POULTNEY - Located in Vermont along the New York stateline, in the Lakes Region of Rutland County, the Town of Poultney is comprised of village, town, and Lake St. Catherine vacation areas. Serving these subsets of the community is the Poultney Volunteer Fire Department.
Poultney's fire department responds to approximately 150 emergency calls in the region and makes mutual aid calls in across the stateline in Hampton, N.Y.
The Poultney F.D. consists of 30 volunteers. Each volunteer has successfully completed 50 or more hours of training and most have attended state-certified schools. Many of the volunteers have also received level-1 certification or higher.
Poultney Fire Chief Dave Winters said training is a top priority; he and the volunteer squad take pride in the fact that training makes the department stand out when compared to other departments around Vermont. Most volunteers have completed over 100 training hours and practice drills are held every Tuesday night throughout the year.
Winters said firefighters must keep up with changes in automobile safety measures, especially to get drivers and passengers extricated from a car, truck, or tractor trailer rig. Being prepared for an emergency ahead of time can helps get firefighters, and other rescue personnel, up to speed rapidly when they are needed. If firefighters can save five minutes, it's five more minutes that may save lives.
To do their job effectively and efficiently, Poultney firefighters insist on having the right tools for the job. As an example, the fire department recently purchased gas meters. But according to Winters, "Updating the equipment can be costly at first, but its impact can be considerable during an emergency. Right now, even with the economy as bad as it is, Poultney F.D. is in good shape."
Once a year, fire department members hold an open house for the community and openly discuss serious issues of fire prevention in town.
Winters expresses appreciation for his fellow volunteers.
"Every member is vital to our organization. Our longest serving member has been a firefighter for 25 years but newer members are just as important. They remind us why we love what we do."
Currently five Poultney F.D. volunteers are Green Mountain College students.
Edgar Vigil, a GMC senior, said he joined because he "wanted to do something great." Fellow classmate Derek Gavelis serves because he wants to give back some of his free time to the community around campus. Jonathan, a student firefighter and EMT-B with Poultney Rescue, said he loves to be apart of helping others. "I stop whatever I'm doing to help," he said. GMC students Jenna Lloyd and Christine Devito also echoed the men's sentiments.
Volunteers spend countless hours in training away from family. They may wake up in the middle of the night, or leave a family meal, to respond to an emergency call. So, to honor and recognize these local heroes and heroines, the fire department hosts an annual banquet with the focus squarely on the volunteers.
A New York City fire chief once said that, "I have no ambition in this world but one - that is to be a firefighter. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one, but those who know the work which a fireman has to do believe his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even of supreme sacrifice."
Volunteers are always needed. If you're interested in joining the Poultney Fore Department, contact Fire Chief Dave Winters at 287-2544.