On a fateful day in 1940 a call went out to the Village Fire Department for a barn fire at the Leonard Kellogg farm. By the time the village department arrived, the barns were devastated despite the efforts of Leonard and several family members. It wasn’t until the men returned from WWII that a group was able to form a fire department in the Town, to service town residents. After the war, the Kellogg’s next door neighbors, the Cowins, loaned the use of their barns to house the Town’s first fire engine. Meetings were held at the homes of the Cowins and they donated the land on which the main station stands today.
On July 24th 1954 a group of 38 men from the Town of Stillwater signed a roll book and began a long legacy of what has become the Arvin Hart Fire Company of the Stillwater Fire District. The dedicated group had humble beginnings, using Cowin’s barn to store a vintage 1934 American LaFrance Pumper. The first piece of apparatus was covered by a canvass door, fire alarms were received by phone, and the wives of the first firefighters formed a phone tree to spread the alarm. Occasionally the “fire phone” was set off by Mrs. Cowin’s new Mix Master when she was baking a cake. It provided practice for the new volunteers and a good laugh when they connected the activation of the alarm to the baking of cakes. Of those original 38 Charter Members the last to answer his final alarm on July 24th, 2016 62 years later to the day, was 99 year old Larry Rinaldi.
Our Only Line of Duty Death to date, 1956
John Patrick Callahan was born in 1904 in Mechanicville, New York. He and his twin brother, Martin S Callahan, joined the Mechanicville Fire Department circa 1922. They were assigned to the W. B. Neilsen Hose Company, Number 4. In 1950, he moved to the neighboring town of Stillwater where he became one of 38 men who were Charter Members of the Arvin Hart Fire Department founded on July 24, 1954. His home was across the street from the where the fire station was built in 1955 with its sole truck, a 1934 LaFrance. His position was 1st Assistant Fire Chief.
On August 15, 1956 at approximately 1pm, 1st Assistant Chief Callahan went to a grass fire in Stillwater. Upon returning home at 2:45pm, he died suddenly of a heart attack. He had chest pains at the fire scene but was unaware of the gravity of his medical condition. 1st Assistant Chief Callahan was survived by his wife, Honora Greeley Callahan, his oldest son, Father Zachary Callahan, his daughters, Honora “Kiki” Bendon and Agnes Ryan and his 14 year old son, John Patrick Callahan, Jr. 1st Assistant Chief Callahan was also Assistant Yardmaster for the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.
This firefighter line of duty fatality occurred before the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial was built in Emmitsburg, Maryland. While this firefighter has not been officially honored at the Memorial site, there are plans to do so when resources are available.
The Arvin Hart Fire Company Today
Today the Arvin Hart Fire Company responds to an average of 200 incidents annually with 10 pieces of apparatus including 4 pumpers, 1 heavy rescue, a brush fire unit, the air boat pulled by a multipurpose support unit, a fire police unit and a general utility vehicle. There are approximately 50 active members who volunteer day and night to the call for assistance.
Continuing the Proud Tradition
The Fire District completed a new fire station in August of 2006 to replace the 50 year old station on Campbell Road. Station 1 served the district well especially when it was used as the command post for an F3 tornado which struck portions of the town damaging or destroying over 250 structures in May of 1998. The District has constructed a building that will serve the community for 50+ years, continuing the proud tradition of defending the community as D. Arvin Hart volunteered to defend his nation.
Commissioners and Officers
Board of Fire Commissioner’s for 2023
Anthony Ponzillo, Tom Rinaldi, Bill Ritter, Bob Carson, David Zecca
Fire District Treasurer –Nick Maciariello
Fire District Secretary – Barb Comitale
Line Officers for 2023
Chief – Rick Hopeck
Deputy – R.J. Laurenzo
Assistant – John Bellard
Captains – CJ Brownell, Sean Ritter, Dave Dunn
Lieutenants. – Nick Brady, Nate Paquin, Tom Whitney
Fire Police Capt. – Bill Valosin
Fire Police Lt. – Brian Sabourin
Administrative Officers for 2023
President – Danielle Brady
V.P. – Nick Maciariello
Treasurer – Jaclyn Thomas
Secretary – Chris Wright
Correspondence Secretary – Tiffani Murray
Sergeant at Arms – Bill Ritter
Trustees – Dave Duquette, Jason Urdang, Jeff Nyland,
Brian Sabourin, and Tim Collins
Stillwater District Commissioner Profiles
Board member Anthony Ponzillo was recently re-elected to a 5 year term and currently serves as the Chairman of the Board.
Anthony or “Ponzi” as he is known to his friends and family, has been a member of the Arvin Hart Fire Company for 31 years and has served as Company President, Lieutenant and is currently a certified Safety Officer.
Anthony’s recently retired as a Project Craftsman, welder with Momentive Materials in Waterford where he worked for 40 years. Ponzi graduated from the Mechanicville Public School in 1972 and has an Associates Degree in Agricultural Mechanics from SUNY Cobleskill. Anthony brings a knowledge of mechanical engineering, welding, building construction and equipment maintenance to his position as a Board member. Ponzi has also served the community by assisting the Community Center in its early days by assisting in the engineering and building of the popular Halloween haunted house exhibits. He is also a member of the Harley Owners Group and is a member of the Association of Fire District’s Capital Area.
When Ponzi is not working he enjoys cruising on his special edition Fire Fighter Harley and boating with friends on the scenic Hudson River or tinkering with his home build hot rod.
Anthony has been a town resident for 36 years and resides on Dorchester Drive with his wife Barbara.
