Car gas leak is first time for new Chester FD turnout gear

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Moments before The Telegraph arrived at the Chester fire station to photograph firefighters in new turnout gear donated by a second homeowner to honor the service of former Fire Chief Harry Goodell, the trucks went rolling out, lights flashing on their way to a call.

The leaking vehicle after Chester firefighters secured the scene

The leaking vehicle after Chester firefighters secured the scene

According to Fire Chief Matt Wilson, a customer at the Sunoco on Main Street filled the tank of a vehicle newly purchased in a private sale when 5 to 10 gallons of gasoline began pouring on to the ground.

The owner had moved the small SUV away from the pumps and next to a spillway that drains into the Williams River. “You can’t make this stuff up,” said Wilson explaining that firefighters worked to clean up the spill and prevent gasoline from going into the river.

Chief Matt Wilson and Captain Ben Whalen coordinate the efforts.

Fire Chief Matt Wilson, left, and Capt. Ben Whalen coordinate the efforts.

“It exhausted almost all of our Hazmat material,” said Wilson noting the station-owner’s clean-up crew on its way to the scene would replace much of what was used. The department used a large amount of its clean-up material on last Thursday’s accident on Route 103 south.

At 7:30 p.m., the gas pumps closest to the front door were closed and until the Sandri crew could get to town,  Chester firefighters were standing by in their new gear.

Wilson said that when the department held a  retirement party for the former chief, an invitation was extended to Raymond Dalio, who Harry Goodell has done work for over the years. Dalio told Wilson that he wanted to buy something for the department in Goodell’s honor, but wanted it to be something that the firefighters needed but would not be able to afford.

Chester firefighters standing by in new turnout gear given to the department by Raymond Dalio.

Chester firefighters standing by in new turnout gear given to the department by Raymond Dalio.

After some thought and conversations, the department decided on the new turnout gear, which it would never be able to replace in a single purchase. And doing it that way meant that the department could change from the tan, fire-hose colored uniforms to the traditional black that the firefighters had long wanted.

This came at a time when several sets of gear had to be replaced due to damage. At $1,656 per set, the purchase saved taxpayers $26,496 over the next few years.

But what could be more valuable is the morale boost for Chester’s department, which has labored in less than ideal conditions for years in the cramped town garage. “You can’t change them from one color to another one or two at a time,” said Wilson. “You have to do it all and we never could. As we issued them, it was like watching kids with a new Nintendo.”

The new coats are black with lots of reflective material and each has the name of the firefighter on the back and the rank if the wearer is an officer. “Lots of departments do that, but we could never afford to,” said Wilson, noting that the department will keep the old coats and pants for probationary firefighters and for use if gear is contaminated until Chester has the facilities for such cleaning.

Dalio was unavailable for comment at the time of this story, and Goodell could not be reached as he was taking his gun for a walk in the Maine woods.

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