Unsung Hero: Edward Mihalczo, Volunteer 1st Assistant Lieutenant Congers Fire Department

1st Assistant Lieutenant Edward Mihalczo assists in training of subordinates during company or department drills using lecture, practical performance and demonstration methods. In addition, he conducts periodic firefighter written performance evaluations and completes recommendations on probationary firefighters.

BY BARRY WARNER

Congers FD’s 1st Assistant Lieutenant Edward Mihalczo works under the direction of his department’s fire captain and is responsible for supervising the firefighters and fire engineers when working at a fire scene or other emergencies.

“Ed is 30-years-old and joined our department in October 2009 soon after he graduated from college. Ed has been given the role of training officer, one of which he takes very seriously and works one-on-one with all the members in the department,” said Chief Jason DiSalvo. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve applied for a few grants to help us purchase some needed equipment. We recently received a grant to purchase a new rescue boat. Ed specced out the boat, which we have purchased and now currently use. We have developed a standardized probie training program for all new members who enter the department. Ed holds weekly drills to work on developing the many skills needed to be a firefighter. The program is helping shape the newer generation of members and it is working. As chief, Ed makes my job much easier and he is respected by young and old.”

“During a fire emergency, I ride in the front seat of the truck and at the fire scene I give orders to the firefighters about tools, water required and hose lines to stretch,” Mihalczo told the Rockland County Times. “Every Monday night is reserved for training. I built a maze out of plywood to provide the probationary firefighters or robies acting as a team with the challenge of pulling the hose through the twists and turns of the maze. The guys wanted to do more training, so I arranged for them to witness an actual house being burned at the Fire Training Station. Firefighters who work safely earn riding privileges and are an asset to the department.”

“After one year, probies are eligible to take a practical hands-on test administered by the captain and myself to become firefighters. Then the guys come off probation, know what to do, operate safely and no one gets hurt,” Mihalczo continued. “I try to make the training exciting by introducing a lot of new stuff and show GoPro YouTube training films. Within our assigned area, there are CSX train fires, auto accidents requiring extrication, plus Congers Lake and Rockland Lake emergencies that required marine units for rescue. During Hurricane Sandy, there was a road washed out in Stony Point, so a boat was dispatched on the river to rescue people.”

For recruitment purposes, the team uses social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, and schedules open houses and welcomes members of the community to stop by the firehouse every Monday night. “We’ve worked with the pizza shop across from the firehouse to deliver the pizza orders from a firetruck and, if needed by the recipients, provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. We have had an influx of motivated guys who are out of college, older, own a house and are married with children,” Mihalczo said.

The duties and responsibilities of a Fire Lieutenant:

1      Respond to fire and emergency alarms, advise the driver concerning the route to follow, evaluate the emergency and direct company operations for the initial attack.

2      Direct and assist subordinates at the scene of a fire or other emergencies and at the station unless relieved by a superior officer.

3      Inspect apparatus, equipment, grounds and station to ensure proper order and condition.

4      Prepare records and reports of company responses to fires or other emergencies, personnel actions and other such information that may be required.

5      Maintain discipline and adherence to the rules and regulations of the standard operating guidelines of the department.

6      Assume specialized responsibilities such as safety officer, self-contained breathing apparatus leader, fire hose coordinator, protective clothing coordinator and communications manager.

7      Conduct periodic firefighter written performance evaluations and complete recommendations on probationary firefighters.

8      Assist in training of subordinates during company or department drills using lecture, practical performance and demonstration methods.

9      Perform fundamental firefighter or driver/operator duties when required. Operate as the incident commander as deemed necessary for incident scene management.

10   Gain extensive knowledge of the geography of Congers, the location of streets, the nature and location of hazardous premises and hydrant or other water source locations.

“Since I was 6-years-old, I was part of a team when I played sports and later on, I joined a fraternity in college. Members of my family, including uncles and cousins, were or are members of the Spring Valley Fire Department and I wanted to bond with them by also being a firefighter. I went into the Congers firehouse to help the community and found a group of very friendly guys and realized this is what I was supposed to be doing,” Mihalczo concluded. “I love learning and meeting new people, and, as a result, my friendships have increased ten-fold. My main goal is to recruit new firefighters and pass my knowledge on to them to get the job done. The Congers Fire Department is well respected in Rockland County and volunteering as a firefighter was the best decision in my life!”

For additional information about volunteering for the Congers Fire Department, call 845-268-6562 or visit www.congersfd.org.