As the fire alarm sounded, 10-year-old Tony Marsala was quick to get into the car with his dad, Robert, who was responding as a member of the Covert Township Fire Department.
Now, nearly 50 years later including 34 years with South Haven Area Emergency Services, Deputy Chief/Fire Marshall, Tony Marsala is about to answer his last call as a professional firefighter.
It has been a career of dedicated service by a man who decided he wanted to be first responder at a young age. He became an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) as a teenager and began training for the fire service right after graduating from Covert High School.
Early in his career he worked for the former South Haven Township ambulance service and was a paid-on-call member with the Covert Fire Department. He was a field medic and safety officer with Bechtel Power before becoming a fulltime member of the Covert department in 1984. He also worked part-time in the emergency room at South Haven Community Hospital.
He joined the South Haven Fire Department, now SHAES, fulltime in 1985. He was promoted to Captain in 2008 and has served as Deputy Chief/Fire Inspector since 2010.
His qualifications have covered a broad spectrum including inspector, investigator, vehicle maintenance certified, diver certification, and firefighting training instructor. He is also a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and is one of SHAES’ fireboat operators.
In 1989 he was chosen the department’s Firefighter of the Year. “Tony has been such a great asset to our department,” said Chief Ron Wise. “He was always kind and compassionate with patient care, professional and courteous during fire inspections and a mentor for our county’s fire academy students and new recruits. Tony will be truly missed around the department.”
“I have been truly blessed with a wonderful career,” said Marsala, “I am grateful for the support of the SHAES Board, my colleagues within the department and especially from the community.”
Marsala and his wife Pam are in the final stages of returning to where it all began for Tony with the construction of a new home on the family homestead in Covert. The Marsalas have two children, Tony Jr. and Stacy.
Congratulations to brothers Paul (pictured left) and James D. Quinn who were presented the Firefighter-of-the-Year and Leadership awards respectively.
Awards and recognitions were presented to members of South Haven Area Emergency Services during the department’s annual dinner on Saturday, May 4.
Paul Quinn has been chosen by his peers as the Firefighter of the Year. A member of the department’s paid-on-call staff for 25 years, Paul heads-up the department’s fire prevention initiatives.
“Paul has contributed countless hours dedicated to the citizens of our coverage area,” said Chief Ron Wise. “Through his leadership he has helped SHAES bring the fire prevention message to young and older people in the community.”
The department’s Leadership Award has been presented to James D. Quinn. Now in his 18th year as a fulltime member of the department, Quinn is being recognized for the job he has done increasing the department’s level of skill and knowledge. He also leads the department’s Honor Guard.
“JD is a leader by example,” noted Wise. “He has a desire to answer the call for help with passion and professionalism.”
Paul and JD are brothers. Their father, James A. Quinn, also a SHAES member, was the 2017-18 Firefighter of the Year.
Wise lauded the department-wide lifesaving initiatives of the past year: “SHAES staff performed CPR on many patients over the last year. Their efforts made a considerable difference in the lives of our residents as well as guests that passed through the South Haven area.” Presented “I Made CPR Count” pins were Ross Burnside, Steven Cavadas, Roseanna Fox, David Griessel, Dustin Guminski, Dawn Hinz, Brian Horan Jr., Brian Horan Sr., Zachary Kenreich, Thomas Leva, Brian Montgomery, James A. Quinn, James D. Quinn, Johanna Quinn, Patrick Quinn, Paul Quinn, Phillip Quinn, Shawn Quinn, Tim Quinn. Owen Ridley, Ronald Ridley, Matthew Russell, Bill Snider, Shawn Smith, Tim Vanholt and Ronald Washegesic,
Presented a special Compassion Award was Brian Horan, Sr. for the special care given by him during the rescue of a trapped horse.
The retirement of Deputy Chief Tony Marsala was announced. He will end 34 years of service on June 7.
Years of service awards were presented to Ronald Ridley, 40 years; Stanley Wakild, 35 years; Paul Quinn, 25 years; Brandon Hinz, 20 years; Brian Montgomery, Patrick Quinn and Timothy Quinn, 10 years; Matthew Russell, Willie Wright, Ronald Washegesic, Johanna Quinn and Steven Cavadas, five years.
Welcomed as new paid-on-call members were Matthew Dey, Ross Burnside, Shawn Quinn and Alexis Ridley. Zachary Kenreich was promoted to fulltime firefighter/paramedic and Steve Cavadas was hired as fulltime Assistant Fire Inspector.
A highly successful regional approach for providing fire protection and emergency medical services to South Haven area residents and property owners has been extended for another 25 years.
The governing boards of the City of South Haven and townships of Casco, Geneva and South Haven have each approved the extension of the agreement thru 2044. The pact received approval from South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) Authority at their March 7 meeting.
In 1994 the city was facing financial challenges in the operation of ambulance (EMS) service through its fire department. The city was providing fire and EMS services on a contractural basis to South Haven township and the western half of Geneva Township. Casco township operated its own fire department.
