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Longtime assistant fire chief retires

After more than 50 years of service

January 19, 2017
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Western Reserve Joint Fire District Assistant Chief Anthony Sferra retired from the fire service at the beginning of January.

He recently had a chance to reflect over his long run with the department.

Sferra was raised in Campbell until he was 8 years old. His family then moved to Poland and when Sferra turned 17 in 1963, he was appointed to the Poland Junior Fire Department.

"My good friend Clark Jones asked me to join the junior fire department, so I decided to give it a try. We couldn't actually fight fires but were used more as gophers."

Sferra stayed with the junior program until he joined the U.S. Marines from 1966 to 1968. Immediately after his two-year stint, he returned home to Poland and went back to the fire department. In 1969, he was placed on the senior fire department roster as a volunteer firefighter.

"At the time, the village of Poland ran the fire department and contracted with the township," Sferra said. "The department only had so many firefighters on the senior roster."

Sferra's dedication to the department didn't go unnoticed. In 1976, he bypassed lieutenant and went straight to captain of the station in Poland Village. Two years later, he moved up to assistant chief and served in the position the remainder of his firefighting career.

In his early years with the fire department, Sferra did not receive any pay. When responding to a fire, it was about individuals giving their time to protect Poland property and serve the people.

"In 1984, the Western Reserve Joint Fire District was formed," Sferra said. "From that time on the firemen were all paid a stipend for responding to calls."

As a volunteer for all those years, Sferra also had a paying job to make ends meet. After serving with the Marine Corps, he worked in construction and later served as a Poland Village part-time police officer from 1973-75. He then got a job running heavy equipment for local mills while attending classes to earn a law enforcement certificate, which later enabled Sferra to get on the Poland Township police force in 1978.

"I retired from the township department in February of 2007 with the rank of detective sergeant," Sferra said.

After retiring from the township, he went to work part time for Struthers Municipal Court for the next nine years. He also ran a private detective agency from 2006 to 2016, closing that business last month.

With a long firefighting and police career, Sferra had been the ultimate public servant in his community. While looking back, he has seen many changes and was willing to share a few.

"One big change was in the price of equipment," he said. "We paid $56,000 for a 1967 Mack pumper truck. In 1992, we paid over $400,000 for a ladder truck, and the next fire truck Poland purchases will likely run around $1 million."

He added that when he started with the fire department, a firefighter had to put in 36 hours of training. Today, a 120-hour course is required and most of Poland's firefighters train for 240 hours.

Other changes include going from riding on a running board to being required to ride in an enclosed cab and the use of technology for improved service.

"Modern technology has come a long way," Sferra said. "A good example is the thermal imaging camera that can find hot spots inside walls. It helps us get to the problem sooner, before it gets out of hand."

The fire district hosted a special retirement party for Sferra Jan. 6 at St. Michael's Church to pay tribute to the Poland resident who spent more than half a century protecting the community.

Sferra said looking forward, he plans to relax and enjoy life.

"I am 71 years old," he said. "I don't want another job."

He plans to move to Florida and enjoy the warmer temperatures as well as golfing.

 
 

 

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