Two of Westfield's firefighters were honored at the 103rd Annual Convention of the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen in Hamburg. Everett Reardon, a member of Westfield's Hook and Ladder Company, and Brandon Wright, a former member of Westfield's Citizens Hose Company, received the 2011 Firefighter of the Year award during the Association's awards ceremony.
Some of the qualifications to be nominated for the award include saving a life and performing acts of bravery without due regard to one's own safety. Eligible nominees must belong to a fire department or company within the Southwestern's four membership counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie. Letters of nomination are submitted by fire departments/companies to the Southwestern's Firefighter of the Year Committee by February of the year in which the convention is to be held. The committee then reviews all entries to determine which is most deserving of the award. It is quite an honor to be selected from all of the four counties' submissions.
The Fire Department of Westfield submitted the names of Reardon and Wright for an incident that occurred on Aug. 8, 2010. On that date, members of the Pollisoto family were visiting relatives at Edgewater Condominiums. They went to the beachfront property to go for a swim as the weather was sunny and 81 degrees, with waves approximately 2 to 3 feet. Within an hour's time, the temperature had dropped by 10 degrees and the waves and winds changed dramatically. The two teenagers, Nathan and Allison, ages 14 and 13 respectively, became distressed and called out to their father, Joseph, age 45, for help. Both teenagers were being pulled away from shore by the rolling surf, drifting northeast of where they had entered the water. As the father entered the water to render aid, the mother went to call for help. The father was able to reach both children, but the son became so distressed that Joseph was not able to hold on to both teens. The son drifted further northeast and then back in toward the cliff line, where his father and bystanders lost sight of him.
The Fire Department of Westfield was called out to Edgewater Condominiums to rescue three distressed swimmers over a cliff. Upon arrival of Westfield's Chiefs, it was determined that there was limited access for the rescue and the waves had reached 5 to 6 feet. They were able to maintain a visual on two of the swimmers but could not locate the third. Rescue ropes and rings were sent down to the two swimmers along with several life vests. The U.S. Coast Guard from the Erie, Pa. station was summoned while the Fire Department deployed its 17-foot rescue boat off of Barcelona Pier, three miles from the incident.
Reardon and Wright manned the rescue boat, traveling from the pier in very bad conditions that got progressively worse. It should be noted that all boat pilots are able and expected to abort any mission that they deem is unsafe. When the two firefighters arrived on scene, they rescued the father and daughter who were being held with ropes and rings by rescue personnel in some very choppy water conditions. Waves were pounding the cliff line, spraying water up and over the 40-50 foot cliff. Reardon and Wright brought the pair safely to shore with a very water-logged, barely running boat. Waiting Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel transported the daughter to Westfield Memorial Hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia, fatigue and minor injuries. The father declined transport and chose to stay with the mother, Diane, at the scene.
The Chautauqua County Water Emergency Team (W.E.T.) assisted in the recovery of the son who had washed up on shore approximately one-half mile east of the incident. The dive team initiated CPR and headed to Barcelona Harbor awaiting EMS personnel, who then transported the son to Westfield Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
The Fire Department of Westfield had assistance from the following for this rescue: Westfield Police Department; Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department and CX503; Chautauqua County W.E.T. and Dive/Rescue 1; StarFlight 1; Chautauqua County Tech Rescue; Chautauqua County Fire Coordinator Julius Leone; Deputy Fire Coordinators Tony Faso and Bob Frank; Battalion 2 Coordinator Rick Cole; Ripley EMS; Mayville FD's Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit; and the U.S. Coast Guards of Erie and Detroit.
Reardon and Wright faced treacherous conditions without the best of equipment and without regard for their own safety. Without a doubt, their efforts saved the lives of the father and daughter. The Fire Department is very proud of these two individuals and was in attendance at the Southwestern's awards ceremony held in the Town of Hamburg by the Lake Shore Fire Company. Reardon remains with the Fire Department of Westfield as Lieutenant of the Hook & Ladder Company. Wright moved to Erie earlier this year and is pursuing an interest in joining the City of Erie Fire Department.