street and someone running to help would pick it up on his way to join the effort.) This was the main means of firefighting until hand pumpers were brought in from England in the early 1800s and then teams of horses were utilized to quicken the response. Noting that these devices were usually only found in relatively large metropolises like Cleveland and Akron, “From what we can tell,” Mr. Nelson continued, “Station 43’s hand pumper is the earliest non-big city hand pumper in this area.” Concluding his speech, Mr. Nelson dedicated his comments to those who are on alert for the bell 24/7. “The service that you perform is incredible,” he said. “We could not live without it. We’ve come a long way from the Bucket Brigade.”
After the guest speaker’s remarks, the evening returned to the current day in the 21st century and proceeded with an awards ceremony honoring several of the station’s members who are celebrating milestones in service. Fire Chief Rick Bauman and squad member Larry Durkos each marked 40 years with a plaque and Bill Szymanski earned his 30-year pin. Other awards given were Jim Zimomra, 15 years; Ben Kittle, 5 years; and Ryan Shaulis, 2 years. Not in attendance were Don Placer and Dave Rapczak, both with 10 years, and Greg Moser with 5 years of service.
Other staples at this event were a 50/50 raffle, centerpiece doorprize drawings, and a presentation by the ladies of the Firefighters’ Auxiliary who donated a check from the proceeds of fundraisers throughout the year, the most popular of which is the annual Chili Cook-Off, to help the members of Station 43 purchase necessary equipment and other items that will help the firefighters do their jobs. This fall, on the first Saturday in October, the Chili Cook-Off will celebrate its 25th year, so mark your calendars for the next big event in Newton Falls fire department history.
If you’re interested in seeing Station 43’s antique hand pumper for yourself, Mr. Nelson mentioned the museum plans to be open weekends this fall. For more information about the Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center, located in Old Fire Station #28 in downtown Cleveland, visit www.wrfmc.com.