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West Valley Volunteer Hose Company fire chief named firefighter of the year

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE — The West Valley Volunteer Hose Company had three award winners at the Southwestern convention. Pictured, from left: New York state Assemblyman Joe Giglio, WVVHC Chief Kevin Murray, Aiden Murray, New York state Senator Cathy Young, WVVHC Fire Captain Duane Westfall and WVVHC Fireman and Cattaraugus County Fire Coordinator Deputy 5 Larry Nagel. Photo submitted by John Pfeffer.
WEST VALLEY — West Valley Volunteer Hose Company Fire Chief Kevin Murray was coming out of a bank in Springville in August 2011 when he heard a call about two vehicles that had collided head-on. The location was Miller Road in Springville and the time was 3:30 p.m.

“I was the closest one,” Murray said. “So I went.”

When he arrived on the scene, he saw two cars smashed together. Both vehicles had Florida license plates. One car had four passengers and the other had a single passenger, a woman who was hurt, but still talking to a passerby who had stopped to help.

When Murray approached that car, he noticed that the driver’s ankle was broken. He assessed the situation and surrounding area. That was when he noticed that flames had begun licking at the underside of the car. Another passerby in a truck stopped and examined the injured passenger and provided a fire extinguisher.

Working quickly, the emergency response team, led by Murray, removed the woman from her vehicle. The other four victims were later stabilized and flown from the scene. Because of privacy laws, Murray said he has no idea how – or if – any of the victims recovered.

“Any time you have a call, you have decisions to make,” he said. “That one was probably one of the more intense ones.

“There was no way I would’ve been able to get there had I been eight minutes away,” he said. “It’s funny how things work out.”

Several other local departments assisted and Murray credited their work in helping save the woman.

Murray’s actions led to his being recently awarded the firefighter of the year for Cattaraugus County. He was presented his award at the Cattaraugus County Fire Convention in July and at the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen ceremony in August.

Murray has experienced similar occurrences before. Working as a fireman for 16 years, he has put out both small and large fires and assisted with numerous vehicle crashes. The crash on Miller Road is uncommon, he said, but it happens.

“Out near and on [Route] 219 ... there have been some bad crashes,” he said. “Bad roads out there.”

Other firemen from West Valley who received awards at the two ceremonies included honorable mentions for Danny Parker and Kent Hoppel at the Cattaraugus County Fire Convention and honorable mentions for John Pfeffer and Tim Engels, as well as service awards for Duane Westfall and Larry Nagel at the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Firemen ceremony.

“We have a great bunch of guys here,” Murray said, adding that the West Valley company, served by as many as 30 active volunteers, continues to add and improve on services. Within the last four years, the company has purchased new engines.

Last year, it bought a new engine with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

“We do a lot out here that I don’t think people know about,” he concluded.

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