Nov. 4 - HFRA member Bob Kelo passed away last August 19th in Virginia, where he and his wife Jackie had been living since his 1996 retirement. Yesterday, nineteen HFRA members, family and friends of Bob Kelo gathered at Hamden Town House restaurant as HFRA president Bob Mordecai presented an Association memorial plaque to Jackie Kelo, who was accompanied from her Virginia home by two of her children, Bob, Jr. and Debbie.
In presenting the memorial plaque, Pres. Mordecai reviewed Bob Kelo's nearly 27-year career with the department, including his 1984 promotion to lieutenant, his department commendation in 1985 and his appointment with Bob Viglione as co-leader of the department's Hazardous Materials Team.
Most of the retirees present were former Platoon 4 members who worked with Bob. Ninety-two year old Joe Rahl was there along with Gil Spencer, Jim Koutsopolos, Bob Viglione, Dave Johnson and Donny Buechele, who presented the Kelo family with a 1985 photo of Bob when he received the department's Medal of Distinction (see below).
Also present were Augie Williams, Jim Dunlop and Mary Critchett, widow of Frank. Bob Kelo and Frank Critchett, who passed away six years ago, both began their fire service careers with the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department.
Several retirees offered their memories of working with Bob, including his battalion chief, Gil Spencer, who called Bob a great firefighter and a good guy. John O'Hare, who worked with Bob for many years on Platoon 4, asked that his best wishes be conveyed to Jackie and family. A medical appointment prevented John from attending.
Finally, Jackie was presented with her certificate of Honorary Meembership in the HFRA.
The Association thanks the folks at Hamden's Town House restaurant for accommodating our members and guests, and especially for their excellent food and service.
Debbie, Jackie and Bob Kelo, Jr.
Jackie greets Joe Rahl, 92, the Association's senior member
Jim Koutsopolos, Jim Dunlop, Bobby Viglione and Bob Mordecai
Ff. Don Buechele, Lieut. Bob Kelo and Ff. Bob Surprise
Retired Supt. of Apparatus Don Buechele presented the Kelo family with this photo taken the night of the department's first awards ceremony, October 18, 1985. Lieut. Bob Kelo is flanked by Don and a very youthful Bob Surprise, who would advance through the ranks to become the department's deputy fire chief in 2010. All three worked on Platoon 4 for then-Commander (B/C) Francis "Chalky" Leddy and were recognized for successful life-saving acts.
Election Day Fireworks in Hamden - November 2, 1965
Bristol's Barn - 3926 Whitney Avenue
Just as polls were about to close for Hamden's historic first mayoral election, between Republican John DeNicola, Sr. and Democrat Lawrence O'Brien, the sky in upper Mount Carmel lit up when a barn belonging to Harold Bristol caught fire. Firefighters were on scene for nearly five hours.
The New Haven Register, Wednesday, November 3, 1965 (Brainard Collection)
According to notes from Don Steele's log book, the response was Engine 4, Engine 5, Rescue 2, Engine 9, the ladder truck, Dep. Chief Everett Doherty and Chief Leddy. The fire "took off top floor + roof." Steele also noted that over 30 personnel responded, including eight volunteers from Co. 5. Engine 9 was all volunteer in those days. "Rescue 2" was the designation of the rescue assigned to HQ until October 1971.
DeNicola, who had been elected First Selectman four times previously, won the election 11,594 to 9,225. He served until 1968, making him Hamden's longest serving chief executive since George Warner, who was First Selectmen from 1919 to 1932. DeNicola's son John, Jr., and daughter, Barbara, each served a term as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively.
This 1965 Mack 750 GPM was one of the longest serving active pieces of Hamden fire apparatus. Delivered in August 1965, it was assigned to Co. 4, Co. 2, Co. 5 (briefly), Co. 9 and finally Vol. Co. 7 before it was retired in 2000, when it was sold to a private party. The truck re-surfaced in 2015 when it was re-sold by its North Haven owner.
This photo was taken at Station 9 in April 1983 when Chan Brainard was visiting his native Hamden from his home in California.
Below: The original Bill of Sale from Mack Trucks in West Haven. The price is about 1/20 of what a similar new pumper might cost today. The sales tax, though municipalities were exempt, was only 3-1/2%.
Original Bill of Sale - July 22, 1965
Dedication plaque retrieved before the truck was sold in 2000 (in HFRA archives)
On an extremely hot and humid July night in 1981, Hamden firefighters were put to the test when fire broke out on the upper floors of a woodframe "apartment house" on Dix Street. Several firefighters were overcome with heat exhaustion and 55-year old Capt. Luke Tobin was hospitalized with a possible heart attack.
As one of Keith Victor's "Alarm Room News" correspondents, retiree Ed Doiron employed a voice actuated tape recorder to monitor the radio frequencies of area fire departments. Condensed into less than 18 minutes, over four hours of Dix Street radio traffic was captured by Ed's recorder.
The recording is a virtual time capsule of personnel, radio procedures when we were still using the old 10-codes, as well as department procedures before a department incident command protocol was established in the mid-1980s.
A YouTube video featuring the radio transmissions of the Dix Street fire is being prepared for next week's update. Say tuned.