Jason Wilson Interview
This is file #19, cycle 4. Today’s date is August 21, 2019. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Jason Wilson. He is going to talk about the Salisbury Sharon Transfer Station. He is also going to talk about his experiences with the Lakeville Hose Company and the fact that he is a trainee and teacher of Fire Fighting procedure. But first we’ll start with…
JM:What is your name?
JM:When did you join the Salisbury Sharon Transfer Station?
JW:I became an employee of the transfer station in 1995.
JM:Was it right after high school?
JW:Pretty close to after high school. I had worked for the town a couple of years as the janitor right out of high school. That’s when I became an employee of the transfer station.
JM;How did you know that there was an opening?
JW:I was approached by the First Selectman who was Robert Smithwick. He asked me if I was interested in moving up to the transfer station.
JM:Why did you want to move up to the transfer station?
JW:Well at the time I was only working part time for the town and it was a far better job. I really didn’t have much knowledge of what my future would be so I decided to take the job on to see how it worked out. Here I am all these years later and I’m still there.
JM:Yes, but in a position of responsibility. Is it going to be a career for you?
JW:Yes, I am going to be at the transfer station the rest of my life.
JM:Good, it is nice to have a friendly face.
JM:Who was the manager at that time?
JW:Mike Golden was the manager at that time.
JM:Who is the manager currently?
JM:Now you have several different responsibilities: what is you major responsibility?
JW:The responsibilities that I do for the town by working at the transfer station include I operate as the town safety officer.
JM:Which means what?
JW:I make sure that the facility is safe for the employees and the patrons that use it. I see to it that we are following the state and federal mandates when it comes to the way we operate, how we store chemicals and equipment and things of such nature.
JM:Does the state have a lot of regulations?
JW:Absolutely both the state and federal government have hundreds of regulations which we must comply with. Environmental laws demand that we not contaminate the environment.
JM:It is a big job.
JM:You are also in charge of equipment maintenance?
JW:Equipment maintenance is one of my positions: it is also to take care of the equipment, the machines that operate on the site, the compactors. It is basically taking care of anything mechanical with the exception of the trucks that actually haul the trash. WE also use outside agencies.
JM:Some of the trash goes to Torrington?
JW:Basically most of our material goes to Torrington, with the exception of our metal which goes to Waterbury.
JM:How many full time employees do you have?
JW:We have 4 full time employees and 2 part time employees.
JM:Oh 2 part time.
JW:Yep, Matt Murtagh and Thomas Sherwood.
JM:What do they do?
JW:Tom is our Sunday attendant: he takes care of the Sunday shift. Matt works only in the summer.
JM:Brian is the Manager, you are Safety Officer and Equipment Maintenance, and Gary Duntz and George Silvernail are the drivers for the facility. They are the Transportation Managers for material that needs to be hauled from the transfer station to its destination whether it is Torrington or Waterbury.
JM:How many trucks do you have?
JW:two roll–off trucks Those 2 guys haul one to two loads a day every day five days a week.
JM:That is a long haul.
JW:Yeah it is.
JM:We have a new transfer station in progress. What is it going to look like generally?
JW:Well it is not going to be much different than what we have now: it is going to be larger. IN 1975 the transfer station was built to accommodate a certain amount of population. As time has gone on, we have outgrown that population as more people live in the two towns. Our footprint in the new facility is a lot larger. There will be more parking, better access. There won’t be so much congestion. We have days when we fill up with lots of customers or patrons using the facility. With the new one we’ll have more than enough room for people to get in and get out and get rid of their trash.
JM:You are going to have a Hazmat building this time?
JW:Correct, yes. We have a special building that is away from the main building and the main operation so if any type of accident occurs, whether it is a chemical spill or a fire, we can cordon that off so it can burn to the ground and not affect the day-to-day operation. It won’t cause any problems. Right now we are storing a lot of this equipment in our main building. God forbid if we had a fire. If we did the transfer station would close for 3-4 days, maybe longer. We can rectify how we are going to do things if something were to happen with hazardous material.
JM:What kind of hazardous material do you accept?
JW:We take paint, waste oil, car batteries, mercury filled fluorescent light bulbs, but some of the biggest things that we have to deal with are items that slip through the system. People don’t know what to do with an item so they stick it behind a building or they hide it somewhere and we are stuck with certain acids and acetone, chemicals and things like that. So we have to properly dispose of them. We need to store them somewhere because the hazardous waste disposal only comes twice a year.
JM:What about the Swap Shop are you going to keep that?
JW:Swap shop is going to remain at the new facility but twice the size of the current one. We need it. It is a very popular thing. People like to use it. They put items on there for reuse for the next person.
