NORTH BENNINGTON -- Area firefighters recognized the chief in North Bennington for 20 consecutive years of service in the top post with a parade and ceremony Saturday.
Chief Edward W. Myers Jr. was honored for presiding over the replacement of North Bennington's fire apparatus and deepening the department's involvement in the community. A plaque from the village board of trustees was presented during the morning ceremony, dedicating the Prospect Street firehouse to Myers for his continuous service.
"Ed is such an important part of the department," said village board Chairman Matthew Patterson, going on to describe the "greatness of (Myers') leadership."
"(Myers) has navigated tough waters with a steady keel," Patterson continued, speaking figuratively but leading into a recount of a boat evacuation last August during Tropical Storm Irene. While attempting to rescue a stranded pair by boat from a residence near the Paper Mill Covered Bridge, the Walloomsac River fully inundating Route 67, the rescue boat capsized in the roaring waters pitching its occupants and four firefighters, Myers included, overboard.
Police Chief Paul Doucette retold Saturday how his "heart sank" as he witnessed the boat overturn. But each firefighter and the pair being rescued were eventually plucked from the water by ladder truck, and all survived. Doucette said the department should be "very proud" of Myers, who he described as "hands-on, do what needs to be done."
"Ed Myers is a stand-up guy, he doesn't want the spotlight. ... That's the guy he is."
Myers told Saturday's crowd the event had come as a surprise, and he shifted the honor to the department's rank and file, saying it didn't matter which department one served with, but about the service. "It's not about the chief, it's about the members," Myers said. "It's all about being a team."
As the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene approaches, Saturday's event also included representation from Starting Over Strong Vermont, a short-term, statewide response to the emotional consequences of last year's floods. Dale Gerity, an SOS crisis counselor, said people were still affected by triggers like heavy rain and the approaching anniversary date.
But photos of the first response during Irene on display Saturday showed how well the community responded, Gerity said, "all working together, and lives were saved."