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Fire chief retires after 58 years of service

Chief recounts changes that have helped emergency responders over the years

Moriah Fire Chief Ralph Jaquish and Mineville/Witherbee Chief Paul Tromblee were honored for their service at the May 7 meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

Moriah Fire Chief Ralph Jaquish and Mineville/Witherbee Chief Paul Tromblee were honored for their service at the May 7 meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

MORIAH — After 58 years of being ready at a moments notice, laying out clothes before bed for a quick exit to an emergency, Moriah Volunteer Fire Department chief will be retiring.

Ralph Jaquish, now 81, has been a member of the Moriah department for 58 years and served as chief for 53. Recently recognized as the longest continually serving fire chief in the state of New York, Jaquish said he felt his career has gone out with a bang.

“When we arrived at my last big fire in Moriah Center, the fire was blazing 30-feet through the roof and within seconds, it felt like, (the fire) was through the east wall of the building,” Jaquish said.

Jaquish said his last year as chief has been a very “interesting” time. The year was capped with the Moriah Center fire and an arson fire at the Mountain Lake Services building that put emergency responders at risk when the arsonist drove over fire hoses.

Jaquish said firefighting has changed tremendously in the nearly six decades he has volunteered.

“No body can imagine, unless you were there,” Jaquish said.

He recalled his first fire call, with no phones in the truck and said responders sometimes found themselves miles from the nearest landline with the home’s phone severed in the flames.

“You got to the call one way or another,” he said, sometimes having to drive miles to call for reinforcements at the scene.

Of all the mechanical and communication improvements Jaquish has seen throughout his career the arsenal of equipment his department carries is the greatest improvement.

“We’ve got a truck for just about anything,” Jaquish said. “Just unthinkable back then.”

When he first started working the department had just one pumper and a tanker truck. The Moriah Fire Department currently has a pumper, a large tank truck, a brush truck, a mini pumper, an aerial device, and an equipment van with air.

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