JM:It is a type of recycling.
JW:Correct, it is a type of recycling. It probably saves the towns quite a few thousand dollars a year. It is definitely a cost saving measure for both Sharon and Salisbury. It stretches that item out over a longer period of time. It has outgrown the space allotted to the Swap Shop.
JM:When do you think the new transfer station will be open?
JW:The projection is spring of 2020. 4.
JM:You said something about an education period.
JW:Yeah, once the facility is completed and the signage it up, some of the other staff members and I would love to see an educational period where the facility would be open to the public. They can wander around at their leisure and see where they are going to be dumping their items and how they are going to be parking in their cars and things like that long before we ever bring in any equipment or any containers to the new facility.
JM:I would think that would make it easier if you know what you are doing, before you have to do it.
JW:If they already know what they are doing before they get there for real, it will make the transition a lot smoother when we do actually open. Today the awnings are up over the framework, and over the containers. There are a lot of changes every week; there are significant changes to the exterior, to the grounds.
JM:I hope it goes smoothly.
JW:Well, so far it is ahead of schedule. They have had no rain delays or weather delays. They have not had any material problems where there was a material delay. The company they hired, Burlington Construction has always been a great company. (They were hired for the recent renovation of the Scoville Memorial Library. Ed.)
JM:Is there anything else you would like to add to this before we move onto the Lakeville Hose Company?
JW:That’s about it I think. (See also Brian Bartram interview)
JM:When did you join the Lakeville Hose Company?
JW:I joined the Lakeville Hose Company when I was 18 years old in 1990. This is my 29th year.
JM:Were you in a Junior Firefighting program?
JW:No there was no Junior Firefighting Program at the time. I joined when I was of legal age and was accepted by the membership.
JM:How do you become a fire fighter?
JW:You have to apply: there is an application method. You have to have a physical. You are reviewed by the membership for thirty days. They decide whether you would be a good fit for the hose company.
JM:Do you need a sponsor?
JW:No, you do not need a sponsor or anything like that. Basically you just need a willing body.
JM:And a keen mind!
JW:And a keen mind, that is right. I have been there for 29 years.
JM:Thank you. It is one of those things you don’t realize how much you need until you are in a crisis.
JM:We are so fortunate that we have a volunteer group still.
JW:It is something that is not going to last very long, it is unfortunate to say. In my opinion it is just extremely difficult to continue to be a volunteer.
JM:Well, with the number of hours of training, and the expense of it and your time.
JW:Correct. The time it takes during training, during calls, especially if you are a person who has two or three jobs and a family. It doesn’t leave much time.
JM:No and the amount of training you have to have, I think it is 240 hour for Fire fighter #1?
JW:204 for the Fire #1 class
JM:That is on your own time, and your own gas. Somehow you have to come up with those hours, and I am sure there is homework.
JW:Yeah there is homework so probably by the time all is said and done with your homework it is 240 hours. There are some smaller classes that go along with it such as Haz-Mat and things like that. Then there is the expense to the town and the hose company.
JM:They pay for some of your training.
JW:They pay for all of it. That comes out of our budgetary system that we receive from the town. We have a line item for our training. To train one firefighter in the Firefighter #1 class is #1,200.
JM:But the town gets it back in the services that you provide.
JW:Correct as long as the person remains in the fire company. Sometime that doesn’t always happen. We may put somebody through a class: they will get through it whether they pass it or not. We have had people leave and say this is not for me. They gave it a shot and it wasn’t their life style.
JM:There is a certain talent for things like that. I admire the people who are willing to do it. It is not something I could do.
JW:There is always more training: it never stops. You constantly have to refresh everything each year.
JM:You said something about black hats and white hats.
JW:When you join the fire service and become a certified fire fighter, you are designated with a black helmet. That is to show that you are certified and trained. White helmets designate officers of our department. There is a command structure of the fire service. I am a white hat. I am currently serving as the Assistant Fire Chief. I am also the past Fire Chief: I served as fire chief for 7 years. Before that I was the Quartermaster when I first started in the hose company.
JM:What does a quartermaster do?
JW:Equipment we take care of the issuing of uniforms and fire gear. Then I became a lieutenant for over 10 years. Next I applied for a captain’s position and held that for over 10 years. Then I was elected as Fire Chief.
JM:These are all elected positions?
JW:They are elected positions by the membership.
JM:How many in the membership?
JW:Right now we are running 46 members.
JW:I would say the average age is 50. They are not getting any younger. It is difficult to recruit and find an individual with the life style to serve as a volunteer and be productive.
JM:Jerry Pollock was a fire fighter.
