PLATTSBURGH — Growing up, Chuck Kostyk always knew he was going to be a firefighter.
“It was just something the family did, I guess,” the Cadyville Volunteer Fire Department firefighter said.
At the recent Clinton County Firefighters Association banquet, Kostyk was given the President Award.
In fact, for many of those honored at this year’s event, held recently at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall in Altona, their work with the local fire department was a family tradition.
Jeff Santor of the South Plattsburgh Volunteer Fire Department was named Firefighter of the Year; Mike Recore of the Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Department is 2014’s Fire Prevention Educator of the Year; and Walt Laramie of Rouses Point Volunteer Fire Department was given the title of EMS Provider of the Year.
Kostyk’s father was a firefighter, and so was his grandfather. His grandfather’s service went back to the 1930s.
That was back in Kostyk’s hometown of Dexter in Jefferson County. In fact, his grandfather was fire chief there and the first president of the Jefferson County Firefighters Association.
Kostyk himself started out in the Dexter Fire Department.
“Work brought me in this direction,” he said, “and I’ve been with the Cadyville Fire Department ever since.”
For Recore, his efforts are a way to reach children with a message about safety.
A former chief of the Dannemora Volunteer Fire Department, he now lives in Morrisonville and so switched to his local fire company there.
His work as a fire-prevention educator has been mostly in Saranac Elementary School.
When he and other firefighters visit students, he always makes sure some of the firefighters are wearing their full gear, and he has several fire trucks there for the children to see.
He also uses Clinton County’s Fire Prevention Trailer, which simulates smokes and heat.
“It’s not real smoke, of course, but kids can crawl around and get a feel for what to do in case of a fire.”
Of course, the gear, the equipment and the fire engines generate interest and excitement.
“The kids seem to enjoy, and they seem to get something out of it, so that’s even more important,” Recore said.
The program also brings back some memories for Recore himself.
“I can remember the firefighters coming and doing it for us,” he said, thinking back to his own childhood.
The primary purpose is to teach children about fire prevention and safety, but Recore also wonders if “maybe one or two kids” may decide to become firefighters.
“It’s tough trying to get people to volunteer and to retain them.”
Of course, during his own childhood, he spent a lot of time at the fire department, in any case.
“My dad was a firefighter.”
SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
Laramie joined the Chazy Volunteer Fire Department in 1962, as soon as he was old enough.
“My father (Walter J.) was a firefighter and an EMT, and my mother (Josephine) was an EMT as well. It was a family tradition and also a tradition among many of my close friends.”
When he first signed up, all that was needed to be an ambulance attendant was a first-aid course.
“Things have progressed tremendously since then, as you can well imagine.”
Laramie is now first assistant chief for Rouses Point, and he is a critical-care emergency medical technician.
Like Recore, he has noticed the increasing difficulty that emergency services groups face in finding volunteers.
“If you really want a sense of accomplishment in helping people,” Laramie said, “join the fire department and EMS services.”
Santor is fire chief for the South Plattsburgh company and said it’s ironic that he was named Firefighter of the Year.
“It’s an award for the department,” he said, “and not just for me.”
Echoing the sentiments of other recipients, he added, “we’re always looking for more volunteers.”
Santor’s department nominated the winner of the association’s Hometown Hero award.
“His neighbor was unconscious, and Tom started CPR and probably saved that gentlemen,” Santor said.
Within a few weeks, the man was up and walking, Santor said, “and he’s living a full life today.”
The runners-up for Hometown Hero were Ryan Wood, Erica Dupraw and Cody Dupraw, nominated by the Saranac Fire Department.
Reflecting on his own start as a firefighter, Santor also pointed to family tradition.
“I’m a third-generation firefighter. I’m very proud of that.
“It really is kind of a family business.”