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Family and job blend at fire hall

LEWISTON - It's hard for some people to tell where family ends and the job begins, but according to Upper Mountain Road Volunteer Fire Chief Jon F. Schultz, the distinction is an easy one.

It starts when the fire house bell sounds.

"We're very family- orientated here," Schultz said. "Dave [Bialis, the department president] goes to my daughter's birthday parties and Niagara University kids [many of whom volunteer] will sometimes live at my house.

"But once that bell sounds, we become very militaristic. We're all business," Schultz said of his volunteer firefighters.

Schultz, 34, has spent most of his life in service to his community, working as a volunteer for Upper Mountain Volunteer for nearly 15 years. He's served as assistant chief for five of those years and chief for the past three years.

His wife and former high school sweetheart, Jennifer, is also part of the fire company. She is captain of the Emergency Medical Services team.

Schultz said his wife is "awesome support for his job," but that their 6-year-old twin daughters, Elle and Alex, are really the bosses and like to call themselves the chiefs.

>You recently celebrated National Fire Prevention Week.

It's our week to open our doors to our community to see what we are about. For people to come in and see what Upper Mountain is about and what we do.

>What do you like to tell people?

We're a small company, 55 members strong, men and women. We've got many Niagara University students who are members here. Also families who live in our community. Legacy members. Historic members. Members who have been here since we have been incorporated.

>How long have you been incorpo- rated?

This year will be our 50th anniversary.

>Are you planning a big anniversary party?

We have our installation dinner in May, where we install our officers and do a nice little dinner to recognize our members for all the good work they do throughout the year. It won't be a big shindig. With our small budget, we can't waste our money. It's more important to be able to have the money to provide for the community, to keep our equipment and gear on the road instead of a lot of parties and whatnot.

>You recently made a large purchase, the E-One Hurricane 105-foot ladder truck. Did you raise money for it?

The cost of a new truck was between $900,000 and a million, so once our old truck was no longer usable we started looking at used apparatus.

>The E-One Hurricane is used? It doesn't look it.

[The 2002 truck] is 100 percent refurbished. It saved our budget almost $400,000.

>How do you raise funds?

We go door-to-door, hold rummage sales, boot drives. We have a very minimal budget. We also do get money from the town.

>You said you had 55 members. Is that a good number of members?

We're always looking for more. We have 55 members, yes, but of those 55, people have jobs, commitments, kids in soccer. . . . The actual number responding is a lot less. Our calls happen 365 [days] throughout the year.

>You offer a lot of membership options.

We have more than just firefighters now. We have administrative members, EMS only, fire police members. People can do just public relations. We changed our bylaws so we are open to more avenues. And once we get people in here and they see how much fun fighting fire is, they have become some of our better firefighters.

>Establishing an Emergency Response Committee is also important to you.

I brought that to the Town Board two months ago. We're working on getting that up and running. We're trying to look at a holistic approach for the town.

>Was that revived? I remember we talked about that after the Sept. 11 tragedy.

Actually it's got more momentum now. There's some significant threats in our district with the international Lewiston- Queenston Bridge, transports [of] hazardous radioactive waste and the interstate [I-190], which harbors all the PCBs that go through our district, unfortunately, to [to Chemical Waste Management], and the New York Power Authority and the plant itself. We're right at the base of the reservoir, so if the dam were ever to let loose, we'd be wet pretty quick.

>What do you hope these meetings accomplish?

We're looking to plan for the town. Not just disasters like [if something happened at] the Power Authority, but also if there was a pandemic flu. Any type of disaster that would affect the town as a whole.

>Who would serve on this committee?

All the town fire chiefs, town police, town government, village government, highway, water, sewer. From there, this would be our initial group, and we would expand as needed. The county has their own plan, but we in Lewiston want to be proactive, to be sort of selfish and be prepared. If you don't plan for it, when the time comes it can be pure chaos.

>How would someone find out more about Upper Mountain Volunteer Fire Department if they missed the open house?

They can either call the fire station at 297-0330 or go to our Web site at www.uppermountainfire.com , and they can get an application online or we're here every Monday night at 7 p. m., and are always willing to show them around.

>It sounds like it's always open house.

A few weeks ago a gentleman came by with his grand-kids and we gave them a ride in the fire truck around the neighborhood. We're here for the community, and we're here because of the community.

nfischer@buffnews.com

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