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According to Celoron’s Fire Chief, Tim Nelson, a 40 year veteran of the department himself, the Celoron volunteer fire department was incorporated in 1897, making next year the departments 120th anniversary of dedicated service to Celoron and the surrounding communities.
The department serves an area of roughly 6 mi.² which, though seemingly small, produced 675 emergency calls last year alone, approximately 90% of which were for medical emergencies. Year to date for 2016 has already tallied nearly 340 calls with as many as five in a single day during the busy season for emergencies which happens to be summertime.
Celoron’s service area allows for an unusually quick response by volunteers and quick travel times to their destination. Local volunteer fire departments cooperate on large emergencies requiring much greater travel time, for example a recent barn fire in Wattsburg required many fire companies to respond, including Celoron.
“Local employers have been very helpful,” Chief Nelson said, “by letting our people step away from their work in many cases to respond to serious emergencies. We have 24 members, four of whom are women, and for any emergency call we can expect at least three or four able to respond, and sometimes as many as 10 or 12 at one time.”
“Our first Assistant Chief, Terry Schrecengost, is a highway supervisor so he is almost always right in town, so he is nearly always in line for a fast response.
The Celoron Volunteer Fire Department commands seven emergency vehicles including the capacity for ice and water rescue, a fully equipped ambulance and state-of-the-art fire response trucks.
The department is wholly owned by the volunteers and serves the community through a paid contract for services.
“I’ve had lots of people say they would love to join this department and serve their community, but they just do not have the time,” Chief Nelson said. “Today, for most families, it takes two full time income earners to raise a family, so time to volunteer for the local fire service is very hard to find.” In addition to the time needed to respond to emergencies, Celoron’s volunteers – as is the case in all volunteer fire departments – are required to complete long courses of detailed training in CPR and use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and other fire related practices.
“In the first month that we had our AED units, we used them six times,” first Assistant chief Schrecengost said. “They are worth the cost and the training.”
Although most emergency calls follow similar patterns, occasional calls require special care and skills. Last summer, for instance, there was a helicopter crash in Chautauqua Lake and some years ago a propane railroad car exploded and sent what some observers called an “atomic bomb mushroom cloud” over the city.
The Celoron department has now incorporated the newly required emergency radio system that was inspired nationwide by the 9/11 tragedy in New York City. The system allows all emergency workers to communicate seamlessly with each other anywhere in the county without confusing crosstalk.
Asked why he and so many others are willing to commit so much time and energy to a potentially hazardous volunteer job, Chief Nelson quickly answered, and was echoed by his two assistant chiefs, “Just to help our community. There is no other reason.”
Adding to the Celoron volunteer fire department strengths is their Auxiliary, a major fundraising arm of the department, which organizes weekly Bingo and other events to allow the community to become involved in the department’s life-saving work.