COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Every time Comstock Township firefighters take their newest engine out on a call, they’ll be honoring the fire chief who died in the line of duty nearly four months ago.
On Saturday, the department dedicated its new truck, Engine 913, to Chief Ed Switalski.
Switalski was hit by a vehicle and killed while responding to a call on I-94 on the night of June 14.
“He was a community chief, a people’s chief, and that legacy will live on,” Chief Matt Beauchamp said at the “push in” ceremony for the engine.
Push in ceremonies harken back to the late 1800s, when fire wagons were hauled by horses. After returning from a call, firefighters would wet down the horses, clean the equipment, and then push the wagons back into the fire house.
In that tradition, Engine 913 was blessed, wet down and then pushed into the station.
Switalski worked to get the new fire engine before his death. He helped design it, adding features meant to keep his men safe. Though he’ll never get to ride in it, his name is emblazoned on both sides and a copy of his obituary was placed in between the panels in the driver’s side door.
“So we will know that he is always with us,” Beauchamp explained.
The sheriff’s office said the driver who struck Switalski, 24-year-old Brandon Clevenger of Battle Creek, was driving nearly 90 mph and distracted by his phone moments before the crash. Clevenger is charged with reckless driving causing death and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Beauchamp took over as acting fire chief following Switalski’s death. He told 24 Hour News 8 he was formally appointed to the permanent position Monday.