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Call firefighter: 'It is like facing the devil'

Force survives and thrives alongside full-time department

Southbridge Call Fire Capt. John Szugda, left, and Call Firefighter Carlton Rondeau both love battling flames and rescuing people from dangerous situations. Ryan Grannan-Doll. (click for larger version)
March 15, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — John Szugda has a long history of being involved with fires.

It started in July 1973, when he rode his bicycle up to a brush fire on Eastford Road where Southbridge firefighters were trying to quash the flames.

"They gave me a broom and told me go do what that guy is doing," Szugda said.

Szugda started sweeping brush into the flames to stop it from spreading. Soon after, former Fire Chief Leonard Laporte, then a rank and file firefighter, told Szugda to apply to become an auxiliary firefighter, and eventually a career call firefighter.

Thirty-seven years later, Szugda is a captain and head of the call firefighting force (separate from the auxiliary sections). He and 13 other men are serving as the town's call fire department, which responds to third alarms and medical calls. The men do all of the same work the full-timers perform.

"We're all firefighters. We all perform the same duties," said Call Lt. Joffre Demers. "There is no delineation between a full-time and a call firefighter in the line of duty."

See Monday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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