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No Rest for Weary Firefighters, Paramedics

No Rest for Weary Firefighters, Paramedics

Richard Hubble washes a fire truck at the Lancaster Fire Department's Engine House One. Every Monday each truck is washed and all supplies and tools are checked and counted for inventory. (Lindsay Niegelberg, Eagle-Gazette)

Lancaster Eagle Gazette via YellowBrix

April 06, 2010

No matter the situation, crew members say they treat people and their belongings as they would want their family and home treated.

“People are trusting us to come into their homes and take care of their loved ones, and we take that in high regard,” said Medaugh.

Using members’ dues, the union pays for both the cable service and televisions they watch. Firefighters often apply for grants themselves, and crew members often switch hats to keep costs low.

Lt. Larry Moore took home a floor-scrubber with a broken frame and welded it back together to save the city the cost of a new unit. Others work on truck and loudspeaker maintenance. Using Tod Burwell’s carpentry experience, firefighters have remodeled two bathrooms, built their main table, and completely refurbished a retired vehicle using firehouse-budgeted money but regular work time, sparing the city the expense of hiring for the jobs.

All three crews eat all of their meals at the firehouse with food purchased with their own money and prepared by the best cooks in the crew. The firefighters follow a simple rule – “It doesn’t have to be good, but there had better be enough.”

Spiller recalled his turn in the kitchen when he was a rookie firefighter and wanted to impress his new co-workers. He made stuffed peppers, but forgot there was an extra firefighter in the house that day.

“I was the rookie so I didn’t have a green pepper,” he said, adding that now, 10 years later, he still gets made fun of whenever he attempts to help in the kitchen.

He isn’t alone in his culinary failures. Spiller and Comer remember now-retired Dan Sells’ attempt at making “the poor-man’s ham salad” with chopped bologna and mayonnaise.

“It was like creamy soup,” said Comer, “We just kept adding bologna to stretch it.” A SECOND FAMILY

After their 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift firefighters and medics have 48 hours to relax and spend time with their families. Many fill off hours by volunteering time at county firehouses, working in hospitals or flying medical helicopters. Some volunteer a portion of those two days by helping to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, purchasing toys for children during the holidays, or working as medics at area festivals.

When their two days are up they return to their “second family” at the firehouse where a good-natured competitiveness between crews keeps each motivated to be at the top of their game.

“We all think we’re the best,” Crew Three’s Rich Charles said. “The difference is up here, we’re right.”

Dedication to their crew members is more than skin deep, as members of Crew One say they know more about each other than they do their own families.

“We work a lot harder than both of the other crews,” Crew Two Captain Sam Price said.

On Crew Three, brotherly love shows on the outside with a bond of ink and blood. Every member of the crew has a “Super Crew 3” tattoo.

As Spiller sat talking about his past culinary experiences, the public announcement system clicked on. He stopped, mid-sentence, and listened as the dispatcher called Medic One to the scene of a pregnant woman having difficulty breathing.

“Excuse me,” he said, only half-joking as he hustled, already almost out of the room. “I have to go save a life.”