SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — “I was born and raised in the fire service,” said Sullivan County Fire Coordinator John Hauschild, adding that his father Donald “Pop” Hauschild …
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — “I was born and raised in the fire service,” said Sullivan County Fire Coordinator John Hauschild, adding that his father Donald “Pop” Hauschild served in a local volunteer fire department for 56 years.
Reflecting back to when he was three or four years old, Hauschild recalled that his family had a no-dial fire phone in the house, and it was his assigned duty to stand by and up pick up the phone when it rang and answer, “Fire department!” It was also his job to hit a switch to activate the fire station alarm.
This was long before Plectrons, single-channel emergency-alert radio receivers and centralized 911 systems.
Hauschild studied fire protection in college. After graduation, he became a state fire instructor, teaching at the NYS Fire Academy. When needed, he teaches the science of firematics at the Sullivan County Emergency Services Training Center in Swan Lake, NY and, since 2016, serves as the Sullivan County Fire Coordinator.
The state-of-the-art training center is a division of the Sullivan County Office of Emergency Management/Homeland Security and the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire.
RR photos by Ted Waddell
Training is key to safety and success. The Jeffersonville Volunteer Fire Department recently acquired sets of new state-of-the-art Scott-Air Paks, and shortly thereafter had a training session at a nearby abandoned house that was filled with smoke to simulate an active structure fire scenario. Pictured in the center is Chief Scott “Wally” McGowan.
The center is utilized by various fire departments, EMS services, law enforcement agencies (sheriff’s office, state and local) and numerous county organizations for specialized and in-service training programs.
Assisting Hauschild in carrying out the mission of the Bureau of Fire is a six-pack of deputy fire coordinators: Don “Bosco” Hunt Jr. (Battalion #1), Thomas Totten (Battalion #2), Jack Halchak (Battalion #3), Michael Bastone (Battalion #4), Bill Lothrop (Battalion #5) and Charlie Rampe (Battalion #6).
The training center boasts a cadre of dedicated instructors: John Hauschild, Thomas Andryshak Jr., Brian Soller, Tom Dempsey Jr., Rick Sauer, Tom Dempsey, Ryan Jones and James Gerard.
As a longtime volunteer firefighter at his hometown department, Hauschild worked his way up through the ranks twice to be elected chief of the Jeffersonville Fire Department.
“Once wasn’t enough, so I did it twice,” he said.
Asked about the future of volunteer fire departments, the county’s fire coordinator remarked that it’s tough out there getting new recruits.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t diminish any more than where we are now. It’s exactly what Rick said, we don’t have a lot to choose from here. It’s hard for kids and young adults to stay here.”
As an example of the current state of affairs, Hauschild said if a fire emergency breaks out during the day, many departments are forced to call out two or three other departments to gather 15 volunteer fighters. “Years ago, when I grew up, there were 15 to 20 firefighters working right in Jeffersonville, but times have changed.”
In a plea for more folks to join a local volunteer fire department (or an ambulance corps), Hauschild said, “You never know when an emergency’s going to happen, but it’s a nice feeling to know there are people to come help you”
“If we don’t have volunteer fire and EMS, nobody’s coming, and that’s a sad thing.”
Hauschild said that one of the main reasons local volunteer fire departments and EMS corps are hurting for members is that when today’s youth head out the door to college or jobs, they often don’t come back to their roots.
“We are trying to get the young folks to join, even if we can get them for one to two years,” he said, adding that, if they do move out of the area, they can take these skills with them and join other departments.
“They can continue to volunteer in other areas of New York or other states, and that’s OK because they’re getting the training and helping us out for those one or two years. If they come back, great for us, and if they don’t, great for somebody else.”
Over the years, several younger members of the fire service learned the basics of firematics and EMS in the county, and then went on to paid careers with departments ranging from Binghamton, NY to the Carolinas and the Big Apple.
Hauschild stressed that volunteer departments are always in search of new members. The notion of “I’m a firefighter so I must fight fires” doesn’t tell the whole story. There are many other functions: driving apparatuses, equipment maintenance, cleaning the stations, keeping the books, fire police—the list is endless.
“There’s a lot you can do, and once we get them in the loop, hopefully they’ll stick it out,” he added. “It gets them involved and gets in their blood.”
Hauschild said that an NYC transplant recently helped out at a firehouse roast beef dinner social function; afterward, he commented,” We didn’t want to join, just wanted to help... please let us know when your next function is.”
The county’s fire coordinator along with Rick Sauer, commissioner of public safety, and Alex Rau, E911 and EMS coordinator) were all in agreement that, when you join a local volunteer fire/EMS company, you’re joining a family.
A few years ago, a local farmer and volunteer firefighter got hurt during the middle of the summer’s haying season, so his loyal comrades in the fire service pitched in to bale the hay and store them in his farm.
“It’s priceless, it’s part of giving back to your community,” said Hauschild. “You’re one of us. We watch out for each other. The bond is there.”
The Sullivan County Bureau of Fire is located at the Sullivan County Government Center, 100 North St., P.O. Box 5012, Monticello, NY 12701. For information, call 845/807-0508.
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