Secretary Barb Comitale has served on the Board for 19 years and is one of two paid positions. Barb works approximately 20 hours a week and also serves as Deputy Treasurer of the Fire District. Barb retired as a Secretary in the Guidance Office at Stillwater Central School and brings a wealth of knowledge of the community as well as an understanding of personnel issues. When Barb is not working she enjoys gardening and vacationing.
Barb has been a town resident for 26 years and resides on Towpath Road with her husband Joe.
Barb has great respect for the community’s fire fighters and is often heard saying, “ I don’t know how you guys do it!”
Nick Maciariello was a Commissioner for 8 years and in January of 2013 was appointed as Treasurer of the Fire District to fill the vacancy created by the untimely death of long time Treasurer Dave Waters. Nick has been an active fire fighter for 33 years, beginning his service with the Riverside Fire Department which was merged into the Stillwater Fire District in 2002. As a member of the Riverside department Nick held every line officer position except Chief. Nick also served as the Riverside Fire Department treasurer for 24 years. As a member of the Arvin Hart Fire Company Nick currently serves as Company Vice President.
Nick’s full time job as Project Manager and Chief Estimator with Multi Phase Construction Corp, prepares him well as the District Treasurer with experience with budgets, estimating projects, dealing with the bidding process as well as experience with bonding and insurance. Nick has an Associate’s Degree in Accounting and worked closely with Dave Waters on District financial matters.
When he gets some time away from the fire station Nick enjoys golf and a round of darts as well as traveling with his family.
Nick has resided in the Town of Stillwater for 36+ years and currently resides in Riverside with his wife Marybeth.
Commissioner Tom Rinaldi is a second term commissioner and is chair of the Apparatus Committee. Tom has been in the fire service for 48 years, serving the Arvin Hart Fire Co, the Forestville Fire Department in Forestville, MD and the Glenn Dale Fire Association in Glenn Dale, MD. Tom also served as a career fire fighter with the Bethesda Maryland Fire Department. As a member of the Arvin Hart Fire Company he has served as Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief and Chief.
Tom’s full time positions prepared him well for the fire service having retired with 27 years of state service, 12 of those years with the State Emergency Management Office and 12 years as a Fire Safety Technician and Codes Coordinator with SUNY Albany. Having a building code enforcement background Tom served as the Code Enforcement Officer, 911 Coordinator and has been a member of the Planning and Zoning Boards for the Town of Stillwater. Tom also sold fire apparatus for a major manufacturer for several years.
Currently Tom is a part time code compliance inspector for Chazen Engineering at the Global Foundries semiconductor facility and serves on the County Fire Advisory Board. Tom holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Niagara University with a Certificate in Fire Science from Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. Tom serves as 1st Vice President of the Capital Area Association of Fire Districts and is a Vice President of the Association of Fire Districts of New York State.
When Tom gets away from duties around the fire house, he enjoys traveling and seeing his grand children in Virginia, growing fresh tomatoes, cooking and just relaxing. He also pens an occasional article for fire service journals and is the editor of the weekly Capital Bulletin reaching over 300 fire service members.
Tom has resided in the town for all but 7 of 66 years and currently resides on County 76 with his wife and son Tony. Tom’s other son TJ Jr. is a Paramedic with the Albany Fire Department.
Bill was appointed by the Board of Commissioners to fill the unexpired term held by Nick Maciariello and won re-election to a five year term in December of 2013. Bill previously sat on the Board for many years and is a former Chief of the fire company. For the past several years Bill has been a valuable asset by assisting the Board with several tasks around the station including seeing that the apparatus is in top working condition and attending to several projects during the day while others are at work. He also serves on several fire company committees, including By Laws and apparatus purchasing and is the fire company’s Sergeant at Arms. Bill is retired from GE Silicones in Waterford and lives on Kellogg Road with his wife Janice.
Bob was first appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners to fill an unexpired vacancy in 2016. Bob then ran for the remaining four year position and taking the oath of office in December of 2016.
Bob has been a member of the fire company for 48 years, joining in 1968 and has served as a lieutenant, captain, President and treasurer of the Fire Company.
Graduating from Stillwater Central School in 1968 he went on to join the Navy in 1969 and spent three years stationed in Guam. After achieving the rank of E-5, he was discharged in 1973. Bob attended HVCC and subsequently worked for GE Silicones for 28 years retiring in 2006. After retiring he started his second career as a bus driver for Stillwater Central Schools which he continues to do part time.
Bob has also been active in the community coaching both baseball and soccer, as a 43 member of the Veterans Post 490 and a member of the BPOElks for 19 years.
As a lifelong town resident, Bob and his wife Diane have two sons and 7 grandchildren. Bob also enjoys playing cards, car shows and driving his Corvette.
David Zecca is serving in his first term as Fire Commissioner in 2023. David grew up in the City of Mechanicville and began his time in the fire service in 2003 with the Mechanicville Fire Department.
During his time with the Mechanicville Fire Department, David held several positions, ultimately rising to the rank of Assistant Fire Chief. As part of his duties as Assistant Chief, David assisted with the daily operations of the agency including coordinating response to all types of emergency incidents as well as assisting with firefighter training, apparatus design, budget planning and expenditures, and grant funding.
In addition to serving with the Mechanicville Fire Department, David also became a volunteer member of the John H. Ahearn Rescue Squad and completed his EMT certification during his senior year of High School. During his time there, David served the agency in various capacities, including Assistant Captain.
David and his family moved into the Town of Stillwater in 2017 and shortly thereafter, he transitioned from the Mechanicville Fire Department, where he was Assistant Fire Chief, to become a member of Arvin Hart Fire Company where he remains an active member today.
In addition to his time spent within the fire and EMS community, David has worked in Law Enforcement for over 13 years and is currently employed with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office as a Canine Handler assigned to the Road Patrol.