Parade to celebrate fire department's 120th anniversary

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    FLORIDA-If the S. S. Seward Institute is the heart of the extended Florida Community, the Florida Fire Department and Rescue Squad are the ones who keep that heart beating. And they've been doing it for 120 years. After all that time it's clear their proficiency at putting out fires and responding to emergencies is matched only by their ability to celebrate anniversaries with parades and other activities that give back to the community. Tonight — Friday, July 15 — those 120th anniversary activities kick off with an open house at the fire station at 6:30 p.m. Dixieland music will set the upbeat tone for all that follows on Saturday. It will be an old-fashioned fire parade with four divisions and several well-known marching and traveling bands. The grand marshal of the Escort Division will be the Honorable Daniel Coleman, current judge, past-chief of the Florida Fire Department and father of the current department chief, Michael Coleman. That division will be led by the Orange County Sheriff's Color Guard. The Middletown City Band and the Walker Valley Marching Bands and the Franklin, N.J., Marching Band will provide the music. The men and women of the hosting Florida Fire Department will march in that group, as will the always well-received Florida Volunteer Fire Department from upstate Amsterdam, N.Y. Three more divisions will follow. The marshal of the first division will be former Florida chief Vincent Kowalczyk. That group will include the fire departments from Pine Island, Chester, and Greenville Township. The Broome Street Traveling All-Star Band from Port Jervis will provide the marching music. The second division will be led by marshal Mark Coleman, past-captain. The Hudson Valley Regional Police Band will be followed by the Warwick and Slate Hill Fire Departments, as well as the Otterkill Engine Co. from Campbell Hall. The marshal of the third and last division will be John Augustyn, past-president. Fire departments from Goshen, Greenwood Lake and the Monhagens of Middletown will comprise that division. They will march to the music of the Transit Pride Marching Band, composed of members of the Transit Police Unit of New York City. In a typical "firemanic" gesture, the Florida Fire Department selected Eugene Stolowski, a Florida resident and a member of the Florida Fire Department and Rescue Squad as the Honorary parade chairman. Stolowski is also a member of Ladder Co. 27 in New York City. He was one of the five firemen forced to jump from the fourth-floor windows in the Bronx on January 23. Severely injured, he is slowly being nursed back to health and will be present for the parade and anniversary celebration. His presence will be an emotional boost, not only for his family, but for the residents of the entire Florida Fire District and all participating districts. Another boost will be the restored 1929 Sanford pumper, which will be formally re-dedicated at St. Joseph's Field during post-parade ceremonies. That's the pumper that a young Bill Jayne drove in his early days in the Florida Fire Co. and later tracked down at a junkyard on Long Island and brought back to his later home in Horseheads, N.Y., where he restored it and drove it in many parades in the Chemung County area. His will stipulated that the truck be returned to the Florida Fire Department. It was returned several years ago. Since then, through many donations and fundraisers, the truck has been completely restored and will be displayed and driven in the anniversary parade. When that ‘29 Sanford was replaced, it was with a 1960 Maxim. That old workhorse is still owned by the local department and will be driven in the parade as well. Speaking of old timers, fireman Jim Kujawski has been a member of the Highland Engine and Hose Co. for 74 years. Now in his mid nineties, he is expected to participate in the parade as well. The old trucks and several longtime members have become strong connecting links in the proud history of the Florida Fire Department. That history began in 1885 in Seward Hall on the corner of North Main and Bridge Streets. The fire company and rescue squad has evolved from that first group of 16 men and their one dozen pails painted red to a truly up-to-date unit with trained firefighters and rescue personnel using the latest techniques and equipment. That equipment will be on display at tonight's open house and during the parade. The parade will form on Saturday, July 16, on Werner Ave. at 3 p.m., then kick off at 4 p.m. It will wind through the village, turn left at Meadow Rd., and go down Maple Ave. to Bridge St., return to Main, go through the village again, turn right up Farries to New St., and eventually enter the St. Joseph's Playing Fields. The Franklin, N.J., Concert Band will provide music at the Fields, and the Minisink Kiwanis Club has undertaken the task of feeding all the parade participants at the adjacent St. Joseph's School Hall. Trophies will also be awarded and refreshments will be available for the general public. The current fire chief is Michael Coleman. His first assistant is Mark Slesinski and second assistant is Vaughn Peer. John Galiski is the present company president and Todd Purta is the vice-president. Co-parade chairmen are Galiski and William Pillmeier. They and all the other officers and men and women of the Florida Fire Department and Rescue Squad have a lot to be proud of as they continue to answer that wailing call of the alarm.