JW:He certainly was. He was also our chaplain.
JM:David Sellery was chaplain. (See David Sellery interview)
JW:He served and Dick Tabor (See Dick Tabor interview) and Father Joe Kurnath (See Father Kurnath interview)
JM: Who is your Fire Chief now?
JW:Our Fire Chief now is Robert Smith Jr.
JM:What have I not asked you about the Lakeville Hose Company that I should?
JW:We are going into our 9th year at the new fire station at 4 Brook St. We are serving the community with 11 pieces of fire equipment. We have a 46 member roster. We are trying to recruit new members always.
JM:You have women in the company.
JW:Yeah we have some women (See Jennifer Farwell interview)
JM:You have 7 women.
JW:Our roster has slowly increased over the years.
JM:You did say a physical. Is there a requirement for how much weight you can lift?
JW:We don’t really have anything like that. We have a job description.
JM:If the woman can do it, she can do it. Ladders, hoses that sort of thing.
JM:Right now there is a Junior Fire Fighting Program. (See Kirstyn Hoage interview) What is the age for them?
JW:The age for those is 15-17. There is special firefighting junior corps training.
JM:Is that what Kirstyn went on?
JW:Yeah she did that down in Rocky Hill (6 consecutive Fridays 8 – 5. ED.) Also the Connecticut Fire Academy offers a week long class for the junior cadets that take boys and girls. That is the great thing that the state sponsors both boys and girls.
(For more interviews about the Lakeville Hose Company see interviews by James Brazee, Russell Hoage, Darrin Reid, Tom Paine, and Chris Ohmen)
JM:You have become a fire instructor>
JW:I have. I was recently hired in December of 2018.
JM:Why did you want to become an instructor?
JW:I am getting older and I am looking to the future. I have 20 years of knowledge so far as being a student of the service. I feel I have something to say and something I can pass on to other firefighters throughout the county and the state so I decided to look into becoming a fire instructor. I took a class and passed it. I obtained a certification to teach; I am state certified. A job came up for the Litchfield County Regional Fire School. I applied and they hired me.
JM:That is in a new building isn’t it?8.
JW:The fire school has been in Litchfield County since 1956. They were located in the Burrville section of Torrington on Burr Pond Road. It started with some little buildings that they use to start fires in. When I joined the service there was a training tower and a burn building and a fairly small building for classrooms. They had a couple of classrooms a rest room.an office, and a little kitchenette. Over time it got quite dilapidated and run down.
JM:What is a training tower?
JW: A training tower is a 4 story tower with a series of stair cases all the way to the top of this concrete building with some small rooms to train in. It is used for doing ladder work and repelling and some of those crazy men used to jump off it into one of those big nets back in the day. Thank god they have banned that! That would not have been my thing!
The officers of the fire school and the Litchfield County Chief’s Association have been fighting for quite a few years, over 10 years, to have the fire school rebuilt as a suitable training facility, for a modern day fire fighter. It was awarded to us and they spend close to $14,000,000 through a state grant. We now have a beautiful facility with massive classroom building with a fire station attached. We have elevators, classrooms, kitchens, locker rooms and everything that we really need. It is state of the art facility.
JM:What do you actually teach?
JW:The classes I teach are firefighting classes, and rescue classes. Right now I am a probationary instructor. I will be evaluated in a few months to get my final approval as to whether I shall stay on the staff or not. I am looking very hopeful that I have done alright.
JM:I am sure you have.
JW:As a new instructor you have to fight pretty hard to get a position. You need the time to show what you can do. I have quite a few dates where I go up there and so some work and show my skills.
JM:How do you run your course? Do you run it like a regular teacher?
JW:Absolutely, there is a lesson plan. If you were doing a firefighter #1 class it is a state program, you do a lecture, then some hand-on training for each subject. The instructor looks at his lesson plan for the day and sees what he has to do to teach the students on that particular topic. There are roughly 60 topics in the firefighter #1 curriculum. You pick one that you like or that you are fluent in and you go from there. There are some instructors who are best at Haz-Mat; some others are best at fire behavior.
JM:What do you feel you are strongest in?
JW:My strongest point is the FCDA which has to do with a confined breathing apparatus. We have to wear those tanks on our back when we are going into an atmosphere of smoke and hazard. I do the firefighting side of things and the rescue side of things. I teach the actual work. It is also my specialty: firefighting, fire suppression, water rescue. When we hold a class of a hand-on program when we are
using our burn building, we light a fire inside this concrete building; they fill full of smoke and that is how we simulate a building fire and how to extinguish an actual fire. So fire crews are dragging hose lines into this building and extinguishing the fires.
