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Several families have generations of service at Albion Fire Department

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 April 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Al and Andrew Cheverie

ALBION – Some of Andrew Cheverie’s earliest memories are taking a soapy sponge and wiping off the big tires on Albion fire trucks. He often joined his father, Al, in the fire hall.

Andrew, 16, has grown up as a part of the Albion Fire Department. Now, he is a cadet member, a step above the youth explorer program, but not quite a basic firefighter. He can do many of the firefighter duties, but isn’t allowed to go into a house on fire.

“It’s always been a lot of fun, even cleaning the fire trucks,” Andrew said about the fire department. “It’s definitely been exciting having grown up here and to now become a part of it.”

Andrew and Al Cheverie are one of many firefighting families in the department. Some families, such as the Sidaris, have been active volunteers for four or five generations.

Al Cheverie, an AFD volunteer for 23 years, enjoys working alongside his son as firefighters.

“You’re definitely doing something constructive together,” Al said.

Firefighters say the volunteer jobs consume a lot of time with training, work around the fire hall and responding to emergencies. Having family members in the department makes the time away from home more bearable.

Michael and Spencer Misiak

“It’s a camaraderie,” said Michael Misiak, an AFD firefighter the past 12 years. “It brings a father and son closer together.”

His son Spencer, 16, is president of the explorer post, which currently includes four people 14 and older. It’s run through the Boy Scouts of America.

“It’s fun, but it’s a commitment,” Spencer said.

The department started the explorer post in 1974. Tim Irwin was in that initial group. He spent four years as an explorer before become a full member 35 years ago. He now helps run the explorer program. His daughter Allyson, 15, is one of the explorers.

“I put her in a fire truck when she was 2,” Irwin said.

Tim and Allyson Irwin

Allyson has been a frequent presence in the fire hall she was a baby. As an explorer, she has joined firefighters on tasks in the community, including basement pumping. She is eager to gain more skills to help the department.

Bill Francis joined the AFD 26 years ago, following 10 years with the Wallace Fire Department in the Southern Tier, where his father was an assistant chief. His two sons – Will, 22, and Matt, 21 – are active firefighters in Albion.

“I’ve always wanted to be a fireman,” Matt said. “You want to help the community you grew up in.”

Matt works in Rochester as a collision technician. His brother works at CRFS in Albion and wants to be a police officer. Will says firefighting “is a family tradition.”

“I still get excited sitting in the front seat with the lights on, going out on a call,” he said.

Bill Francis is pictured with his sons Will, center, and Matt.

The department has 75 active firefighters, but could use more, especially for the day-time calls when many members have work commitments. Harry Papponetti, a past chief, said there are many roles to help the department, and not just fighting fires and providing EMS. Volunteers are needed for scene support and as drivers.

Papponetti has volunteered with the department for 43 years. Four of his sons have served with the AFD, including John, 38; Jimmy, 35; Scott, 33; and Steven, 20.

John remembers when he was a kid riding his bike up and down Platt Street, pretending he was in a fire truck. When John moved from Albion about a decade ago, he joined the Penfield Fire Company, where he is now a vice president.

“It’s in your blood,” he said about the fire service. “You can’t get away from it.”

The Papponetti family, from left: John, Jimmy, Harry and Steven. Scott is also a member of the AFD but is currently stationed with the military in Montana.

His brother Steven juggles a college course load with volunteerism in the fire department. On weekends, he often hangs out at the fire hall, where he said he enjoys the fellowship.

When Harry Papponetti joined the fire department 43 years ago, he said there were 350 firefighters in Albion. There were a lot of fires back then. These days the AFD responds more to motor vehicle accidents, automatic alarms, gas leaks and smoke and odor investigations. However, the department still battled 24 fires last year.

The department welcomes new members, and they don’t need a pedigree in the AFD. Jodi Genno is an example of a newcomer who sought out the department. She was living in Florida when she moved to Albion in 2004.

“I always wanted to be in the fire service and be an EMT,” she said.

In Fort Lauderdale, where she lived, the department was run by career firefighters.

Genno said the AFD has been welcoming. She helps lead the explorer post, where her son Austin, 14, is one of the four members. Austin enjoys shooting pool with the firefighters and helping around the fire hall.

“I want to make the real firefighters’ jobs easier,” he said.

Jodi Genno and her son Austin

The department will have an open house this Saturday from 10 to 3 p.m. Firefighters will do blood pressure checks, offer fire safety tips, and lead demonstrations on the Hurst tool and a fire extinguisher. The fire hall is on North Platt Street next to the canal.