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Clifford Spatcher named Leyden fire chief

LEYDEN (February 2, 2014) — Fire Chief Clifford Spatcher stands in front of the Leyden Volunteer Fire Department's oldest tanker prior to a routine training held at the fire station on Sunday. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

LEYDEN (February 2, 2014) — Fire Chief Clifford Spatcher stands in front of the Leyden Volunteer Fire Department's oldest tanker prior to a routine training held at the fire station on Sunday. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

LEYDEN — Clifford Spatcher joined the fire department at the young age of 16, never dreaming he’d be chief one day.

Just a decade later, at 27, he was in fact appointed chief of the department.

“I started firefighting for a community service project in high school,” he said. “It clicked for me. I loved doing it and I stayed with it.”

Though he’s young, most of the department is even younger.

“We have two firefighters older than me, the deputy chief and one other. Neither wanted to be chief.”

When he’s not wearing his “chief” helmet, he’s behind the wheel of a propane truck. He’s been delivering canned heat for four years.

The chief was born and raised in Leyden, growing up on Spatcher Farm, where he still works occasionally.

Firefighting runs in his family.

“I think my great-grandfather was a firefighter, and I know my grandfather was.”

It skipped a generation, but Spatcher picked up where his grandfather left off.

He was appointed chief Jan. 14, and said it’s been a busy first few weeks.

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” he said. “I’ve also had a lot of meetings, and we’ve been trying to clean up the station. We’re trying to get some new apparatus in here.”

Spatcher would like to be able to replace two of the department’s vehicles with a new brush truck and tanker.

“Most of our stuff is 40 years old. It’s about time to make our fleet a little newer.”

He’d also like to add some new firefighters to the roster.

“We have eight people now, and one applicant. I’d like to get up to 12 firefighters.”

Though he’s only been chief a short while, he sort of grew into it. As a lieutenant in the department, he had already done much of the administrative work, including assisting with the annual budget.

“I had unofficially been doing a lot of the stuff a chief would do anyway. Now they’ve given me the title.”

As for the on-the-ground aspects of firefighting, Spatcher learned on the job. He’s also been certified as an emergency medical technician.

“Most of my training has been in-house. It’s been more of a mentorship. I will be going to the Fire Academy, though.”

In his decade on the department, Spatcher said no one incident really stands out.

“I’ve been to structure fires, car fires and accidents, the typical stuff firefighters do.”

He said it can be difficult to fight fires in the rural town.

“With the time it takes for someone to report a fire, volunteers to respond to the station, getting a water supply and responding to the scene, it can be tough to save a burning structure.”

That can be tough on the firefighters.

“Being a small town, you know everybody. When we get an alarm, we know whose house it is.”

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