STOW - Risking life and limb for complete strangers, and doing so willingly with no expectation of reward, is what makes volunteer firefighters such an enduring part of our communities.
For 100 years, the Ashville Fire Department has deployed such volunteers across a staggering 42-square-mile radius, fighting fires, treating the wounded and ultimately saving lives.
On Saturday, the department - and the county - will recognize these brave men and women, and the department's celebrated history, with a 100th anniversary ceremony.
The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ashville Fire Department, located at 5338 Stow Road.
Highlights will include a chicken barbecue at 12:30 p.m., a dedication to the department's new helipad at 2 p.m. and a drawing for various prizes, including a new four-wheeler.
Guest speakers will include state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I-Olean; Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown; Vince Horrigan, county executive; Joseph Gerace, county sheriff, and a representative from the office of Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning.
"This is significant ... not many people are going to see another 100 years," joked Mike Gleason, president of the Ashville Fire Department.
Gleason, who's been with the department for 26 years and also serves as a deputy fire coordinator for the county, described the Ashville Fire Department as an essential service to the county, averaging 300 calls a year and offering mutual support for several other agencies.
"I feel everybody should come and recognize their fire department and be proud," Gleason said. "It's important for everybody to understand what the fire service is about and what we actually provide for the people. I know they sometimes complain about taxes, but this is a good thing that taxes help pay for."
For more information, contact the Ashville Fire Department at 789-5249.