When Bill Halstead was 16-years-old and a Newtown High School student, he joined the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Co.
Little did he know his teenage participation would lead to life-long involvement in firefighting in town, first as a volunteer and later as the Sandy Hook fire chief and town'a fire marshal.
In tribute to his achievement, Halstead was recently nominated to the Connecticut State Firefighters Association Hall of Fame. He will be inducted into the hall along with 11 other nominees Wednesday April 6 at a 6 p.m. dinner at the Aqua Turf catering facility, Mulberry Street, Southington.
“I remember him as a little kid playing around the firehouse. We’ve been good friends all our lives,” said George Lockwood, former fire marshal and long-time Sandy Hook volunteer. “When I retired as fire marshal, I recommended Halstead to replace me, and the Board of Fire Commissioners approved it.”
Lockwood, who will attend the dinner along with other local firefighters, said it was fitting Halstead receive the honor because of his life-long devotion to firefighting.
Halstead, 62, reflected recently on the fact that the town has experienced many large fires in the past four decades since he put on a firefighter’s heavy coat, helmet and boots.
“Tuttle’s Glen Lodge, on Glen Road, was destroyed in a huge fire in 1973, and First Selectman Tim Treadwell died in a fire in his home, off Bennett’s Bridge Road, that year,” he said.
Other big fires included the destruction of a large apartment dwelling in Sandy Hook Center about 40 years ago.
Also, a fire completely destroyed the Lloyd’s Lumber Co., on Commerce Road, in the early 1980’s. That late evening fire sent a column of flame about 60 feet in the air before it was brought under control by volunteers from the town’s five fire companies. An empty lot was all that remained.
His most recent big fire took the life of Marianna Mormando, 55, Dec. 30, 2010. She was found by firefighters in the upstairs bedroom of her Philo Curtis Road home in Sandy Hook. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.
The blaze began in the downstairs family room. Heat and smoke overtook her before firefighters could arrive.
“We’re still waiting for the results from some toxicology and forensic tests, but the cause of the fire remains undetermined,” Halstead said.
Halstead also saw the Sandy Hook fire company outgrow its original firehouse on Glen Road and move to a new facility on Riverside Road in the 1970’s. He became the Sandy Hook chief in 1978 and has led the fire company ever since.
“I had been working maintaining the grounds of Fairfield Hills while it was still a state mental hospital in the 1970’s. I became the hospital’s assistant fire chief in 1976 and its fire chief in 1980,” he said. “After I retired from the state, I began working as a deputy fire marshal in 1999 with Lookwood, who then fire marshal.”
Halstead had become a deputy marshal under the Jim Cavanaugh, when Cavanaugh was fire marshal in 1984. After Lockwood retired in 2001, Halstead replaced him as fire marshal. The responsibilities of emergency management director were later added to Halstead’s work for the town.
“I got involved with firefighting because my three uncles were volunteers in Sandy Hook, and my mother and my aunts were members of the Sandy Hook Ladies Auxiliary, which supports volunteers at fires. My brother Frank, now an Oxford volunteer, was a volunteer in Sandy Hook in his younger years,” Halstead said. “Members of the board of directors of the state firefighters association said I was eligible for induction into the hall of fame. I had the support of Anthony Capozziello, the assistant Sandy Hook chief, and my daughter, Karin Halstead, a Sandy Hook firefighter.”
Halstead said his achievement as Sandy Hook fire chief and fire marshal would not have been possible without the support of the volunteers, now numbering about 65 in Sandy Hook. Members of his family and about 60 people from Sandy Hook firehouse plan to attend the hall of fame event.