GOOD NEWS!: Fire department celebrates 125 years

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The Ravena Fire Department celebrated its 125th anniversary with a parade through the village Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s the latest in our ongoing “GOOD NEWS!” series. We hope you have been enjoying hearing about the good things that are happening in our communities — like the local fire department that has been serving its community for 125 years.

RAVENA — In the year 1897, Grover Cleveland was president, the Boston Marathon was run for the first time, and inventor Thomas Edison was granted a patent for the precursor to the movie projector.

It was also the year the Ravena Fire Department was founded.

That is how long the department has been serving and protecting its community.

On Saturday, the fire department held a parade commemorating 125 years of service, opening up the annual Friendship Festival.

“The fire company has always been there for all the people in the community,” said Village Foreman Henry Traver, who was directing traffic along the parade route. “They also do a lot of community events like ice cream socials and steak dinners, and they keep the people going.”

The parade stepped off at 11:30 a.m. from Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary School, marched west on Main Street, turned north on Pulver Avenue and made its way to Mosher Park. Numerous area fire departments, businesses and community groups also participated in the parade, as local residents lined the streets and cheered.

“All fire departments are deep in my heart,” resident Barbara Tanner said as she waited for the marchers to arrive. “My husband was with the New Baltimore Fire Department and I was in the Auxiliary. God bless them — it’s free, it’s volunteer, no pay. They get up day, night, cold, hot — I appreciate the fire departments.”

Ravena resident Rebecca Shook, a gold medalist swimmer in the 2022 Special Olympics held in Florida earlier this year who also serves as the village’s ambassador, was selected as Grand Marshal of the parade.

“It felt amazing to be the Grand Marshal. It was very thrilling,” Shook said. “I love my community a lot.”

Parade Grand Marshal Rebecca Shook, Village Trustee Caitlin Appleby, Deputy Mayor Nancy Warner and Village Trustee Linda Muller, left to right, wave to the crowd in Saturday’s parade honoring the 125th anniversary of the Ravena Fire Department. Mel

Firefighter Rich Byerwalters has been with the fire department for more than two decades. Firefighting is a family tradition for him.

“I joined in 1996 and my father was fire chief before me. Both of my parents were active members for years before that,” Byerwalters said. “It’s great to see so much support from the community. At a time when it is so difficult to find volunteers, we certainly encourage people to come out and do what they can — we have to help each other out because we are all in this together. It is such a small community, we need to rely on each other.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20, was among the officials marching in the parade and spoke of the vital nature of the services volunteer fire departments provide.

“Firefighting is deemed by many to be the most dangerous occupation. When you can provide quality fire service — fire protection and fire response services — for 125 years, that is worth celebrating,” Tonko said. “We are here in celebration with them, thanking them for the training, the fundraising they do, the selflessness that they bring to the table. They sacrifice personal, family and social time to service their community. There can be no better role model than firefighters.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20, with parade Grand Marshal Rebecca Shook, holding up her Special Olympics gold medal. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The department is a vital part of the community, Village Trustee Linda Muller said.

“Without the fire department, we wouldn’t have a real community,” Muller said. “They are a great bunch of volunteers that keep our community safe.”

The value the department brings to the community is incalculable, Deputy Mayor Nancy Warner said.

“Words can’t say what this fire company means to the community,” Warner said. “We have one of the best fire companies in the area. These men and women, and now some young community members, are there day or night, anytime. I am thankful to them and I wish them another 125 years here in the village.”

Fire Police Officer John Meyers has spent the past 50 years with several different fire companies and joined the Ravena department a year ago. The contributions of the fire company to the community go beyond firefighting, he said.

“What the fire company does for the village, besides answering alarms, is great,” Meyers said. “We have so many programs to try to help our community.”

Here are more photos from the parade:

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