Windows at fire headquarters change with the seasons
The Milford Fire Department has a tradition that local firefighters say dates back at least 50 years: They aren’t sure exactly how long.
They do know that Rob Lynch worked for the Milford Fire Department about 25 years, and he took on the task of painting the front windows of the downtown firehouse with seasonal or special event artwork.
Before him it was Kurt Schmidt who wielded the paint brush.
Now it’s Firefighter Rico Benavides-Espinal who is in charge of the window artwork that has become not only a tradition for the department, but also for residents who drive by the downtown firehouse. He said Firefighter Jason Bocchetta was doing a Halloween scene one year when he asked Benavides-Espinal to get involved, and Benavides-Espinal was hooked.
This month the main painting is a green ribbon with angel wings, in honor of James Mattioli, a 6-year-old boy killed in the Newtown school shootings. James was born in Milford, and a 5K scholarship fundraiser was held this past weekend, starting at the firehouse, in honor of the young victim.
There is also a fire hat surrounded by shamrocks to note St. Patrick’s Day, and a Luigi character, representing Benavides-Espinal’s love of the Nintendo game Super Mario.
In the past, there has been a Santa, holiday Minions, Thanksgiving and Halloween themes on the windows of fire headquarters. The designs change with the season, holiday or special event that is being marked — a new set of art is created perhaps six times a year.
Residents often stop in to ask about the artwork and to say they think it’s a great gesture, a part of the downtown Milford scene, said Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Fabrizi.
Painting the department windows — sometimes finishing them up during the late night hours — has become a team effort at the station, with Benavides-Espinal leading the effort, assisted by other firefighters. They say they do it for the community and to show their dedication to Milford and their pride in the Milford Fire Department.
Some of the paintings are done free hand, and for the trickier drawings Benavides-Espinal uses a projector to shine a sort of template on the window so he can trace it. Other members of the department pitch in and help fill in the drawings, and sometimes create their own part of the seasonal scene.
“My girlfriend is an artist,” Benavides-Espinal said, adding that he doesn’t describe himself as an artist. “I’ll be on the phone with her, and she’ll be telling me now to mix the colors.”
Diana Cortavarria, an art student, may not be part of the local fire department, but she is a big help where the window art is concerned, he said.
The number of seasonal and event displays that are portrayed on the front windows has grown over the years: It’s more than a holiday creation in the winter and a special Halloween painting, as the firefighters have expanded the number of themed creations.
“I think it’s a great tradition, and I’m trying to keep it going,” Benavides-Espinal said.
Firefighter Brandon Edo, who helps with the painting, agrees this is a great tradition for Milford. Edo grew up in Milford and remembers seeing the paintings on the front windows when he was a kid.
“It’s good for the community,” Edo said.
One of the best parts is when children pass the firehouse as the painting is being done, said Benavides-Espinal. He usually stops painting and chats, and then offers them a tour of the firehouse.
He says this may be a tradition very unique to Milford. Some of the other stations around town have also taken to painting window scenes during special holidays.
Fire Chief Douglas Edo said he encourages the window art and agrees with the firefighters that it’s a Milford tradition he hopes to see continue well into the future.