Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 18, 2014

Busy volunteer firefighters juggle life, service to community

Editor’s note: Knowing the hard, unpaid work that area volunteer fire departments put in day after day, The Meadville Tribune will publish a four-day series to depict just what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter. We’re also publishing this series as a public call to action to help the volunteer departments, which are always in need of funding and more firefighters. Today’s story focuses on how firefighters deal with balancing their busy daily lives and volunteering.

Ask just about any volunteer firefighter what it takes to do his or her job and you will be told it’s not easy.

On a daily basis, any given volunteer balances the commitments of his or her own life in addition to mandatory safety training, answering dangerous, unpredictable calls and more.

Imagine, for instance, the daily life of an average teenager, fraught with schoolwork, family obligations, possibly one or more extracurricular sports or other activities, then attempt to make time for friends, hobbies and general recreation.

Where does one find the time to take on enormous, additional responsibilities and why would someone tackle the difficulty of such time constraints?

“It teaches you life lessons, like things can be lost and gained in the blink of an eye,” said Shawn Buckley, a teenage volunteer at Summit Township Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s a reality check every time.”

Buckley and his friend, Trevor Mohra, said they’ve benefited greatly from the experience, outfitting themselves with numerous safety skills not only for their own use, but for the use and service of their community.

Both juggle schoolwork, summer jobs and still find time for personal hobbies, typical of the average teenager. The difference is, they can suit up to engage in emergency situations.

“We’re junior members, so we mainly do fire calls with some (emergency medical service) calls if they’re close-by,” Buckley said.

While most teenagers would rather not sacrifice their weekends to do additional work, Mohra theorized, the benefits are indisputable.

“This is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s a lot of fun.”

Finding the time for weekly drills including driver training, water pumping, equipment handling and search and rescue simulations isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort when inevitably faced with a real emergency.

It’s also somewhat easier when your family and friends work beside you, Buckley and Mohra agreed.

“I literally grew up in this fire department,” said Debbie Buckley, Shawn’s mother, said about Summit. “My parents got me involved and I just can’t stay away.”

Most recently, she’s been taking emergency medical technician classes, as recommended by her daughter Jennifer, another Summit volunteer.

“I do mostly ambulance calls,” Jennifer said. “We get general illness calls, cardiac arrest, (etc.).”

State-certified training is a major, and oftentimes necessary, supplement to in-house training, Debbie said, providing advanced classes and complex drills otherwise unavailable due to departmental or financial constraints.

While her children have volunteered for about a handful of years each, Debbie said she’s been involved long enough to see other volunteers come and go, leave and succeed. Some went on to other positions in other cities and states, while others became overwhelmed, burnt out or simply discovered that firefighting was just “not their thing.”

“We went from having too many to not enough,” she said. “A lot of volunteer departments are having that problem these days.”

The Buckley family and their volunteer peers do what they do mainly because they recognize the need for emergency services and are willing and able to do their part.

“I’ll never forget that feeling,” Jennifer said, recalling one of her first EMS calls. “I had to do compressions my first time.”

She remembers overcoming her initial nervousness in the face of her family’s medical history.

“I just thought, ‘I could be there to help somebody else,’” she said. “I try to go on as many calls as possible.”

And ultimately, service to community is what it’s all about, agreed volunteer Travis Saulsbery, who in his short term with the Summit fire department already fought the Beach Club fire and assisted Conneaut Lake Park attendees who were stuck on the Blue Streak roller coaster this past year.

“I guess you don’t know what it takes until you start,” he said. “I go on calls as much as I can. Three a.m. is when it’s hard.”

Saulsbery said he’s in good hands with the fire department, knowing many of the volunteers as former classmates and having a good learning experience working with them.

“The best part is the sense of brotherhood,” Shawn added. “We kind of bond with each other over time and even help each other out off-duty.”

Focus on volunteer firefighters four-part series

TODAY: Volunteers: This isn’t easy

WEDNESDAY: Classes keep firefighters sharp

THURSDAY: Meadville to host annual conference

FRIDAY: Insurance law creates financial issues

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • cycle Young stunt cyclist to bring show to 'Thunder'

    V-v-v-v-eroom! is the high-pitched whine from the Honda CBR 600 sport motorcycle as Steven Pilic rolls back the throttle and speeds down the asphalt. In one quick, smooth motion — just like you put one foot in front of the other — he shifts his weight forward on the handlebars, jumps from the bike’s foot pegs, lands his feet on the seat and pulls the 400-plus pounds of metal up onto its back wheel, using a combination of balance, brakes, clutch and speed to circle slowly at first and then faster and faster, tighter and tighter while doing a wheelie.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tornado watch issued for Crawford County

    The National Weather Service in Cleveland has issued a tornado watch for Crawford County.

     

    July 27, 2014

  • SUNDAY ISSUE: 'Free-range' parenting

    The case of a woman arrested after leaving her daughter at a park while she went to work is sparking discussion across South Carolina — and even the rest of the country.

    July 26, 2014

  • pymatuning History majors rule at Pioneer & Art Festival

    Those looking for living history exhibits at the 21st annual Pymatuning Pioneer & Art Festival weren’t disappointed Saturday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Organizers ready to stimulate Meadville with next weekend's Thunder in the City

    Started six years ago by Dave Stone, owner of Mickey’s Central Station, as an event to “increase commerce and stimulate the economy,” the annual Thunder in the City Classic Car and Motorcycle Show in Meadville has done that — and lots more.

    July 25, 2014

  • Conneautville celebrating 200 years

    Thursday was a relaxed opening day at the Conneautville Bicentennial Celebration, but things will get hopping today — literally. A frog jumping contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.

    July 25, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stabbing charges dismissed against Bloomfield woman

    A Bloomfield Township woman accused of stabbing her live-in companion last month is a free woman after the alleged victim in the case didn’t appear in court Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Guys Mills boy wins national PBS Kids Writers Contest

    July 24, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks