When the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association (CVFA) was founded in 1936, the department averaged 18 calls per year.
Now, 75 years later, the department averages more than 1,200 calls annually, approximately 90 percent of which CVFA Chief Joseph Carilli said are medical response calls.
CVFA, one of two departments that serve the town, will celebrate its 75th anniversary Saturday at a daylong celebration that includes a carnival and parade downtown. “We’re very excited,” Carilli said.
The event will be held rain or shine.
The carnival will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Coventry High School and will feature a rock climb wall, bungee ride and seven inflatable rides. Bracelets for the carnival rides cost $10 for the day.
There will also be a parade starting at 10 a.m. in which 20 fire departments, including Mansfield, Hebron, Bolton and South Windsor will participate.
State Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford Springs, is also expected to march.
The parade will follow the same parade route as Memorial Day’s parade, beginning at G.H.R. Intermediate School on 227 Cross St. and ending on Bradbury Lane.
Malcolm Devine Jr., who was in the department for 50 years, will be the parade Grand Marshal.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, will also appear at the event.
CVFA will participate in a muster with Hebron firefighters at 2 p.m. at CVFA’s main station on Main Street, across from town hall.
Musters are competitions among fire departments in which numerous firefighting skills are judged.
Some sad memories
Carilli, who has been in the department for 35 years, six as chief, said he and the others in the department have had some “very traumatic fires” throughout its history.
Among them are two former grocery stores in town: Guido’s and Zollo’s.
In addition to responding to fires, CVFA, one of two fire departments in town, handles all emergency medical and ambulance calls in town. The North Coventry Volunteer Fire Department handles rescue calls.
The two departments often work together on scene.
“Throughout our ( CVFA) careers, we’ve had some very sad moments and some very happy moments,” Carilli said, and noted he has responded to 25,000 calls during his tenure in the department. “We’ve seen so much devastation.”
One of the most disturbing emergencies CVFA firefighters responded to, he said, was the shooting next door to the Bidwell Tavern restaurant in April 2008.
During this incident, a Coventry resident, Alfredo Ferrer, shot his pregnant girlfriend, Amanda Realie, in the apartment they shared above the Bidwell Spirit Shoppe on Main Street.
Realie and her unborn baby died after she was transported to Hartford Hospital by Life Star. CVFA firefighters gave medical treatment to the woman at the scene.
Ferrer was charged in connection with the incident and committed suicide while in jail.
“It was a very traumatic incident,” Carilli said.
His personal “greatest” moment while in the department, he said, was when he helped deliver a baby during the early 1980s.
Carilli said he was sad that the department’s longest-serving member, Frank Spencer Jr., a member for 62 years, died recently and thus, would not be participating in the anniversary celebration.
Frank Libby, Denny Dittrich, Fred Sewell, Devine Jr. and Robert Breault have all been members in the department for at least 45 years.
Libby, who joined the department in 1964 and is an emergency medical responder and engineer in the department, said one of the biggest changes he’s noticed is the amount of medical equipment available for calls.
The equipment the department now owns includes EpiPens (to administer lifesaving shots for allergy victims) and glucometers (to measure blood sugar).
Libby also noted the training is more intense now than it used to be.
Now they hold training sessions at the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks.
A growing fleet
When the station first opened, there was only one bay for fire trucks in the garage. At that time, Arthur Woodworgh was the chief.
When Libby first joined, there were four bays.
Carilli said there are now 12 bays and numerous vehicles, including three ambulances, a dive vehicle, two marine units and two engine tanks.
Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser, who has worked in town since 1988, said he has seen a lot of changes in the department over the past 23 years. One of the most notable is the growth in the medical response business.
“Our response has been very good because people are here all the time,” Carilli said.
If you have questions about Saturday’s events, you can call Carilli at (860) 808-9471 or e- mail him at email@example.com.
Posted July 15, 2011 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org
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