Con­shohocken names new fire chief

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By Gil Co­hen

In his role as trivia mas­ter, Leo Costello might have posed this ques­tion: Who is chief of the Con­shohocken Fire Depart­ment? To­day, the an­swer is: Leo Costello. Costello, who used to chair Con­shohocken Fire Com­pany No. 2’s an­nual Trivia Night, was re­cently ap­pointed chief of the depart­ment when the for­mer chief, Stephen Phipps, stepped down and ac­cepted a job of­fer in New Jersey.

“This is a new chal­lenge in my life, which I’m look­ing for­ward to tak­ing on,” Costello said. As soon as he gets set­tled into his new role as chief, Costello said he will meet with the rest of his line of­fi­cers and mem­bers of both Con­shohocken fire com­pa­nies (Wash­ing­ton Fire Com­pany No. 1 and Con­shohocken Fire Com­pany No. 2) that Costello over­sees to de­ter­mine their short- and longterm goals.

An im­por­tant topic that Costello is ea­ger to tackle is the need for more vol­un­teers.

“There are a lot of new res­i­dents in town,” he pointed out. ”I’m plan­ning to reach out to them, tell them who we are and why we need vol­un­teers. There is so much to do in a vol­un­teer fire com­pany to keep the garage doors open and the lights on. Yes, our pri­mary ob­jec­tive is to re­cruit fire­fight­ers, but we also need vol­un­teers to per­form other kinds of work, such as ad­min­is­tra­tive chores and fundrais­ing ef­forts.”

When he be­came a mem­ber in 1980, Costello re­calls, it was not un­com­mon for fire com­pa­nies to ar­rive on a fire scene with a home, garage or au­to­mo­bile al­ready fully in­volved in flames.

“To­day, the sever­ity of calls has de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly,” he pointed out. Much of the credit goes to the Bor­ough of Con­shohocken. “I ap­plaud what they have done. They have two full-time fire in­spec­tors/fire­fight­ers, who in­spect homes, businesses and of­fice build­ings to make sure they are thor­oughly clean of haz­ards and de­bris, that they in­clude smoke de­tec­tors and sprin­klered alarms and that they are other­wise up to bor­ough code.”

Fifty-two-year-old Costello, a life­long res­i­dent of Con­shohocken, joined the depart­ment at the age of 18. One in­flu­ence for his join­ing was his brother John, who vol­un­teered just a year be­fore; the other rea­son was a fire he wit­nessed while com­ing home from school one day.

“I hap­pened to look up into the sky and saw heavy black smoke. It wasn’t far from my home on West 10th Av­enue so I walked over to in­ves­ti­gate. When I came upon the fire at Sherry Lake Apart­ments on But­ler Pike, I saw fire and smoke com­ing out of sev­eral apart­ments. I was im­pressed with what I saw, but what im­pressed me even more was how the emer­gency re­spon­ders in­ter­acted with each other to put the fire out.”

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