Published: Sunday, August 6, 2006
Fire department observes milestone
Lou Ruozzo said that when he was a firefighter, they didn't have helmets.
By SARAH POULTON
LOWELLVILLE The birthday candles on this cake won't be blown out, they'll be sprayed down by large hoses.
Lowellville Fire Department will be celebrating its 100th birthday Saturday. The official birthday is Oct. 1, but with all of fall's activities, the department thought it would be best to celebrate on Lowellville Day.
During the celebration, the fire department will try to break the Guinness Book's world record by including 87 or more firetrucks in its parade. The parade will be led by their 1956 Ford pumper.
Capt. Al Boggia has been in the department for six years. He said that in 1974, they sold the '56 pumper to New Middletown. In 2003, the department bought it back from New Middletown for $400.
The department was officially founded on Oct. 1, 1906. The original department is still in use on the village's north side. The department is funded through village taxes, and though it is a volunteer department, the firefighters are paid when they are needed.
In addition to the north side department, a south side department was added in 1956. The department answers about 30 fire calls a year. In addition to those, they get anywhere between 80 and 100 medical calls and about six public service calls a year.
Boggia said the department is excited about its anniversary and wanted to have a bigger celebration, but couldn't do much with only 14 volunteers. Nonetheless, he said, the department is important to many people for different reasons.
Memories of department
Jeff Wildes, battalion chief, has been a Loweville firefighter for 17 years. His grandfather, Felix Dilullo, was on the department and inspired Wildes to become a firefighter, he said. Though the department was much larger when Dilullo was a member, it is still there to help people when needed.
"It's more like a family than a department," Wildes said. "The community makes the department special."
Chief Bill Meehan was inspired by his neighbors when he was growing up. He never dreamed that 30 years later, he would be fire chief.
"I used to help the neighbors put out grass fires, and before I knew it, 30 years had gone by and I was on the department."
Greg Arthur, battalion chief, was inspired by watching rescue shows and idolizing the firefighters around the town. He and Wildes went through training and joined the department together.
"I do it to save somebody's life," Arthur said. "It always hurts when it's somebody you know. In a small village like this, it's always going to be someone somebody knows,"
Lou Ruozzo is a retired firefighter who served the department from 1956 to 1978. It's a family affair for him because he has had three sons, two daughters, two grandsons and a son-in-law on the force at one point or another. His wife was previously in the women's auxiliary, and his granddaughter is a member.
Ruozzo's daughter, Mary Templeton, and her husband, Mark, are the only husband and wife team in the department. Templeton said her father has been involved with the fire department for as long as she can remember, and he was her inspiration.
"It's a family thing, and Dad takes that very seriously," Templeton said. "He never asked any of us to join. We've all lived in Lowellville our entire lives, and those guys are like brothers to me."
Ruozzo said that back when he joined the department in 1956, they didn't have helmets, and wore jackets similar to raincoats. He added that the firefighters of his time built the south side department.
Ruozzo said that when he was a firefighter, there was a siren that could be heard five miles away that alerted them of a fire. Now, he said, the firefighters carry pagers and radios so they know when there is a fire.
Being a part of that department meant a lot to him, and he misses certain things now that he's retired. "The fire drills," he said. "I loved them."
Meehan said he is proud to be a part of something that has passed the test of time. He's looking forward to the future of Lowellville and sees it growing and being a good residential and business area, he said.
He hopes that by cleaning up the Mahoning River, development in town will increase, he said, referring to current efforts to improve the river. But regardless, he added, Lowellville is home to members of the department, and they're proud of it.
"I'd like to thank the village people for supporting the fire department for the last 100 years," Meehan said. "On behalf of myself, present firefighters, and past firefighters, we enjoyed giving the village 'A Century of Service'," he said.
To view a copy of the original ordinance establishing the department, visit www.vindy.com/more on the Web.