LUDLOW - The village sits at the base of the former Ludlow Mountain now known as Okemo Mountain Resort; it's surrounded by farmland and granite quarries. In the midst of the beauty stands a small town fire department ready to serve and protect - the Ludlow Volunteer Fire Department.
Annually, Ludlow firefighters respond to approximately 120 to130 calls. In addition, they also provide mutual aid assistance to Weston, Cavendish, and Springfield among others.
This group of 35 dedicated volunteers responds to all emergencies including automobile accidents, structure fires, chimney fires, cold-water emergencies, even carbon monoxide poisonings.
Chief Peter Kolenda emphasizes that Ludlow is fortunate to have a good, solid crew of volunteers. However, like other departments locally and nationwide, recruitment and retention is an ongoing concern.
"Ludlow is a resort community and with the economy the way it is, it puts a damper on younger people or anyone moving to the area," said Kolenda. "This fact will eventually have an impact on the department."
According to Kolenda, the time commitment varies depending on how active members want to be. Yet, training and education hours are intense.
There are two levels in Vermont - each require over 100 hours of training; both practical and in classroom experience.
"We do this because we want to be there for our neighbors," Kolenda added. "Not to mention, the comraderie amongst the members is a bond that cannot be broken."
There isn't a single person that the chief wants to single out for special recognition; this speaks to the closeness of the group.
"We all chip in and do a great job for our service area," he said.
Kolenda also pointed out what a big help the taxpayers of Ludlow are to their local fire department.
"Because of taxes and the community support of annual fundraising events - such as the Ludlow Firefighter's Auction held during Labor Day weekend - the department is able to make purchases to keep the fire apparatus and equipment up to date.
Firefighter Carroll Sanderson, age 70, said that he is a Ludlow volunteer because he's "keeping the younger generation straight."
Firefighter Landon Wheeler was new to the community and used his skills to find this hardworking, supportive group of volunteers.
A junior member named Kyle said firefighting was part of his family's heritage for many generations and it was a natural fit (not to mention, a good way to stay out of trouble).
Last but not least, this reporter was curious why the color of Ludlow's fire trucks were not the stereotypical fire engine red. Chief Kolenda explained:
"Color is mostly determined by department preference, tradition, and some times for safety."
But starting in the 1960s, when optometrist and volunteer firefighter Stephen S. Solomon conducted color and eye studies, it was found that the color lime-yellow (sometimes referred to as "safety yellow") was more visible to the human eye than red. Human vision does not see the color red when adapted to the dark. Even though yellow trucks are supposed to be more visible and safer, the majority of fire apparatus around the nation are still red.
For information about getting involved with the Ludlow Fire Department, contact Chief Peter Kolenda at 228-5627.