Jennifer Farwell Interview
This is file #54, cycle 3. Today’s date is October 25, 2018. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Jennifer Farwell. She is going to talk about the fire department, the Junior Firefighting Program, and her liaison for the veterans and anything else she wants to talk about. But first we are going to start with the difficult things.
JM:What is your name?
JM:You have some family background in the fire department. Who were some of the people in your family that have been involved with the Lakeville Hose Company?
JF:My grandfather was a member Kenneth Farwell Sr. back in the 1950’s (See oral history #38, cycle 3, Kenneth Farwell Sr.) my father Don Farwell was a member in the 1980’s before we moved to Los Vegas and me when I joined in 2014.
JM:You are a firefighter, aren’t you?
JM:You aid that there were different levels of training. What kind of training do you receive in Level #1?
JF:For Fire fighter #1 that is the basic introduction to fire fighting. It is what you need to know in order to be effective. It teaches you how to use air packs, how to vent, all different kinds of “need to know” stuff. When you get to a fire scene, you are then qualified to wear an air pack: you are trained to fight interior fires. You know how to go on the roof and vent and all kinds of good stuff.
JM:How many hours does that take roughly?
JF:That one now I believe is around 200 hours. The state keeps changing it.
JM:What does it cost?
JF:I think the last one that I saw the classes are currently about $1,200.
JM:Do you have to pay for that out of pocket?
JF:No we don’t. We are lucky enough to have a training budget. So the fire company pays for all of the firefighting training for its members.
JM:There is also level #2. What do you learn there?
JF:Firefighter #2 is about vehicle extrication and propane fires. You learn how to use foam which most engines now are equipped with a CAS system, compress air system for foam. We don’t quite
understand why all that is not in Level #1 rather than in Level #2. It is everyday firefighting stuff. But the state knows better. You also get a lot of HAZMAT in fire #2 as well.
JM:How much does that run in hours?
JF:That one is about 60 hours. We went exactly 2 months for that one.
JM:It costs what?
JF:It costs about $500.
JM:You are a trained firefighter, but you said you were not trained for air packs because you are claustrophobic. Are you limited in the type of fire that you can fight?
JF: I do not go interior fires because I don’t have an air pack. Even to do ventilation, to go up on a roof, you are supposed to have an air pack on as well. I am basically ground operations. I can throw a mean ladder. I can drag a mean hose. What I want to do is be a pump operator.
JM:That is what you are being trained for now, isn’t it?
JF:Yes, that is what I am working on.
JM:You are also a driver.
JF:Yes in order to be a driver in our department, you have to be trained on how to operate the pump. You can’t just drive the truck and not know how to operate it.
JM:How many are in the fire company?
JF:Our active roster is about 42.
JM:The average age?
JF:The last calculation from last year was 58.
JM:You have both men and women in the company.
JF:Yep – 7 women and 36 men
JM:You have to be state certified.
JF:Yes depending on what you want to do.
JM;So the certification depends on the level of training and the level of expertise you have.
JF:Being state certified means that you have gone through firefighting #1 class. You have successfully completed the practicum portion of the class and there is also a state written exam at the
end of the class. You have to pass both the practical and the State written test to become a state certified firefighter. That is an FPA standard. According to OSHA to be an interior firefighter you can receive in-house training. Connecticut is an OSHA state. So we follow the OSHA rules.
JM:You are President of the fire company.
JM:Your term is one year?
JM:How do you get chosen for that position?
JF:Basically you have to write your name on the board that you want that position. We have an annual vote every year. As long as you get enough votes, you are in.
JM:Who is Vice President?
JF:Secretary is Miguel Balaguero. Treasurer is Chip Carlson. He is also our Fire Marshall.
JM:Fire Marshall is a different department than Building Inspector, isn’t it?
JM:It was at one time both jobs combined.
JF:It was the same person doing both jobs. Then he retired. Now it is two different people one doing Building Inspector and another doing Fire Marshall.
JM:Before we go on to the Junior Firefighting Program, is there anything else you would like to add to this section about being a lady firefighter?
JF:No really, I am just grateful to all the women who have gone before me to blaze the trail.
JM:It is an honor.
