Fabric of the Fire Service Winner — Family: By Olivia Drake
Many families have deep roots in the fire service; here's one family that kept their fire service family tradition alive
The Fabric of the Fire Service is a new program from FireRescue1 and TECGEN that uncovers great firefighter stories and honors those who have gone beyond the call of duty to help others. The Kuchyt family has deep roots in the fire service and a sense of duty and commitment to the community that stretches over generations. Submissions are still open for the brotherhood and community threads. Tell us your story and you could win a full set of TECGEN PPE gear.
Martin Kuchyt wants to be a firefighter, a scientist and a scuba diver. He's only worried that he can't do all three.
Of course, Martin is 6-years-old. Career projections at that age tend to be unreliable. But whatever he decides, it's a good bet that "firefighter" will find its way onto his resume.
The Kuchyt connection to the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company in Connecticut began with Martin's grandfather, also named Martin. Martin Sr. is the father of current fire company members Scott and Jamie Kuchyt, and grandfather to Scott's boys Mike and Kyle, also firefighters.
Living next door to the original firehouse on Candlewood Hill Road gave Martin a front row seat to all the excitement.
"I'd see the guys coming and going," he said. "It looked like fun."
The 81-year-old Martin couldn't resist and joined the fire company in 1948. Other than a short stint in the Army, he served Haddam Fire for 17 years and earned life membership in 1965. Martin's brother, Robert, joined in 1957 and earned life membership in 2000.
At the dedication for Haddam Fire's new Station 1, former First Selectman Tony Bondi declared June 5, 2001 "Robert Kuchyt Day." A certificate commemorating the honor hangs inside the firehouse.
Then-Fire Chief John Tabak praised Robert for his 42 years of service.
"To be around when the calls come in, to be there, means a lot to the people of the town," Tabak said in a Hartford Courant article.
Robert passed away in 2009 after a brief illness while on vacation with his wife Mar-Jean. On the day of his funeral, Robert took his last ride on the Peter Pirsch Fire Engine en route from St. Peters Church to his final resting place in Burr Cemetery.
Scott, the older of Martin's sons, started as a junior and became a full member in 1981. Besides serving on various committees, Scott has taken various officer roles including captain and assistant chief. He received his 30 Years of Service Pin in 2011.
Younger brother Jamie was also a junior. He took full membership in 1983. Among Jamie’s accomplishments, he has served as assistant chief, earned the rank of veteran driver, was once company mechanic and was recognized as Firefighter of the Year in 2009. He will receive his 30 Years of Service Pin this year.
In 1993, Jamie's wife Teresa achieved the rank of firefighter. The two met at the firehouse a year earlier. Teresa came to the station with her friend Samantha Houska, our fourth and fifth female members. Jamie signed off on their paperwork.
Teresa is our Fire Company historian. She was Firefighter of the Year in 2008 and received two awards this past February — her 20 Years of Service Pin and a special Chief's Award. The Chief's Award recognizes Teresa’s tireless efforts as historian, administrator of call records and organizer for events like "Old Timers' Night" and "Wreaths Across America."
It's kind of an old joke — and probably half-truth — that the firehouse is the place guys go to get away from their wives and kids. But Jamie and Teresa manage to balance work, family and volunteering without driving each other crazy.
I have a little experience with this myself. My wife, Olivia, recently came on as Fire Company photographer, making her our twelfth female member.
I asked Jamie if he had any advice for us.
"Teresa does her thing and I do mine," he said. "She's available during the day when I’m not and vice-versa. It just works out."
Teresa's passion for preserving fire company history is contagious. How this busy mom finds time for it all is beyond me. She's constantly improving membership records, as well as updating and maintaining photo albums and media clips. If you ever have a question about the fire company, Teresa's the person to ask. She's also my fact-checker for articles, including this one.
Jamie is one of our best and safest drivers, an excellent teacher and all-around good guy. I like that he's protective of my wife, who sometimes get tunnel vision at fire calls. It's comforting to know that Jamie has her back when she's focused on getting a great shot. Something else I admire about Jamie is that he isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks, but tries to avoid gossip, preferring instead to "sit back and observe" and "give everyone a chance."
Mike and Kyle represent the third generation. In addition to being firefighters, they're both EMTs.
Mike joined Haddam Fire in 2006 after years as a junior. He received the "Superior Performance" Award in 2008 and his 5 Years of Service Pin in 2011, the year that he graduated from the Connecticut Fire Academy. In 2012, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Fire Administration from the University of New Haven. Mike went on to positions with the Colchester Hayward Fire Department and the New London Fire Department, where he works today.
"Originally I got into it because of family. I was around it all the time. I guess I just grew up with it," Mike said. "But over the years I really learned to love it and enjoy it."
Kyle, past Junior Chief, has long been a fixture around the firehouse and participates in everything from fire department field days to the recent Fight for Air Stair Climb in Hartford, where he climbed 750 steps in full fire gear and an air pack.
In addition to immediate family members, Jamie and Scott's uncle Rudolf Marica served with the fire company for 20 years, earning life membership in 1972. The boys' cousin Anthony "Doc" Driscoll came on during the late 1960s.
A grandfather and his brother, their sons, a wife, their boys — maybe even a scientist/scuba diver/firefighter in the making — Haddam Fire is grateful to the Kuchyt family for a combined 150 years of service to their community.