BENNINGTON -- A lot has changed in the 27 years since Kevin Goodhue, the Bennington Rural Fire Department's newest chief, first joined the department.
For starters, safety is more important than ever.Every firefighter who goes into a burning building has to wear fire protective gear from head to toe, be wearing an airpack and have a portable radio with him, among other things.
"When I first joined we were fighting fires with booster hose - one-inch hose," said the 47-year-old Goodhue
."Now we use one-and-three-quarter-inch hose."
The department now owns 35 radios.And the trucks are easier to drive too, he
It was the 1980s when the department last had a standard transmission fire truck.
But it was Goodhue's
first driving assignment - on truck 49 - that was a little challenging.You see, Goodhue
had always driven vehicles with automatic transmissions.
At the time, truck 49 was a 1964 International, with a double clutch.How things change.Truck 49 has been replaced three times since then, and now has an automatic transmission.
This year is the department's 50th anniversary.It's proudly showing off its history with special emblems, designed by Turcotte designs, on each of the department's seven trucks.
...With all the advances, the latest development - something Goodhue pushed for even before he was chief - is that all fire truck drivers need to be at least 21years old.
Citing statistics that show a majority of emergency vehicle accidents happen to drivers aged 18 to 21, the change was made last year.
The chief job isn't new for Goodhue
held it once before in 1986.But this time he
'd like to be chief for three years, he said.It's a plan that has the support of both his
wife and his
employer, the town of Bennington, who are both behind him 110 percent, he
said. The duties of being a volunteer chief involve about 20 to 25 hours a week, Goodhue said, in addition to the time spent responding to calls and duties on fire scenes.
"I'd say you're talking about another full-time job," he
said.But at a $2,500 a year stipend, it's a real bargain for the town.
In addition, post-Sept. 11 duties send Goodhue
to the Vermont State Police barracks in Williston twice a month, on average, for a meeting about terrorism.
Then there's the southern Vermont regional fire school that Goodhue helps organize with the Rutland City fire chief.Last year, Goodhue also served as president of the Vermont State Firefighters association that has 5,400 members - both volunteer and paid firefighters - from across the state.
Most of the rural department's 55 firefighters, who respond to an average of 225 calls a year, are truly volunteer and received no pay at all.
The town's support, Goodhue
said, comes from its OK of the budget each year.
Two of the most memorable fires was a stubborn fire that caused more than $1 million in damage to the town's sewer plant on Harrington Road.And there was the fire that tore through the Sullivan residence more than two years ago.
"You'll never forget that," he
said."We try to forget those things, but we never can."