JF:Yeah it is not easy. It is definitely a man’s world. You have to have the guts and the heart to do it.
JM:It is nothing I would want to do, but I admire the women who do want to do that and pursue it. Now the Junior Firefighter Program had been going on for about 20 years?
JM:Did Larry Hoage start it or was it started before, do you know?
JF:That is a good question. That I don’t know.
JM:But Larry did do it at one time?
JF: I believe so.
JM:Then there was Donny Reid, Mike White, Bob Flint & you.
JF:Bob and I are currently teaching it together.
JM:Who is eligible for this program?
JF:Any teenager between the ages of 14 and 17 who lives within the township of Salisbury, or any of our mutual aid companies. Once you are 18 you can join the fire company. The mutual aid companies included are Canaan, Falls Village, Sharon, Millerton because they are just over the line. Kent is too far away.
JM:When do you meet?
JF:We meet every Wednesday night at 6.
JM:They go on until you get tired.
JF:If we get a really interesting topic we can go on until 7:30. We try not to keep the kids too late because they have to get up to go to school the next day.
JM:What do you teach?
JF:Everything they need to know about firefighting.
JM:Is it the same sort of thing as Firefighting #1, only on a more basic level?
JF:Yes. There are restrictions. There are things that they are not allowed to do because of their age. We have to keep that stuff in mind. They learn all the tools and the placement of the tools on the trucks, where everything is, what it does. They are not going to handle the chain saws yet. One of their basic functions for us on scene is they are gophers. You can tell them, “I need this.” They know exactly what truck it is on and they will run and grab it and bring it right back.
JM:How many trucks do you have?
JF:We have 8 that are ours and one that belongs to the state.
JM;Are all of the trucks equipped that same or are there different tools on different trucks?
JF:The engines are basically carrying the same equipment. We have extrication equipment on one engine that the other engine does not currently have. We have a rescue truck that carries a little bit of everything on it. We have the tanker which is a tanker/pumper. It can be used to pump water. We have a mini pumper which is a brush truck for us. We can use it in a lot of different fashions.
JM:I live on Chatfield Drive and we do not have town water or hydrants. If there is a fire up there, you would be using the pond or Ore Hill mine to get water.
JF:Correct. We can relay water. We can do tanker shuttles. There are plenty of ways that we can get water to fight a fire. Until recently I was at a fire insurance company for a resident here in town for their homeowner’s insurance. The insurance requires that the fire department carry at least 4,000 gallons of water. We carry 6,300 gallons. All the trucks stay full all the time; even when they are sitting in the fire house right now. That is why they try to heat it for the trucks. If we get a fire and everything rolls, we have 6,300 gallons of water on that initial run. That gives us time to get there and start fighting the fire. With mutual aid we have a tanker task force we can call and we’ll get 11 different tankers from all over the place. Fire houses, especially up here in the woods, are strategically placed. We carry a lot of water, Sharon has ladders, Canaan has ladders, and Falls Village sits right in the middle. You want to place stuff so everybody can work together.
JM:With these young people there are certain restrictions that they can’t do and there are certain things they can do. What can they do?
JF:If there is a road closure, they can work within the closure because it is essentially a parking lot. They are not allowed to be in the road directing traffic, if we close one lane. It has to be totally closed at both ends of the road. They can’t go more than 6 feet off the ground. All of our hoses on the truck are over 6 feet off the ground. They learn a very essential skill, but can’t use it yet.
JM:Are the hoses fiber or what are they made of?
JF:There are different layers to the hoses. They have an inner layer, and they have a woven outer layer for the smaller diameter hoses. The large diameter hoses do not have the woven outer covering.
JM:Why did you get involved with the Junior Firefighting Program?
JF:Because I saw a need. As I stated previously our average age is 58. Another part of figuring out our median ages was how long has everybody been on the company and most of these guys have been on the company for 2/3 of their lives.
JM:Again it is family tradition. As it is with you and your family.
JF:It really is. There are a lot of legacy families in the fire company. Kids aren’t really following in it as much as they were back when I was a kid,
JM:No they are not. They are not following in their parents’ footsteps as much as they used to. But there is an avenue which you are providing with the Junior Fire Fighting Program.
