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Verona-Kinsman fire chief celebrates retirement this weekend

Howard Hyslop, Jack Baudino, Jeff Brockman, retired Fire Chief Paul Anderson, Jerry Stitt, Fire Chief John Phelan, and Corey Coop pose with a gold ax presented to Anderson during the department's annual dinner.
Howard Hyslop, Jack Baudino, Jeff Brockman, retired Fire Chief Paul Anderson, Jerry Stitt, Fire Chief John Phelan, and Corey Coop pose with a gold ax presented to Anderson during the department's annual dinner.

Former Verona-Kinsman Fire Department Chief Paul Anderson retired just a few months ago – but since being a fireman is in the blood, he is still regularly seen around the department.

Anderson retired in October after serving his community for more than 36 years – 25 of them as the fire chief of the all volunteer fire department. An open house is scheduled for this weekend at the department to honor the retired leader.

John Phelan, who joined the fire department in 1992, has been named the new chief by the board of trustees.

“I’m hoping to continue to have a productive effective fire department,” Phelan said

Anderson said the new chief is one of his best firefighters, and he knows he will be a good one.

Serving his hometown

Anderson moved back to his hometown of Verona with his wife, Linda, and children, Steve, Ron and Christine, in 1977, bringing with him his experience as an EMT and a civil police officer.

“I’ve been serving all of my life, first in Morris, then when I moved back to Verona,” Anderson said. “The most rewarding part is helping the community, protecting the people’s property and lives.”

Anderson didn’t keep his EMT license, but has remained a first responder with the fire department.

Anderson was born and raised in Verona and in the 1950s his parents bought the schoolhouse he attended growing up and made it their home – a home that he and his family have called theirs for years.

“I love it here in Verona,” he said. “It’s a good place to raise kids and you get a lot of freedom you don’t get in the city.”

The home was outfitted with a red phone, which only was used for fire calls. This was how the chief was notified of an emergency before fireman were equipped with pagers to get them to their calls.

As Anderson raced from the home after a call came in, Linda became part of the calling tree, phoning a list of fireman to get them to respond, with other wives also calling their assigned branches of the calling tree.

Emergencies don’t always happen at convenient times, so often the firemen are called away from the dinner table or family events.

“My children have all learned that when the pager goes off everyone runs to move vehicles so Paul can get out. It always seems to pick holidays and late at night,” Linda said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Anderson said it’s a 24-7 job and he has had to get up in the middle of the night, leave suppers, and birthday parties.

“I’ve missed a few events for the kids,” Anderson said.

While their was no monetary gain for being the fire chief, Anderson said the reward is helping people.

“Being a fireman gets in your blood,” he said. “I’m still hanging around and helping the new chief.”

Anderson is the second generation of a three-generation fire family, following in his father, Bert Anderson’s footsteps, and his oldest son, Steve, following in his.

Anderson said the rural area doesn’t see a lot of big fires, and the typical call is for a first responder, but he has faced some large ones in his time as chief.

“We’ve had some big fires, the Granby farm, and the Chrome Horse in Kinsman were big,” he said. “The main thing for me as chief is that nobody gets hurt putting the fire out, we all came together, we all leave together.”

The Chrome Horse was a tavern that was destroyed by fire in 2003.

Despite his official retirement on Oct. 1, Anderson is still involved in the department and regularly attends many of the meetings.

“[Anderson]’s been on call for almost 40 years, it will take time for the transition,” said Jerry Stitt, secretary of the department’s board.


If You Go

An open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Station 2, Verona-Kinsman Fire Department, Kinsman Community Center, 219 W. Main Street, Kinsman.

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