Remembering Two Instrumental Leaders Of Cattaraugus Fire Department

While I sit here preparing to attend the funeral service of a second Past President of the Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association in the past month (Bill Pratt of Otto on 6/28 and Gary Wuethrich of Weston Mills on 6/14), I started to think about how the timing of this service actually is.

The County Association (CCVFA) should be holding its 83rd Annual Convention this weekend.

This year’s convention was not scheduled because of the approved motion on Friday, July 15, 2016 that states: “Motion to move The Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association to an inactive status…”

With that motion last year, 82 years of “county-wide” comradery in the Volunteer Fire Service came to a standstill.

When this organization was created in 1934, it stated the following:

“The Purposes of the Association are: To promote closer relations between the Volunteer Companies, Departments, Associations Active and Exempt Individual Members Therefore, who are, or who may hereafter become Members of the Association; to promote the science and improve the methods of fire protection, fire prevention and fire fighting; to assist in training of fireman and others in the saving and safeguarding of life and property; to aid and assist in every lawful way the Members of this Association and the Volunteer Firemen who are members of the various Fire Companies, Fire Departments, of Associations of which this Association is composed, which may include giving assistance will be voluntarily and gratuitously given by the Association; to do all things lawful to promote the welfare of the Volunteer Firemen, whether or not such objects are specifically set for herein.”

One of the biggest honors of CCVFA was presenting Firefighter of the Year Awards. Sadly, there will be no awards to present in 2017.

Including CCVFA, it is noticeable how many community “organizations or clubs” have become inactive or worst a dissolution because of the lack in participation.

In the fire service, I have personally seen an increase in individual “membership” or participation in our communities that they serve.

Training and availability of responders is difficult, but those that stick it out can be proud of their efforts and should be recognized through an organization such as the Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Gary and Bill were both leaders when it came to training and recognition.

Gary instructed many firefighters throughout Cattaraugus County. I took many of his courses and remember many stories and his slide shows that he enjoyed presenting during his classes.

Bill served the Otto Fire Department as Chief for 20 years and was chairman of the Fire Advisory Board for several years. I am honored for the guidance that he provided me during my involvement with CCVFA.

Their dedication to CCVFA’s continued existence was included in the motion previously mention with the following additional wording:

“A request of at least eight Cattaraugus County Fire Departments via individual letters addressed to as many living past presidents as possible in the event of wanting to reactivate the association”

A final motion states: “that no earlier than January 12, 2021, the executive committee meet to finalize the formal dissolution of the Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association.”

It is those two motions that Bill and Gary stand by.

On behalf of the Officers of the Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association, I would like to dedicate the “83rd” to Past Presidents Gary Wuethrich (1976-77) and William Pratt (2004-05).

We hold you in our hearts, united by an unbreakable bond of strength and sacrifice that each of you provided.

Thomas P Lecceadone, Randolph,is Cattaraugus County Volunteer Firefighters Association president.