News
White Hills Fire Co. celebrating 75 years of service
Monday, May 2nd, 2022

By Brian Gioiele

Picture

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

White Hills Fire Co. No. 5 is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Pictured are, left to right, Tony DeSarli, past captain; Tim Manion, past captain, 75th Anniversary Chair; Fran Wheeler, past captain, 50 years of active service; Ken Baldega, 75th Committee; Rich Reay, 75th Committee; Mike Kellett, veteran member, 75th Committee; Charlie Ovesny III, past captain, 75th Committee; Patrick Buckley 75th Committee; and Bruce Kosowsky, Commissioner, 55 years active service.

SHELTON — The motto says it all.

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors” is something that generations of volunteers with White Hills Fire Co. No. 5 have embraced. And 75 years after its founding, the concept still rings true.

“We’re a family,” said Tim Manion, longtime volunteer firefighter and past White Hills captain who is also serving as chair of the company’s 75th anniversary committee. “We’re here to help our neighbors. But there is such a strong camaraderie among the members here and their families.”

Manion said some families have had three and eve four generations of firefighters at White Hills.

“It is a sacrifice; our families are the ones who pay the price when we must leave to answer a call,” he said.

Formed on May 20, 1946, the volunteers have been aiding the local citizenry ever since — from battling house fires, responding to accidents or alarms to raising money or collecting toys for charities to playing host to Santa Claus’ annual tour of White Hills to toss popcorn balls to onlookers.

The department will hold its 75th anniversary celebration dinner on Sept. 24 at Whitney Farms Golf Course. The dinner is open to the public, and tickets are available on the department’s website.

“Once you were in, you were hooked,” said past White Hill Captain Tony DiSarli. “We have volunteers here that are second, third, fourth generation firefighters.”

“My parents have pictures of me sitting on Santa’s lap here. I have pics of my kids doing the same,” said longtime volunteer firefighter and past Capt. Charlie Ovesny III. “We have incredible memories of our times together here, as kids and now as adults.”

Longtime volunteer firefighter Mike Kellett said there are grandmothers with their grandchildren at company events that were once the children here themselves.

“Throwing popcorn balls to the kids, that’s one of my fondest memories,” added Ken Baldyga, who like his fellow firefighters, has dedicated years to serving the people in White Hills and the rest of the city.

Shelton has four fire companies which have battled many significant fires over the years, most notably the firebombing at the B.F. Goodrich factory downtown in 1975, which the FBI deemed the largest arson case in the nation at the time.

Other fires included the Shelton Boys Club blaze and numerous fires along Canal Street — most recently the fire that gutted the former Star Pin building, which sent a plume of smoke into the sky that was visible for miles.

But even with the dangers, these volunteers say they have no fear of walking into a burning home if it is in the interest of protecting their neighbors.

“Firefighting is dangerous, but we have had all the training - hours and hours of training,” said Fran Wheeler, a volunteer firefighter for six decades, first with Echo Hose, then White Hills. “We are doing this to save lives. That is what I have dedicated my life to, what my family has dedicated their lives to.”

The White Hills Civic Club was chartered May 20, 1946, and a stated aim of the organization was to promote community welfare in this section of the community that housed some 50 families at the time.

One of the first objectives was to form a volunteer fire company and purchase a fire truck. Within a year, the fire company was founded, and the first fire truck was purchased in 1948 at a cost of $7,000.

Members at that time signed personal notes to assure payment of the new vehicle and they held a two-day country fair to help pay off the new fire truck. The Civic Club donated $1,000 toward the construction of a cinderblock addition to their building to house the new truck.

The truck was originally stored in a barn in White Hills in the summer and at the Monroe firehouse during the winter until the addition was completed. In 1951, the fire company fought its first major fire at Novotny’s barn a few years later.

Today, White Hills Co. No. 5 is chartered to have up to 75 members but there are only 35 active members — with the department constantly on the search for new recruits.

The need is there, Manion says, with the call volume at about 250 annually in the mid-1980s to more than 400 projected for this year.

Manion said that in the 1980s, there were 350 volunteer firefighters citywide protecting some 35,000 residents — making one out of every 100 people was a volunteer.

Now, the city has 42,000 people and 260 volunteers, and Manion said that population number jumps to nearly 90,000 during the day as the city has become an employment hub in the region.

“This weighs on all the companies,” Kellett said. “We are always looking for volunteers.”

The volunteers respond to calls including structure fires, commercial fire alarms, brush fires, medical assists, and motor vehicle accidents and extrication.

In addition to providing citywide coverage all hours of the day, 365 days a year, Company 5 has responded to mutual aid calls in Monroe, Derby, Trumbull, Stratford, and other towns. They are also part of the countywide Strike Force unit and most recently responded to help fight fires as far away as Brookfield and Bethel.

Other annual events run by Company 5 include a boot drive, pancake breakfast, holiday tree lighting, Santa visits, and fire safety education events.

All these fundraisers help the company purchase specialized vehicles and equipment, thermal imagers, extrication tools, CO and gas meters and many other necessary pieces of equipment and tools.

“We are all here for each other and the people of Shelton,” said Ovesny.

He says he remembers how his extended family came to his grandfather’s aid when his home caught fire on his birthday years back.

