Moriah chief nears 50 years of fire service

MORIAH Ralph Jaquish is reputed to be the longest-serving fire chief in New York State. Thats what Ive been told, but I really dont know that, the Moriah Fire Department chief said. It doesn't really matter. Im just glad I can still be of some service. Jaquish will mark 50 consecutive years as Moriah fire chief in 2009. Fire, emergency medical and police personnel like Jaquish are profiled in todays Times of Ti. Jaquish never planned on being Moriahs fire chief. I had been second assistant chief and became first assistant chief, he recalled. I was very happy doing that. Jaquish became chief in June 1959 when the former chief moved away from town. And hes been more than a fire chief. Jaquish has served on the Moriah town board and is acknowledged as a community leader. The town of Moriah is blessed to have a man like Ralph Jaquish, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. He has volunteered his time for the betterment of his community for over a half of century. I had the privilege of working with Ralph as a town councilman and also during a few states of emergency in the town. His dedication and hard work is a inspiration to many volunteers. Jaquish has been a Moriah firefighter since 1954. My dad was in the fire department before he passed away, Jaquish recalled. My father-in-law was an active volunteer and he asked me to join when I got married. A lot has changed since Jaquish became chief in 1959. When I became chief I had a desk with one drawer and everything I needed was in there. Now, look at the place, he said, pointing to a dozen filing cabinets in his office. Training was practically non-existent, Jaquish said. Youd go out and burn some grass and call it training. Today a fireman has to take courses and more courses. He noted it takes about 80 hours of class time to become a certified firefighter. Its a lot of ask of a volunteer, he said. It can discourage a lot of people. Although chief, Jaquish is no longer a firefighter. I couldnt be a fireman, physically, at this point, the 77-year-old said. I dont know why these guys keep me around. Jaquish has tried to step down as chief several times, but Moriah firefighters wont hear of it. This spring he announced plans to retire, but First Assistant Chief Don Jaquish, Ralphs son, refused to step up. He says hes too busy, Ralph said of Don, who is the assistant director of emergency services for Essex County. Jaquish admits he would miss the fire department if he retired. I have a great time with the guys, he said. Theyre kinda like my kids. Ive got some good people in this department.

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