JM:There are different kinds of fires, wood, chemical, and electrical. Are they fought differently with different materials?
JW:Correct They do. In most of the training that we do, we only use wood. We have a certain criteria that we have to follow by the National fire Protection Agency. We can’t use any chemicals or any fuels or anything like that. We are very environmentally conscious when we are doing that. There are training courses and classes in certain areas where you can use all that chemical material such as foam: they have a method of cleaning it up.
JM:You are taking a course presently, aren’t you?
JW:I am currently in the fire instructor #2 class that is provided by the state. It is for a supervisory position in training seminars. It is to supervise other instructors and build lesson plans. It is more of a desk job, the paper work side of the industry. It is important too. There is a need for it. We have to dot our I’s and cross our t’s when it comes to our training.
JM:Because your training is so important, you have to make sure that all your topics are covered so people can handle a crisis situation.
JW:We have to learn how to do it safely. We cannot have anybody hurt or God Forbid killed on the job. The training has to be very thorough. Everything has to be documented.
JM:Do you get paid as an instructor?
JM:Do you get paid by the state or the city?
JW:The paychecks come from the state.
JM:What else would you like to tell me about being a fire fighter instructor?
JW:I thought it would be a little easier that what I have experienced. To discover how in depth it was, was something I didn’t know about a fire instructor years ago. Finally getting hired and finding out the behind the scenes as we talked about earlier, in a different area of the fire service. It has definitely taught me a lot.
JM:It gives you a broader background.
JW:Yep as to what they do and the respect level changed. I loved to think of a fire instructor now versus then. I thought it was just a guy that was coming into the room with a clipboard and open up a lesson plan and just read from the pages. It really isn’t that.
JM:You do research for the fire service.
JW:I act as the unofficial historian for the Lakeville Hose Co. (It was established in 1904 as a result of a great fire which destroyed the center of Salisbury in April of 1903. Ed.)
JM:Tell me about that.
JW:About 16 years ago I started a plan to mark the graves of past members of the Lakeville Hose Co. I saw that other towns did it: I thought it was a wonderful gesture to family members to have some acknowledgement that their loved one was a member of the local fire department so I started doing that. I purchase markers which look like a fire helmet and they say “Lakeville Hose Co.” and they have a red flag on the top, a firefighting flag. I and “Bullet” Sherwood go around and do all of them.
JM:Will Tom Sherwood take over?
JW:I am not sure yet who I am going to have as my assistant: I really haven’t given it any thought. I need to pick somebody. We do our ordering in the winter; the flags are replaced every spring in May before Memorial Day. Either Bill or Tom probably will come to do some of those with me. It is a nice gesture to do for people to see past fire service members.
JM:It is a wonderful thing to do. It give them perspective; after they have died for the service that they have given this community. This is something you did on your own?
JW:Oh yeah we asked for some money to cover the cost of the markers and flags. I try to purchase a dozen markers a year. I whip open the books and start looking for names of members who have passed.
JM:Do you do only the cemeteries that are in town or?
JW:No, I do anywhere there is a member that we know of and where they are buried. So far the only out of town member I do is the burial ground in Sheffield because Fred Bartholomew and his son Curtis are buried there. They were members of the hose co. Fred was the town’s first Fire Marshall and he also was the hose co. first fire chief.
JM:What is the difference between at Fire Marshal and a Fire Chief?
JW:A fire chief commands the fire department: the fire marshal is a fire investigator. He enforces codes, laws and investigates fires.
JM:Who is the current fire marshal in town?
JW:Chip Carlton took over from Mike Fitting. Mike retired.11.
JM:Is there anything else you would like to tell me about the research that you are doing?
JW:It is extremely difficult to read the handwriting of some of these men beck in the day. Their handwriting was quite unique especially when you start getting in to fountain pen. Even in the 1980’s some of the men still used fountain pens. You can tell on the paper there are blotches. You can see where they dabbed it with a blotter. Different members and different years and it would not be the same guy as the secretary writing down the notes from the meetings. It is extremely difficult to try to make out some of those words. I always said that I am going to have them computer analyzed and have them printed out.
JM:That would be a good idea. Remember me when you so that.
JM:Where do you actually do your research?
JW:I do it right through the fire company. We have our own records, and minutes of our meetings. We always record the deaths of a member or something like that. It is there and sometimes I go to town hall. I go to the Town Hall for mapping and death certificates and all that good stuff. I have never had to come to the library yet.
JM:But you will if you want to read about Fred Bartholomew.
JW:I want to do some research on him. I may also use the Sheffield Library. It was a huge family in Sheffield.
JM:Thank you so much.
JW:You are welcome.