Ceremony pays tribute to city's firefighting history

Sunday, June 12 was a time to honor the Milford volunteer firefighters who actively served the City of Milford before being relieved of active duty in 1983.
The annual memorial service began at 1 p.m. with a ceremonial march to the firefighters’ monument on the Milford Green.

Mayor Ben Blake welcomed participants and expressed his gratitude, and Deacon Richard Sennett from Saint Mary Church shared a prayer. Assistant Chief Bob Scukas, master of ceremonies, paid his respects to those being honored.

“It’s a great honor to be here and to be part of this service, and as long as I’m physically able, I’ll be here to continue doing this,” said Scukas, who has organized the ceremony for 32 years.

The event drew people who remember the years when volunteer firefighters served the city.

“We come every year because my dad passed a year and a half ago and he was a Woodmont Company 5 volunteer firefighter forever, for about 60 years,” said Joanne Hunt-Pelkey. “He was one of the longest living members when he passed.”

Scukas’s son, Robert R. Scukas II, is the captain of Arctic Engine Company Number 1. He was also responsible for sounding the memorial bell after each name of a deceased volunteer was announced.

The Milford volunteers were disbanded from active service in 1983. But former Fire Chief Lou LaVecchia, said it is still very important that they are recognized and honored for their service.

Scukas II says being part of the volunteer fire company is a family tradition and he says he is following in his father’s footsteps. He grew up in Milford and wants to keep the history and tradition alive.

“I enjoy everything about it,” he said. “It was really good for me, for my life. And I’m here today to pay tribute to the people who were here before us.”

His father said the volunteers are a brotherhood, and one that influenced many of them as they grew up.

Tom Caruso, the last captain of Engine Company Number 3, Myrtle Beach joined the volunteers in 1980. He said when he was in high school, he watched television shows that inspired him.

“I wanted to do something for the community and that happened to be the choice,” Caruso said.

Milford once had six volunteer fire companies: Arctic Engine Co. 1, Fort Trumbull Beach Fire Co. 2, Myrtle Beach Engine Co. 3, Devon Hose Co. 4, Woodmont Engine Co. 5 and Point Beach Engine Co. 6.

They were relieved from duty when the city went to an all-paid department, but members still meet, with some of the companies boasting more members than others and some more active than others.

The volunteers hold the memorial service every year, honoring Milford firefighters who died in the line of duty when the volunteers were active, and those members who died in the past year.

The ceremony is short but meaningful, reflecting the city’s roots, organizers have said.

The Milford Fire Department was formed May 28, 1838, by a special act of the Connecticut General Assembly; and there are a lot of items saved and collected over all those years that tell the story of Milford’s firefighters.

Much of that is now inside a museum building on Wheelers Farms Road, which volunteers, including Scouts and Eagle Scouts, worked to organize.