MACEDON — With 25 members and two fully-equipped fire trucks, South Macedon Fire Chief JJ Phillips said the department is ready to fulfill its contractual obligation with the town for fire protection in the south district, which begins Jan. 1.
“We’re here, we’re ready,” the fire chief said. “We’re the same people who have been doing this for a long time.”
Indeed, about half of the members of the new department either came directly from the village department or served there at one time. Phillips and First Assistant Chief Tony Cuff were both line officers in the village department.
The new department, which has temporary quarters at the town highway barns until a permanent site can be found, is the result of a decision by the Macedon Town Board to seek new options for fire protection. The town had long contracted with the village to cover most of the area south of the canal. But after numerous heated meetings — amid a backdrop of frigid relations between the town and village — the Town Board voted to enter into a contract with the new department and opted not to renew its longstanding relationship with the village department. South Macedon for the most part has assumed the village’s coverage area, except for the village itself.
Macedon Village Mayor Marie Cramer called the decision to create the new department “irresponsible,” adding that “the Macedon Fire Department will continue to provide fire service for the village and anywhere else that we are requested. We will continue to be here for the community.”
On a frigid Tuesday evening, firefighters from South Macedon and Macedon Center gathered at the town highway barns on O’Neil Road for a training session using the latest equipment available for firefighters to assist with extricating a person from a vehicle. Phillips said South Macedon members will train every Tuesday night, and once a month they will hold a joint training with Macedon Center. Recruits with the new department, he said, are a nice mix of talents and experience that will help South Macedon flourish. Under the direction of Phillips, First Assistant Chief Tony Cuffe and Capt. Joe Lusardi, South Macedon will be called out with Macedon Center to every call in their districts, including all EMS calls in the south district, Phillips said.
Macedon Center Fire Chief Andy Dohse has been a firefighter for 15 years. Watching the new department take root has been “interesting” to say the least, but the decision to work together was mutual.
“Both sides said it was time to put differences aside,” he said. “It just made sense.”
The training with the two departments was two-fold. While learning about equipment, Dohse said the firefighters were also learning to work together. Joining forces and having both departments respond calls is a matter of public safety and common sense.
Page 2 of 3 - “The more people you have to do the job, the better,” Dohse said. “It doesn’t matter what color coat you’re wearing. You have a job to do.”
In fact, said Dohse, there is talk that the two departments will at some point be merged into a single department but with two stations.
Among South Macedon’s veteran members, Cuffe has been a volunteer firefighter since 1986. The first assistant chief said he’s heartbroken about the village department.
“We were hoping to bring everyone together,” Cuffe explained, and that included bringing all the village members in. Then motioning to the members of two fire departments working side by side at the training, he said, “This is what it’s all about — to bring the community together.”
The group is also marking a moment in history. South Macedon is the first fire department in Wayne County to be established since Arcadia’s Marbletown Fire Department formed in 1971. For many members, the idea of being a charter member of the department is exciting.
At age 20, Pat Bruton has only been a firefighter for a year and a half, but it’s something he always knew he wanted to do. His mom has worked for the State Police, so it was something he’d always been exposed to, he said. He started with the Macedon Village Fire Department, but when he knew South Macedon had gotten the town contract he left the village. For Bruton, who wasn’t with the village long enough to feel the effects town and village bickering had on members, leaving to join South Macedon was about an opportunity to work with Macedon Center and to learn from experienced firefighters.
“I get more joy out of helping a person than sitting around playing video games all night,” he said. “Wherever it goes, it’s going onward and upward. And wherever it goes, I’m going to be part of that. It’s exciting to be part of something new.”
And when the department turns 50, Bruton said he sees himself looking back and sharing stories with the young rookies about how it all started way back when.
For South Macedon firefighter Tyler Robinson, one of the department’s female members, joining was the chance to do something for her community and make a difference.
“I thought it was awesome how they started this up,” she said. “It’s about the community coming together. I think it’s cool.”
The Macedon Police Department’s confidential secretary said sitting behind a desk all day doesn’t give her much opportunity to see any action or help someone in need. So when other police department members started signing up with South Macedon, she decided to check it out.
Page 3 of 3 - “I want to be out doing something, making a difference,” Robinson said, then added of the crash training: “And cutting things up is real cool too.”
Leo Dennis became a firefighter 29 years ago after he received a mailing from the village fire department shortly after moving to Macedon. He said he had two options: donate or join. He opted to join. He was an EMT for 15 years and acted as safety officer for 12 years with the village and now with South Macedon. Joining South Macedon was not a decision he made lightly.
“This was hard. It took a lot of soul searching,” he said. “I finally decided this is what I wanted to do.”
For Dennis, it all came down to one realization: Whether South Macedon formed or not, the village department would be in the same boat because the town had already decided not to renew the contract. He hoped for a different solution, but the bickering had taken a toll on everyone, he said. So now he puts his heart into South Macedon.
“My goal is to make this department as good as they (the village) are,” Dennis said, admitting that the experience has given back the drive he had for firefighting when he started nearly three decades ago. “It’s almost like joining again. It’s exciting.”
Dennis carries fond memories of the village department with him. Back when he first signed up, it was like a family, a brotherhood at the village fire department, he said. If he was trapped in a burning building, he always knew someone would get him out, he added. But over the years that comfort level had diminished due to all the bickering inside and outside of the department. Leaving became his only option, he said.
“It hurt in here,” he said, placing his hand on his chest over his heart. “But we’re gonna have that brotherhood again right here in South Macedon.”
To learn more about joining South Macedon Fire Department, visit www.southmacedonfire.com and click on membership.