JF:Right. We have 4 young people right now.
JM:It is one girl and three boys and she was elected captain.
JF:She is the chief of the juniors, yes, Kerstin Hoage.
JM:Who are the other young people?
JF:My son Nathan who is assistant chief, Caleb White who is our secretary, and Nick DeVito who is the treasurer. Except for Nick those are all legacy kids. There is Russell’s daughter, Mike White’s son, and my son.
JM:I interviewed Russell and he tried very hard to get his dad to give me an interview, but he declined. Is there anything that you want to add to this section before we go on?
JF:All of their training is in-house. The firefighting academy holds one week in the summer. It is an introduction to the fire service that is geared towards the juniors. They do have a junior’s week. Other than that it is all in-house. The responsibility lies with the current members of the fire company. The bulk of the training falls on us. We try to pull in some of the other members to help.
JM:You and Bob Flint coordinate and run it.
JM:You are also the Veteran Liaison for the town of Salisbury.
JM:Are you having anything to do with the Veteran’s program for Veteran’s Day Nov. 9th – 11th, 2018, the 9th at Salisbury Central School or the 11th at Noble?
JF:I am not: Jason McGarry puts all that together for Veteran’s Day. He is a very busy man.
JM:You took over after James Brazee. That was part of your town hall responsibilities. You were at the town hall full time in 2015. What do you actually do as liaison?
JF:The bulk of it is organizing the Memorial Day parade which really puts itself together as this point. James did such a great job that it just puts itself together.
JM:Do you have a committee?
JF:We do: it is myself, and a couple of the veterans-David Bayersdorfer, Chris Ohmen and Chris Williams.
JM:You also distribute the flags for the veterans’ graves. You are in charge of that.
JF:Yes at the beginning of May we go around and totally renew every single flag in all of the cemeteries in town. Then if somebody is forgotten, because the cemeteries are so old and the stones are so difficult to read, if the family comes forward and says, “Oh my family member was a veteran.” Then I go out and put a bronze marker and flag.
JM:You have done very well with that because with the oral histories, people have said to me, “My great grandfather was in such and such a war, and we don’t have a flag.” I let you know and you have been very good about that. I greatly appreciate. It makes a difference.
JF:It is important.
JM:You do this in May before Memorial Day. How many flags do you distribute?
JF:It is a lot about 1100-1200 flags.
JM:That is a goodly number for a small town.
JM;Are you in charge of the gun salutes for Memorial Day at the various cemeteries?
JF:Not in charge, but I do go. The energy from the guys is amazing. It is really special for me to be a part of that. It is a big thing for me. It is really sacred to them. It was a tradition for the guys like Danny Brazee would go up and do it. It is obviously now different since Danny is not with us anymore, but it is has a lot of meaning.
JM:They do it to honor their comrades.
JF:Yeah for them to invite me along is an honor.
JM:It is an honor and you appreciate that.
JM:The guns are stored in a closet at the Town Hall.
JF:They are in a gun safe.
JM:They belong to the Commander of the American Legion Post.
JF:They are registered to his.
JM:At this time it is Jason McGarry. You are also on the War Memorial committee.
JM:How is that coming along?8.
JF:Slowly- our goal, well Jason’s goal, was to try to have it done by Veteran’s Day, but it is not going to happen. We want to do it right. We are missing a huge chuck of time for people to be added on that. We want to make sure that we get everybody and that it is done the right way.
JM:Who is on the committee?
JF:Mary Barton, I am, Jason McGarry, and Rachel Lamb, and me.
JM: Is Rachel on as secretary and also a member of the committee?
JM:Is there anything more that you want to add to this portion before we close?
JF:By state statute every town is supposed to have a liaison, we are really there to help veterans if they have any issues. I am the liaison between them and the VA and try to help them through the VA system.
JM:Have you had any men or women that you have had to help that way?
JF:I haven’t yet. I think a lot of our veterans who are here are older so they already know their way through the system.
JM:What is the closest VA facility to here?
JF:There is one in New Haven and one out in New York State somewhere.
JM:Thank you so very much.
JF:You are welcome.
JM:This has been wonderful.