‘A huge success story:’ Leyden’s Fire Department continues to grow

Five of the seven members of the Leyden Fire Department pictured at the station. From left are Capt. Tom Raffensperger, Assistant Chief Carey Barton, Chief Nikolas Adamski, Tina Riddell and Corrinda Thompson. Not pictured are Timothy Howard and Ernest Royer.

Five of the seven members of the Leyden Fire Department pictured at the station. From left are Capt. Tom Raffensperger, Assistant Chief Carey Barton, Chief Nikolas Adamski, Tina Riddell and Corrinda Thompson. Not pictured are Timothy Howard and Ernest Royer. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 12-31-2023 10:01 AM

LEYDEN — By recruiting members, acquiring more gear and creating plans to purchase a new truck, Leyden’s Fire Department has become “a success story.”

At the beginning of 2023, Fire Chief Nikolas Adamski stood alone as the only member of the town’s department. As time progressed, though, the department gained six additional recruits, including a new fire captain, Tom Raffensperger, and an assistant chief, Carey Barton, who rejoined the department.

“[Raffensperger] came on shortly after I signed up to help get things rolling as well,” Adamski said. “He’s been a big help … and Carey Barton.”

The department’s rebuild was sparked by concerns about mutual aid. After speaking with its consultant from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management, which is helping the town re-envision its public safety departments, and other neighboring departments, the town determined its best move would be to maintain a small department that is able to be the first ones on the scene, Public Safety Advisory Committee Chair Elizabeth Kidder said in July.

Before joining Leyden’s department, Raffensperger worked at the Randolph (Vermont) Fire Department. His background encouraged Selectboard Chair Glenn Caffery to ask Raffensperger if he had an interest in joining the department, to which he replied, “Yes.”

“I have a couple of years of experience and I have [the state] Firefighter I qualification, so I’m not completely new to fire departments,” Raffensperger said.

As captain for administration, safety and training, Raffensperger is involved with “chasing after money,” including ways to finance a secondhand mini pumper that the department could begin using by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Raffensperger said the “fast-attack vehicle” would be a small-size 4-by-4 pickup truck to help firefighters “get to a fire very quickly.”

“We have a lot of dirt roads and narrow driveways, and we need a vehicle that can get up those driveways,” Raffensperger explained. “It’s smaller so we can also use it for wildland firefighting, brushfires and things like that.”

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The cost for the truck, however, is unknown at this time. Raffensperger said the department has a total of $250,000 set aside to purchase the vehicle. The combined total comes from $150,000 that was approved by residents at a previous Town Meeting and an extra $100,000 that came from an earmark put forward by state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Natalie Blais.

While focused on acquiring the vehicle, Leyden’s Fire Department is still working on recruiting members and continuing to put firefighters through training. In November, firefighter Corrinda Thompson completed fire training, which leaves the department’s other current members to complete their training in the spring.

“We’re very happy with Corrinda graduating,” Adamski said. “Now we’ve got four of us that could go inside a structure fire … but, hopefully we won’t have any of that.”

Caffery said the crew has been “training intensively” while the town works on equipping the team with turnout gear and other protective equipment.

“This is a huge success story,” Caffery said. “And an emblematic example of many smart, devoted people coming together to get our tiny town through a tough situation.”

Any Leyden residents who are interested in serving on the Fire Department should email Adamski at fire@townofleyden.com.