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Firefighters association celebrates 75 years

FERRISBURGH — Pack a great big hall with nearly 200 firefighters, give them an hour at the cash bar, feed them and seat them on either side of a long, wide aisle, and chances are that anyone who has to walk down that aisle to collect an award is going to get catcalled, sometimes in ways that can’t be reprinted in newspapers.
At the Eagles Club just outside Vergennes this past Wednesday night the proceedings of the 75th annual meeting of the Addison County Firefighters Association (ACFA) were, as you’d expect, interrupted early and often by cavernous laughter. Those moments were surpassed in frequency and intensity, however, by heartfelt applause, including several standing ovations.
“Congratulations not only on your 75th anniversary, but a room full of volunteer firefighters who work together in a spirit that represents what’s best in the state of Vermont,” said Vermont Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Christopher Herrick in his opening remarks. “Look around this room,” he added, surveying the sea of uniforms. “Seriously — you go to the state convention and you don’t get this many people.”
The evening’s roll call recorded 188 members with representatives from all 17 of the county’s fire departments.
Three of their brothers were there only in memory.
The Ringing of the Bell memorialized Jeffrey Yandow and Richard Yandow of the Ferrisburgh Fire Department, and Arthur Sherman of the New Haven Fire Department, who had died in the past year.
“Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and to place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizen,” said Addison firefighter and outgoing ACFA president Randy Stearns, recalling a tradition developed over 200 years. “And when the fire was out and the alarm had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled to all the completion of that call.”
Signaling the end of their duties, three rings of the bell Wednesday night called Jeffrey, Richard and Sherman home for the last time.
Looking toward the future, the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club presented the ACFA with a $500 donation to its scholarship fund.
AWARD WINNERS
•  Firefighter of the Year: Brian Wendel (Bristol).
•  Senior Firefighter of the Year: John Dugan (Vergennes).
•  Chief Robert Jenkins Line Officer of the Year: Matt Crowley (Vergennes).
•  Francis Shorkey Fire Chief of the Year: Matt Estey (Starksboro).
•  Friend of ACFA Award: Reg Dearborn (Bristol).
•  Lifetime membership: Karen Dearborn (Bristol).
•  Lifetime membership: Randy Stearns (Addison).
The 2019 Addison County Regional Fire School will be dedicated to Lincoln chief Robert Patterson.
The ACFA added a new award this year, “named after one of our hardest working, most dedicated members in our county. Over the years he has been a top-notch instructor and has earned the respect of everyone in the room and instilled the love and respect of the fire service in so many.”
The Tom Estey Training Officer of the Year Award was named for the former longtime chief of the Starksboro Fire Department. The award this year went to Donald Mason of Middlebury.
“We live in a world where we’re driven by data, we’re driven by metrics, we’re driven by statistics in so many ways,” said Bristol firefighter and ACFA chaplain Bill Elwell of Bristol. “And the reason for that is that it helps to tell the story: who we are and what we do.”
Elwell announced that Addison County firefighters logged more than 11,000 training hours in 2018 and that the Weybridge Fire Department had completed more training than any other department.
For its commitment to making the ACFA quarterly meetings, the Addison Fire Department won the Attendance Award.
The sliding of chairs and the rustle of uniforms made the evening’s last great collective sound as the assembled stood to observe the Retirement of the Colors.
The rest was silence.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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