Village People: Bill Scalercio, Firefighter and Volunteer
'Fireman Bill' wins smiles while teaching Sewickley's children about fire safety and volunteering at events around town.
Bill Scalercio is a familiar face around town. All children and most adults know him as "Fireman Bill," and they recognize his smiling face if not his name.
Scalercio not only plays a huge role in most local events, but he also contributes personal time to help others and and his community.
Q. What is your full name?
A. William Joseph Scalercio.
Q. How long have you been a Sewickley resident?
A. I moved to Thorn Street from Ambridge when I was 12, but I had an aunt and uncle who lived on Broad Street with my great-grandparents and an aunt and uncle who lived on Glen Mitchell Road, so I spent a lot of Sundays and holidays here -- not to mention weekends -- and got to know people before living here. I moved to my home on Scaife Road when I got my job in 1984.
Q. What is the best part, for you, about living here?
A. I think Sewickley still has a bit of Norman Rockwell, small-town feel. I can go into Robinson’s Hardware to see if something will fit or look right before they will charge me for it, or go to Safran's Market without my wallet and they will write me a slip for the next time I am in. I can go to Herbst for service, catch a ride home and have my car delivered back. I like just knowing a lot of people, maybe not their names, but at least their faces.
Q. Everyone in town seems to know you. How is that?
A. I guess that’s the price you pay for never leaving Sewickley. My dad grew up here. I have been around a long time. I do work at home and am down in Sewickley almost every day picking up mail or other errands.
Q. Most people know you from the Cochran Hose Company. What else do you do?
A. I am a caretaker for a 30-acre estate in Sewickley Heights. [I have been] married to my wife, Lisa, for 22 years and have a daughter, Sarah. I belong to St. James Church, Knights of Columbus Council 5367, and I just joined The Kiwanis Club of Sewickley. I have to get back in the groove, but I was going to the YMCA pretty regularly up until six or seven months ago. Not really the biggest sports fan, but I will watch the Steelers and try to catch a few Pirates games.
Q. How long have you been a firefighter?
A. This July it will be 20 years.
Q. You, and the other volunteers at the station, are always so good about welcoming children to explore when the doors are open. Is that normal policy?
A. I would say most fire departments love to have children around. I think a lot of the firefighters are big kids themselves and love sharing their toys. We at Cochran Hose Co. are very proud of our station and enjoy sharing with the community, young and old.
We want children not to be afraid of us, let them know we are here to help and it also shows the parents what we do. Maybe it will spark one or two of the children to volunteer when they get older.
Q. You have special programs to teach children about fire safety. Can you tell me more about that?
A. Our main program is have the area preschools visit the fire station. We start with “Buzz E,” our robotic smoke detector that sings and talks to the children. We received Buzz E about a year ago through the efforts of my daughter Sarah Scalercio, and the Junior Firefighter Personal Project. With help from grants and Santa at the station -- which almost the entire fire company participated in -- we were able to purchase him.
We then tour the trucks and always let a firefighter put [the] gear on to show the children not to be afraid. If a Cub Scout [pack] or Brownie troop visits, we do about the same program, maybe not using Buzz E if they are older. Even when we host a birthday party, we try to have something for fire safety included.
Cochran Hose is also a member of the Quaker Valley fire safety committee. All of the Quaker Valley Fire departments belong to this organization. Once a year during Fire Prevention Week, we visit kindergarten classes in the local area. On the following Saturday we have an expo to introduce all the fire companies' apprentices and encourage the residents to meet them.
Q. There are always cool firefighting activities during community events and parade and holiday activities, and great Halloween bags! What is the motivation behind integrating the fire station into the community?
A. The Sewickley community always supports the fire department. We enjoy giving back, we have more fun than the children. A few years ago, we started driving around on Halloween just for the safety aspect. We then thought we would give out candy and decorate the station for a little extra fun for the kids -- again, to give back a little to the community. Can’t forget -- Santa always wants to ride into town on our 1927 American La France.
Q. This is not the only interaction you have with the local children. We have seen Santa at the station, seen you host egg hunts, have a hayride for Moms Club and more. What motivates you to help with the kids?
A. Being at the right place at the right time. Our neighbors ask for help, and it is always fun.
When I was young, my house was always the one house where the neighborhood kids gathered. My dad was one to always have funny sayings or make funny noises for us to laugh at. When kids would see my dad, they would ask him to do one of his funny things. On payday he would bring some of us to McDonalds for treats. On the way there he would whistle and say things just to be funny to people we saw walking. We had a ball -- my mom would yell at him. I think that's why I still like being around and helping children. If I can make them happy or smile, that is a great feeling. I believe it’s good to let kids just be kids and have some fun.
Q. Adding to a long list you are also a member of The Knights of Columbus. What is this organization and what is your involvement?
A. The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic family fraternal service organization. It was founded in the late 1800s to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members of the church and community. The founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity are still upheld today.
I am treasurer of our local Council 5367. I got involved with them years ago after getting married. My father-in-law was a long-time member of this organization, holding state office positions. I guess not the most honorable reason for joining, but at the time I was not his most favorite person. So I joined to get a little on his better side, and it did work.
I am glad to be a member of The Knights of Columbus as we donate to churches and schools, as well as recently sponsoring an essay contest. In the past we donated a golf cart to retired Sisters of St. Joseph and helped purchase ushers jackets, as well as donating money to help buy Buzz E.
We also sponsor a Christmas party, an Easter egg hunt and blood drives.
Q. What is next for you?
A. Keep trying to do the same thing. If things change, adapt the best you can. One of these days I would like to take a nice long vacation and drive out West to visit my sister in New Mexico, make my wife Lisa happy and maybe stay in Las Vegas for a while.