“Insurance would not cover replacing the deck, so the firehouse did the work,” he said. “They paid for materials and rebuilt the deck. That’s what we do here. We have fundraisers to buy items for the company, but we have food drives, toy drives, pancake breakfasts, flower sales. And we raise money for those in need in the community.” brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

×picture
16 entries in the News
Wednesday, September 14th, 2022
picture
Over the past few days, the Shelton Fire Department assisted our neighbors with staffing and Rapid Intervention. On September 11th Echo Hose Hook and Ladder and White Hills assisted the Derby Fire Department with a working structure fire on Spring Street.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2022
picture
The City of Shelton Fire Department will receive two identical fire engines thanks to the Mayor, Board of Alderman, Hudson Valley Fire Equipment, LLC and Seagrave Fire Apparatus. We look forward to the long process of construction! Stay tuned for progress as we move forward!
Monday, September 5th, 2022
picture
Our kids return to school in Shelton tomorrow morning! Please remember to drive safely, use caution and expect some delays. To the kids, have a safe, fun, and exciting school year!!!
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022
picture
Date: August 23, 2022Time: 2:46pmLocation: Rt. 8 median Btwn 12/13Nature: Brush FiresCompanies 3 and 1 of the Shelton Fire Department responded to the location to provide for two more brush fires. One of the fires was approximately 120 yards long, the other was about 50 yards, and both spanned the w...
By Brian GioieleBrian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut MediaWhite Hills Fire Co. No. 5 is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Pictured are, left to right, Tony DeSarli, past captain; Tim Manion, past captain, 75th Anniversary Chair; Fran Wheeler, past captain, 50 years of active service; Ken Baldega, 75th...
picture
by JEAN FALBO-SOSNOVICH | Apr 11, 2022 5:50 pm(0) Comments | Post a Comment | E-mail the AuthorPosted to: SheltonThe White Hills department in about 1977. This photo is contributed.SHELTON – Whether rushing to extinguish a house fire or raising money for charity, the volunteers of White Hills ...
Friday, April 1st, 2022
picture
Date: April 1, 2022Time: 6:58pmLocation: Maple StreetNature: Structure FireJust before 7pm the Shelton Fire/Police Dispatch received several calls of a building on fire in the area of Howe Avenue and Maple Street.
Monday, March 28th, 2022
picture
Date: March 28, 2022Time: 3:17pmLocation: Perry Ave.Nature of Incident: House FireAt approximately 3:17 pm, Shelton Fire Department companies 1, 5, and 4 were dispatched to a multi-family home on Perry Avenue for the reported structure fire.
Saturday, March 5th, 2022
picture
Date: March 5th, 2022Time: 3:35pmLocation: Leavenworth Rd near Indian Wells RdNature: MVA with extricationAt around 3:30 pm on 3/5/22, Companies 1 and 5 of the Shelton Fire Department were alerted to a head-on motor vehicle accident with occupants trapped in both vehicles.
picture
A very special thank you to our friends over at Adams Hometown Markets in the White Hills Shopping Center for their generous donation to the White Hills Fire Company! Every year they donate to our firehouse and we couldn’t be more thankful for the continued support! Adams Shelton
Thursday, December 16th, 2021
picture
Congratulations to the 2022 Company Officer for the White Hills Fire Company No. 5:Assistant Chief Robert FintaCaptain Dan Tatun1st Lieutenant Nick Demko2nd Lieutenant Jonathan BednarzStaff OfficerCommissioner Bruce KosowskiTreasurer Soren IbsenSecretary James Norkus
picture
Date: November 25, 2021Time: 3:15pm and 3:58pmLocation: Overlook Drive and Meadowlark DrNature: Structure Fire and Chimney FireAt 3:15 pm, Companies 3, 5, and 1 were dispatched to the above address for the shed on fire.
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021
picture
Shelton Fire Department*** PRESS RELEASE***Incident Date: June 22, 2021Time of Incident: 5:06 pmIncident Location 473 Mica CourtNature of Incident: Structure FireAt 5:06 pm, the Shelton Fire/Police Dispatch received several calls reporting a structure fire on Mica Court.
Monday, May 3rd, 2021
picture
Shelton Fire Department***PRESS RELEASE***Date of Incident: May 3, 2021Time of Incident: 3:55 p.m.Location of Incident: Long Hill Ave. Shelton, CTNature of Incident: Structure FireJust before 4 pm on 5/3/21, the Shelton Fire/Police dispatch received several 911 calls reporting a house on fire on Lon...
Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
picture
Press ReleaseDate: April 21, 2021Time: 7:33pmLocation: Birdseye RoadNature: House Fire At approximately 7:30 pm on April 21st, the Shelton Fire Department was alert to a report of a structure fire on Birdseye Road.Upon the arrival of the first fire unit, Engine 32, a light smoke condition was found ...
Sunday, April 4th, 2021
picture
Shelton Fire Department***PRESS RELEASE***Date of Incident: April 4, 2021Time of Incident: 10:52 amLocation of Incident: 350 Green RockNature of Incident: Structure FireJust before 11 am on 4/4/21, the Shelton Fire/Police Dispatch Center received a can reporting a basement fire on Green Rock.
16 entries in the News

© 2022 Shelton White Hills Fire Company NO. 5