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Firemen’s Convention honors years of service, heroics

Photo by Joe Kelly

Firefighters from the Richburg and Friendship volunteer departments battle each other in the water fight competition Thursday during the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen Convention in Bolivar.


BOLIVAR — With the convention for the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen well underway, organizers spent Friday morning honoring their own and carrying on business.

The prestigious Fireman of the Year 2022 went to Lancaster Fire Department Fire Chief Eric Feldman. Taking the podium, the 28-year veteran firefighter said, “I’m not big on getting awards for something I’ve been trained to do.”

However, Feldman was honored for pulling a man from a basement fire regardless of the danger he faced. Feldman commented. “I probably wouldn’t have gone in there if I hadn’t known that I had back up right behind me and that they were already putting water on the blaze.”

For Feldman it was a day off. He’d taken the day off work because he had scheduled an appointment to give a bone marrow donation. But the recipient had canceled the transfusion, so at 6 a.m. Feldman was up and having breakfast.

“Why not get up early on a day off?” he quipped, humoring the audience.

He responded to the alarm when it was toned out and headed for the nearby address thinking that since it was a kitchen fire that somebody was probably cooking breakfast. He was one of the first responders on the scene and was met by a mother who cried that her son was trapped in the basement apartment where the fire had started.

Feldman said he doesn’t remember putting on all his equipment to enter the building and that the next thing he knew he was inside.

“I saw an arm poking out from behind the door,” he said. “The police had pinned the man behind the door when they forced the door open, and he couldn’t get out. I grabbed him and pulled him out. It all happened in a matter of five minutes. It was a once in a lifetime situation. I was just at the right place at the right time.”

Feldman went on to advise younger firefighters to listen to older firefighters and he said that older firemen should also listen to what younger firemen have to offer.

Prior to the Firemen of the Year Award, members of the Westons Mills Fire Department were among those honored for their years of service.

Up to 10 years of service – Mike Green

11 to 20 years of service – Steve Gonska

21 to 30 years of service – Joseph Dushaw

31 to 40 years of service – Steve Griffith

50 plus years of service — Dan Jenkins, Charles Tarbox and Paul Eddy and Raymond Beach and Steven Lesch both of the Fredonia Fire Department and Richard Purol of the East Dunkirk Fire Department.

An Honorable mention was presented to John Walgus of the Hidi Hose Co #4 of the Gowanda Volunteer Fire Company for 70 years of service.

Following the awards meeting, the association agreed to give a $200 contribution to the international Stephen Sillers Tunnels to Towers Foundation charity helping firefighters, police officers and military personnel.

The Southwestern Firemen’s Convention in Bolivar continues throughout Saturday with a grand parade scheduled for 5 p.m.