Wednesday July 4, 2012

HINSDALE -- Wesley Olds joined the Hinsdale Volunteer Fire Department in 1961, and he hasn’t quit.

"We see some people come and go, but to have somebody on for 50 years is pretty substantial," said Kevin Andrews, the town’s ambulance director. "I think it’s in his blood."

Believed to be the longest continually serving firefighter in the town’s history, Olds was honored Tuesday night by state fire officials and his colleagues on the volunteer squad. His compatriots presented him with a plaque from the state Department of Fire Service and a gold shield badge commemorating his half-century of active service, just in time for him to wear in the Pittsfield Fourth of July parade this morning.

The chemistry buff and ex-Pittsfield firefighter battles fewer blazes these days. Instead, he serves as the department’s safety officer, responding to the 80 to 90 annual calls the town of 2,000 residents generates to spot potential hazards, his colleagues said.

Olds did not return calls seeking comment, but on the Hinsdale fire department’s website, he writes keenly about its history, detailing everything from the town’s first fire hydrants in 1896 to a blaze in 1966 that claimed the life of a "small-time chemist" after the rust inhibitor he was concocting in his kitchen ignited.

"He’s kind of our historian," said Fire Chief Larry Turner. "He’s been around longer than the rest of us, so he remembers."

On the volunteer squad, the Pittsfield High School graduate moved up the ranks as lieutenant, captain and eventually assistant chief under Chief Bill Robins, until he was hired as a firefighter by the city of Pittsfield, Turner said.

"He’s a great guy. Always willing to help anybody that needed to be helped or answer any question," Turner said. "He just wants everybody to have as much knowledge as he’s got."

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