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Some of Deep River’s newest volunteer firefighters, Pete DiNello, Stuart Rutan, Steve Fischbach, Adam Kerop, Adam Sutch, and Geoffrey Vincelette, gather for a photo. The department is seeking $34,992.62 to outfit the all-volunteer department’s nine new members with adequate safety gear. (Photo courtesy of the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department )
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The Deep River Volunteer Fire Department has a good problem: Due to the enrollment of nine new volunteers in the last sixth months, Fire Chief Tim Lee now needs the town’s help to outfit the newcomers with the necessary safety equipment.
“This has never happened in the last six years that I have been chief,” said Lee. “Usually we get one maybe two new people a year, and they usually replace one or two members that we lose, so to have this many new people is great.”
Relaying this news to the Board of Selectman and the Board of Finance, Lee explained that now the department is in need of nine new member safety equipment suits, which collectively come with a price tag of $34,992.62.
“There is no getting around it. We need this equipment to get these people up and working with us,” said Lee.
The equipment includes face shields, helmets, Nomex hoods, fire safety coats, pants, firefighting gloves, leather boots, safety harnesses, and refurbished voice pagers for each new member. Broken down, that is a cost of $3,888 per person.
The Board of Selectman unanimously agreed to pass the request for funds for the new gear to the Board of Finance, which approved sending the measure to a town meeting, which is required for unbudgeted purchases of more than $10,000.
The new firefighters need the new equipment before they can start their training classes. If the request for funds is granted, it will take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks before the equipment arrives at that the station and is ready for use.
“We would like to get this done as soon as possible,” said Lee. “These men and women put themselves on the line all the time for the safety of the townspeople and they don’t get paid for it; we are just asking that they have the proper safety equipment so they can do their job safely and quickly when there is an emergency and they are needed.”
“I am thrilled to have nine new members of the fire department,” said First Selectman Angus McDonald. “I am extremely happy for the department and as a result, happy for the town. The longer I am in the position of first selectman, the more I appreciate all that these volunteers do for the town. They are not just firemen, they are at every town emergency we have and they do a great job.”
During 2018 the men and women of the Deep River Fire Department logged in more than 1,800 volunteer hours in town.
“We all have jobs and families, but we are here to help out whenever we are called upon,” said department public relations representative Marilyn Malcarne.
Currently there are a total of 58 people are on the Fire Department roster, which includes seven juniors.
“Five of the new members are already trained, which is a real asset to the department,” said Lee.
New fire department volunteer Adam Sutch, who moved his family to Deep River four years ago, joined the department in June. He said it was something he had always wanted to do, but wanted to be settled first before he committed.
“This is a reliable, respected department. I have family in other fire departments, so I always knew I would join at some point, not only to give back to the town, but also to learn valuable life saving skills and to set a good example for my kids as well as my friends,” Sutch said.
Jeff Vincelette, who is also a member of the Chester Volunteer Fire Department, decided to join the Deep River Department as well, because he wants to give back, he has the training, and he knows firsthand how hard it is to get volunteers. In addition, because he works for the Deep River Public Works Department, he is in the area during the day when other firefighters may be out of town working at other jobs.
“This is a great department and I proud to be a part of it,” said Vincelette. “I think sometimes people think that fire fighters only respond to fires, but we also work closely with the EMTs [emergency medical technicians] and respond to medical emergencies and car accidents, all kinds of things, so we are very needed in the community.”
Lee, who like the rest of the department is a volunteer, is also a business owner, husband, and father, and recently he was beginning to feel the burden of all the extra time his position at the department requires.
“I really wasn’t sure if I had it in me to do it much longer,” admitted Lee, “But then we had all these new members sign up and it really gave me the boast I needed. I am very excited.”
At press time, the date for the town meeting to approve the purchase of gear for new volunteers had not yet been scheduled.
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