BY BARRY WARNER
Firefighting is dangerous. It’s a raw example of man subduing the forces of nature in order to protect civilization.
In Rockland County, the public relies on an all-volunteer firefighting corps to provide this service. All of these men and women are heroes.
One volunteer whose efforts have stood out over the years is Suffern Hose Company’s Bruce McClintock, this week’s Unsung Hero.
“Bruce McClintock is one of the most admired members of the Suffern Hose Company. All of the members look up to him and the positive example he sets. [After many decades] Bruce continues to serve in an active role within the company’s day to day operations,” Suffern Hose Company Captain Joe Bednarski told the Rockland County Times.
“Bruce attends drills on a weekly basis, where he passes down priceless firefighting wisdom he has acquired from serving his community for over four decades. Bruce is currently one of the department’s safety officers. You can always find him at training events and fire scenes ensuring that all of the firefighters return home to their families safe and sound after every alarm.
“I enjoy even the briefest of conversations with Bruce, as he passes down tradition, fire house culture and stories from some of the worst fires the Suffern Fire Department has seen dating back to the 1960s. Whether it’s about past incidents, old trucks or the legacies of members who have passed, he always has a new story to share.”
McClintock served in the United States Army in the Vietnam War, where he contracted a terrible illness. After he served as captain of the Hose Company, Bruce had a lifesaving liver transplant, which corrected his illness from Vietnam. He went on to return to active fire duty and became chief of the Department.
“Bruce truly is an invaluable member of the Suffern Hose Company and we cherish each and every interaction we have with him,” Bednarski said.
The primary purposes of a fire engine or hose company include transporting firefighters to an incident scene, providing water with which to fight a fire and carrying other equipment. Firefighters locate hydrants and other sources of water. They connect hoses to sources of water using various tools and get the hoses in position by dragging, carrying or hoisting them into place. Over his 45 years, Bruce McClintock has served at different times as captain of the Hose Company, president of the Hose Company and chief of the Suffern Fire Department.
Bruce McClintock said, “These younger guys we have here are great. They have a good future here and have an interest in the history of the department. Pictures of firefighters and badges representing our past were set up on the wall so people could see them. It was amazing! Why wouldn’t you want to be around a group of people who would get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to help somebody they don’t know? I joined the Suffern Fire Department at 18. My family was involved in the village community with the Planning Board and Recreation Department. When I served as captain, I was in charge of the operations of the Hose Company on the fire scene. I would size-up the fire, make decisions where the fire crews would layout the hoses and check for exposures, so the next house would not catch fire. It is a dangerous game!”
McClintock continued, “After I returned from two tours of duty in Vietnam, I became the youngest president of the Suffern Hose Company. My administrative functions included being in charge of the committees, the building, fundraising, fiduciary responsibilities and being a liaison to the village. Today, being a firefighter is hard work, because there is a lot of training and dedication. It is harder than when I first came in because there are different types of construction and hazardous materials to deal with.”
So how much work does the company see in a given year? McClintock said, “In the Village of Suffern, the Hose Company is responsible for some industry, a commercial area on Main Street, six story apartment houses, Good Samaritan Hospital, schools and Avon Products. We have about 300 fire calls a year. Currently, I am on the Board of Directors of the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen’s Association (RCVFA). We are doing legislative work to ensure fire safety in Rockland County by getting bills passed regarding code enforcement of inspection of schools and illegal construction. With any new construction, there has to be access to fire hydrants. Rockland is a very active community. We coordinate our activities with the Police Department and ambulance Corps. Socially, there are Family Days, dinners, barbecues and parades.”
The mission of the Rockland County Volunteer Firemen’s Association (RCVFA) is the advancement of the interests of the volunteer firefighters, fire companies and the fire service, promoting and strengthening the bonds of unity among the various fire departments and companies throughout Rockland County. Also, to render assistance, encouragement, education and safety that would enhance the efficiency of firefighters and further their cause. The meetings are informational in order to keep members up-to-date on firefighting operations and legislation that pertains to them, with an emphasis on firefighter safety and wellbeing.
For information about volunteering, visit www.suffernfire.org or call 845-357-8841.