Haunting Memory: 2003 Delhi Flood
By IAN AUSTIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – After 32 years with the Oneonta Fire Department, firefighter Jim Delello’s served his final tour of duty today as a critical care technician with the Oneonta Fire Department.
“You see people at their best and their worst,” he said. “It is gratifying to see the effect you have on people’s lives, and it’s good when you can see a positive outcome after a call.”
He began working with the department on Sept. 4, 1985, then came on as a full-time firefighter the following year. He was Union President for sixteen years, served on Mayor Dick Miller’s task force for the department and takes the roll of Crew Leader when the Captains are off.
But he chose to remain as a Critical Care Technician because he liked it so much. Whether he was out collecting money for Fill The Boot, or doing free blood pressure clinics for the community, he has enjoyed serving his community.
“There have been so many experiences in this job and they are all different. Some are really good ones, some are bad,” he said. The worst for me was in 2003 when a car went into floodwaters in Delhi and there were kids inside.
“Myself and two other firefighters were trying to rescue them and our boat became disabled. We were drifting down the river at night in total darkness. One guy fell out of the boat. He eventually got to shore and we managed to grab a passing tree limb to pull ourselves out, but those people in the car didn’t make it.”
“But we have been really lucky, too,” he added. “We have saved so many lives. We brought one guy back to life in the parking lot of P&C. But even when a loved one is lost, people come and shake your hand and thank you for trying.”
Jim plans to stay locally, and plans on enjoying the summer while he figures out his next step is. “This job has given me the attitude of ‘live life now. Don’t wait for it,'” he said. “I have seen so many injuries, but this job teaches you that quality of life is important and to enjoy it all while you can.”