A task force consisting of residents and officials from each of the four government agencies was formed and came to the conclusion that an “emergency services authority” be established. In 1995 it became the first such authority to be created in Michigan with funding based on the taxable property value for fire protection and population for ambulance service.
“SHAES has been a huge success and has raised the bar as an example of regional cooperation,” said South Haven Township Supervisor Ross Stein who is also Chair of the SHAES Authority Board.
Today the department has 16 fulltime and 30 paid-on-call staff operating from three stations. The department responded to over 2,000 calls for service in 2018, according to Executive Director Ron Wise.
“We continue to receive several requests each year from fire departments and communities across the State inquiring on the formula to share costs on a consistent basis taking life and property into account,” said Wise.
The SHAES budget in 2018 was just under $2.7 million. The Authority derives its income from each of the governmental units, the Van Buren County ambulance millage and ambulance user fees.
The city of South Haven in 2018 funded 22% of the budget followed by Casco township 17%, South Haven township 11%, and Geneva township 9%. The Van Buren County ambulance millage and user fees each provided 20% of the budget.
South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) and City of South Haven Police Department are now better equipped to handle serious bleeding emergencies with Stop the Bleed kits thanks to a citizen-led initiative.
Twenty-two kits were recently purchased through a fund raiser organized by resident Sandy Fenske. Local residents donated money towards the purchase of the kits that have been placed in every city police vehicle, SHAES fire apparatus and support vehicles that would be called to an incident where victims may have serious bleeding.
Pictured, left to right: Police Chief Natalie Thompson, Sandy Fenske, SHAES Chief Ron Wise
“SHAES ambulances already have the needed equipment, but may not always be the first to arrive on scene,” said SHAES Chief Ron Wise. “The small kit can be easily grabbed by a responding firefighter or police officer and its contents quickly applied to a wound thus increasing the patient’s chance of survival.”
The kits include a tourniquet, large absorbent pressure dressing, compressed gauze for packing an uncontrolled bleeding wound, scissors for removing clothing and protective gloves.
“The kits allow for a much more robust supply of lifesaving equipment for our first responders,” said Police Chief Natalie Thompson. “Having the kits in all vehicles allows for a greater response capability in case of a multi-patient incident that could be spread out over large area.”
Sandy Fenske got the idea after watching an episode of the CBS television show “60 Minutes”. She contacted Chief Wise to see if the community's first responders could benefit from having the kits. She immediately reached out to friends who generously supported the project with their contributions.
“Today, the most prevalent call on everyone’s mind is an active shooter incident, but beyond that type of scenario, these kits will be vital to early-arriving first responders at accident scenes or non-violent injury situations,” said Wise
“Thank you to my South Haven friends for their donations and SHAES for their support,” said Sandy Fenske. ” I know we all hope and pray that South Haven will never have an incident where this life saving equipment will be needed. Perhaps in the future we can also place these devises in all our schools as a safety measure.”
See 2018 in Review in Photos – http://www.shaes.org/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=public:2018_review
Read Complete Annual Report – http://www.shaes.org/dokuwiki/lib/exe/fetch.php?media=public:2018_shaes_annual_report.pdf
South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) responded to more than 2,000 calls for the sixth consecutive year according to the department’s Annual Report for 2018.
SHAES serves the city of South Haven and the townships of Casco, Geneva and South Haven from three stations.
“A dedicated staff and a supportive community continues to allow us to provide a very high level of service,” said Chief Ronald Wise.
The 2,085 responses were the fifth highest in department history. The all-time record is 2,276 in 2016.
There were 579 fire alarm responses and 1,506 medical calls in 2018. There were 955 responses in the city of South Haven, followed by 415 in South Haven township, 349 in Geneva township and 304 in Casco township. SHAES provided mutual aid to other fire departments on 62 occasions and received assistance 31 times.
Property losses from fire in 2018 totaled $709,000 compared to $316,500 in 2017. Geneva township experienced the biggest fire loss ($457,000), followed by the city of South Haven at $145,500. Next were South Haven township ($58,000) and Casco township ($48,500).
There were no civilian fire-related injuries or injuries in 2018. There was four incidents in which a firefighter was injured in either at an emergency scene or a training exercise.
The department is comprised of 16 fulltime staff and 37 paid-on-call firefighters. The department continued an expanded community-wide pre-planning and inspection program. Staff has now completed pre-fire surveys at 448 of the 516 businesses in the SHAES coverage area. There were also 139 short-term rental inspections during the year.
The department continued its active public education programs with safety presentations to nearly 1,900 people at schools, senior living facilities, businesses and to civic groups. An estimated 450 children and adults attended the annual Fire Safety Fun Night.
A power point program highlighting the history of the department and explaining current SHAES services was developed for presentation to community groups.
During 2018 the department acquired a new 4×4 Paramedic Ambulance and state-of-the-art battery-powered Jaws of Life rescue tools.