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Flickering Embers from the Past: Firefighting Gear Yesterday & Today

The photo above shows a room full of firefighting gear in the engine bay. It is well stocked with the latest equipment that firefighters need to do the best job when they are called to emergencies. 

In times past, the situation with the firefighting gear was quite different. Here is an explanation from Les Fazekas, 49-year member of the Fire Company.

“Years ago all of the equipment was stored on the truck. A lot of the guys, if they knew where the fire was, went directly to the scene. When they arrived, they started grabbing equipment from the truck. It was not unusual to see that one guy might have only a pair of boots and the other guy might have a coat and a helmet. Not everybody had full gear like today.”

Les also tells the story of a house fire at the home of Aaron Miller on Gibbons Road. The truck pulled in and Aaron, in his regular clothes, grabbed the booster line. He ran into the house with several of the firefighters following him. They headed for the attic and knocked the fire down. 

Aaron did not have a mask on or any other gear. That gear was on the truck, but Aaron was not going to wait. There was an urgency about his response. Les explains, “You got in there and then you worried about gear later on.”

Today masks are a critical and necessary part of firefighting. Compare fighting a fire in an old wood-framed tobacco barn with today’s building that is full of many kinds of plastics and chemicals. 

Les says, “We started with the old Chemox masks, like over at Witmer at a chicken house fire. That was different with that oxygen canister – it gave you pure oxygen out of that. Believe it or not, the US Navy still uses that for confined space today – an upgraded version of that same system with the canister.”

Sharing boots was an issue among the firefighters. One firefighter, who lived on a local farm, would always get to the Fire Hall right as the siren went off. Nobody could figure out how he got there so fast. It was said that he left the farm before the siren sounded!

Believe it or not, that firefighter had his own set of boots. He came right from the farm in his bare feet, bringing along whatever was on his feet at the time. Several other guys used that pair of boots only one time each, and then it never happened again. Those stinky boots were not popular! 

We have the best up-to-date gear all ready to go for the next generation of firefighters. No need to share boots or head into a fire without a mask. Which locker will be yours? We encourage the youth in our area to catch the vision for community service and join the ranks of the firefighters.  

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