Council approves acting chief

WELLSVILLE – Village trustees approved the emergency appointment of Bill Brown as interim chief of the Wellsville Fire Department on Monday evening in the absence of village Fire Chief Bill Smith, who remains in critical condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh after a suspected heart attack on Monday.

Haugh says her appointment of Brown, offered before council “with deep sadness yet great honor,” was being undertaken with the prior knowledge and approval of Smith. “I have spoken with him about it in the past and again as recently as Sunday evening,” she said.

Brown is a 28-year veteran of the volunteer department, having served as chief of the village VFD for several years. “Chief Brown brings years of experience in firefighting and strong leadership skills, as well as the ability to communicate clearly with fellow firefighters and the village administration,” Haugh said.

Following council’s unanimous vote of approval, Brown rose to accept the mayor’s praise and encouragement, promising to serve to the best of his abilities. “I respect the firefighters. I’m hoping it’s a smooth transition and I can get all the help I need from them,” he said.

Haugh has been in close contact with Smith’s family in the interim and read from a prepared statement containing information the family provided for her to share with the public. “We don’t know for sure what happened. We keep saying a heart attack, but we don’t know what happened to him,” she said.

He was transported by ambulance to East Liverpool City Hospital, after which he was flown via helicopter to UPMC Mercy.

Haugh reported that Smith is currently in an induced coma on a ventilator, and is being medicated to keep his blood pressure up. Other than being able to squeeze the hand of family members at his bedside, he is being classified as non-responsive. “The doctors say that it is a waiting game at this point, and there is a 72-hour wait before any neurological testing will be beneficial,” she said.

After asking for prayers on behalf of Smith and his family, the mayor invited village residents and firefighters from around the area to a prayer vigil at Wellsville Fire Station No. 6 on Main Street today at 7:30 p.m. Pastor Mark Blakeley of Wellsville First Christian Church will lead the service.

“The more who come out and pray for Smitty, the better,” Haugh said.