By Josh LaBella
Bill Heffernan describes himself as a busy man. Heffernan, who holds the rank of lieutenant at the Center fire district, wears many hat and is involved with a myriad number of groups and projects in and outside of West Haven.
As historian of his fire department, Heffernan said he combs through “dusty vaults at City Hall” and the minutes of the board of fire commissioners, going back to 1919, to piece together the history of the fire districts in West Haven.
“We’ve been doing a lot to bring this stuff forward,” said Heffernan. “The fire department has been a hot button topic and I’ve been doing some presentations around town… to try and get the real information out there.”
Heffernan said a lot of residents have misinformation about the history and reasoning behind West Haven’s fire districts. He said the city has always had multiple departments; even before the city was incorporated in as a town and then city in 1921 and 1961, respectively.
In his office across the street from the fire department, Heffernan had consolidation studies on the fire departments dating back decades. He said they all said pretty much the same thing.
“Don’t bother doing it,” said Heffernan. “It’ll cost a fortune.”
Aside from being a firefighter for 27 years, Heffernan also serves as a president of the board for the West Haven Community House, is on the board for the Village Improvement Association – which is the library system’s board of directors, is a member of the West Haven Historical Society and was the chairman of the 125th anniversary board in 2013. He said he always tries to help with things that are going on.
According to Heffernan, he could retire but he is not finished yet. He said he has projects left to do, including getting the fire museum up and running.
Recently, Heffernan has been serving as technical advisor for Tacoma FD, a comedy show about firefighters. It is produced, in part, by his cousin and West Haven native Kevin Heffernan of Super Troopers and Beerfest fame. He said he had been telling his cousin to do a show about firefighters for years.
“He ignored me for about 15 years,” said Heffernan. “I said, ‘Listen, firefighters have great stories. We do some funny stuff.’ There’s always some gag going on. We are always pranking each other. The calls that we go on are ridiculous sometimes.”
Heffernan said during the filming of Super Troopers 2 Kevin called and said truTV wanted him to write a pilot episode for a show about a firehouse. He said he spent most of the fall flying out to California to sit in on the script writing and to make sure the show was true to the firefighter life.
“It’s a comedy but you don’t want the guys to look stupid,” said Heffernan. “It’s Tacoma. It rains every day. It’s the wettest city in America. So, there’re not a lot of fires. Mayhem ensues.”
Heffernan said a lot of the stories in the show come from his time as a firefighter and he worked to make sure the antics of the characters were still in line with what firefighters would actually do. On Wednesday, he and his wife went to the premiere and walked the red carpet. The show premieres Thursday night at 10:30.