Fire company scandal boils over

May 15, 2008 8:45:45 PM PDT
It was a raucous night at Colwyn Boro Hall in the wake of this scandal. Council voted to appoint Richie Guerra as the new fire commissioner but until he can get the fire company reorganized, they have asked neighboring Darby Fire Company to respond to fire calls. The meeting was peppered with accusations from younger members of the Colwyn Fire Company against the older social members of the company, many of them former firefighters. Volunteer firefighter Joe Ballerino was hot under the collar. "When I almost lost my life fighting a fire, where were you? Sitting in the bar getting drunk." That didn't sit well with former firefighter & mayor John Fitzgerald, who declared, "I'm not a social club member, I'm a firefighter member!"

Ballerino fired back. "When we risk our lives for the citizens of this boro, where were you? In the social club getting drunk. That's all I have to say."

Councilwoman & social member Kathy Brennan shot back on behalf of her husband, also a former firefighter. "He's been a fightin' fireman, was a fightin' fireman at 21 years old. He did more fires than you did!"

The heated debate comes exactly a week after state police & the Liquor Control Board raided the fire company amid allegations an illegal speakeasy was being operated inside.

They hauled away liquor and video poker games but tonight Assistant Fire Chief Earl Reed was trying to deny anything illegal was going on, claiming "What gamblin' machines? Has it been proven there's gamblin' yet? No!"

The idea that a so-called social club where liquor was being served out of the firehouse did not sit well with most here tonight.

Boro Council President Tonnette Pray told the packed meeting, "We want a fire company that's free of alcohol. We are a dry boro."

The meeting ended abruptly with the mayor storming out in anger over council's actions.

Tonight there are indications this battle is far from over. Assistant Chief Reed is threatening to sue the boro, and threatening not to allow any new fire company to use the equipment, saying its their equipment.