By Doug La Rocque
Sixteen years is a long time to be chief, but that is the number of years Petersburgh’s Bill Seel put in as the top officer of the Petersburgh Volunteer Fire Department. Bill was first elected chief in 1998 and served until 2003. He returned to the position in 2006, stepping down earlier this year.
Speaking with The Eastwick Press, Bill said “there were a lot of good times and then a few tough ones,” referring of course to when rescues had to be made or homes were a total loss. Bill has also seen a number of changes over his tenure as chief, one of which is the amount of training volunteers are now subject to. A potential firefighter now has to put in as many as 120 hours to be certified, something he sees as sort of a double edged sword. The training is good, “but it’s a huge time commitment.” And this may be drawing down the number of people who might join a volunteer fire service. “It’s tough, because it’s a lot of hours, you got family, kids, working a full time job, and now to try to add this amount of training in a short time.”
The reduction in volunteers is something he sees changing the way local departments are made up, in the equipment they use, and the fact other departments are now being called upon more often to assist one another. He points out as an example, the newest truck in Petersburgh. Instead of being a typical ladder, or pumper or rescue vehicle, it was designed to be more of an all-purpose vehicle, suitable for about 95% of the range of calls the Department might respond to. And as those of you who might have police or fire scanners can hear, more and more often neighboring departments are dispatched to a call at the same time the local department is, no longer waiting for first units to arrive and then call for mutual aid. Bill also hopes more young people will look into becoming volunteers, despite the rigors of today’s training requirements. He is enthusiastic about how rewarding and satisfying it can be to serve your community. but cautions potential recruits, “you have got to want it.”
Bill was presented with a plaque in honor of his service at the department’s annual clam steam and installation, held at the Berlin Rod and Gun Club on July 29. And while he may no longer be chief, he is still involved in emergency services. He remains an active member of the Petersburgh Department, and works full time as a dispatcher at the Rensselaer County 911 Emergency Call Center.
Others honored at the installation were Ben Krahforst, who received an award for his 40 years of service. Current Chief Mike Lindsey for 30 years with the Department, Nathan Michaels for 25 years, Steve Harrison for 10 years, as well as Cheyenne Seel and Tasha Michaels for 5 years each.