Duo of Volunteer OH Firefighters Have More than 80 Years of Service

Firefighter helmet

Kevin Lynch

The Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio

(MCT)

Mar. 27—MILLERSBURG — Today it is harder than ever to find volunteers to serve on the fire department as time commitments, stringent testing and other requirements have slowed the number of people willing to serve.

Holmes Fire District No. 1 has a pair of volunteers who have combined for more than 80 years of service to the fire department in Kevin Vaughn and Jim ‘Buzz’ Weigand.

“We are fortunate to have veteran volunteers on our department like Kevin Vaughn and Jim Weigand, plus several others,” said Holmes District No. 1 Chief Kyle Yoder. “With the 80-plus years of experience in the fire service that these two have, and being former fire chiefs, I rely on them for any help I may need. Kevin and Jim are very willing to do any maintenance on the vehicles or at the station that is needed without needing to be asked. When I see one of the ‘veterans’ show up to an incident I feel confident in their ability to handle the call that I can focus on other aspects of the incident.”

Both veteran firefighters have seen the growth of the current force from the days when it was a department run by all volunteers. At one point in their careers, the fire department was all volunteers, which made it tough when duty called.

“Fortunately there are a lot of businesses and owners who graciously let their people leave for fires and squad runs,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn began training for the fire department when he was still in high school at West Holmes. The 1980 graduate signed up when he was a senior.

“I joined in 1979,” Vaughn said, “A few friends of mine were on the fire department and a few friends and I joined together. I had all my training done before I graduated high school. I had to wait two or three months before I could take my state exam to be a firefighter.”

He has worked for the Village of Millersburg in the utilities department since 1985. He joked that working for the water department goes hand in hand with being a firefighter, as he knows where all the fire hydrants are in town.

Vaughn said there have been some tough times, where he’s known the victims in an accident. He’s lost a few friends in automobile crashes.

He explained any time there’s a call, whoever is available responds to it. Firefighters have pagers and active 9-1-1 that sends a text message telling where the fire is and provides directions.

Weigand said when he was growing up, he remembers seeing firetrucks drive past his house with people hanging off the trucks. That is what first made him want to be a firefighter.

“Back then, they used to ride along on back, and hang on anywhere they could,” he said. “That’s not really legal anymore. Everybody has to be inside and belted.”

Weigand worked at Millersburg Electric as a service technician when the fire department started in Millersburg. He joined the volunteer fire department around 1975.

The volunteers note a good camaraderie among the crew.

“Everybody gets along so well,” Weigand said. “Some departments are like sticks in the mud. But here, everybody gets along really well, and we have a good time just hanging out and talking. Back when the station was uptown, it wouldn’t be unusual to see five, six guys at the station with the front doors open, just sitting round up there talking. You don’t find that much anymore because everyone is so busy with so much going on.”

Vaughn, too, enjoys the time he spends at the fire station.

“Being a part of the crew is what I like best,” Vaughn said. “There’s a really good group of people down there. Some have been around for a short period, and others for a long time.

Another reason Vaughn enjoys being a volunteer firefighter is being able to help out when people are in need.

“Just being able to help out,” he said.

Weigand noted that it is important for firefighters to maintain their training and stay up-to-date on their state certifications.

“Fires back when I started used to be mostly wooden structures, but things have really changed since then,” Weigand said. “You didn’t have all the plastics and carcinogens and stuff we come up against nowadays. You always have to wear your scout pack. In the old days, when wood burned, it was just a nice fire.”

Tuesdays at Fire District No. 1 are a day for business meetings and squad and fire training at the fire department, to help EMTs and paramedics keep their continuing education programs up-to-date.

Holmes Fire District No. 1 is located in Millersburg The District provides Fire and EMS service to the Village of Millersburg, and Hardy, Mechanic and Monroe townships. Kyle Yoder is chief.

“Holmes Fire District No. 1, as with every other department in Holmes County has seen a decline in volunteers. This statement stands true not just for Holmes County but for the entire country,” Yoder said. “Fire departments are struggling to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters, due to firefighters not having the time to keep up with rigid training requirements while balancing the commitments of a full-time job and family life. We are grateful for volunteers like Jim and Kevin, along with all our other volunteers, who go above and beyond every day to serve our community.”

Fire District No. 1 currently has seven full-time, 28 part-time and 15 volunteer/paid-on-call personnel. The Fire District bases it operation out of two stations, with Station 1, just west of town on state Route 39. It is staffed 24 hours a day: Station No. 2 is located on state Rt. 83 in Mechanic Twp., near Lake Buckhorn.

Yoder added volunteers have had, and still have a huge impact at Holmes Fire District 1.

“Being a combination department of paid personnel and volunteers, we rely heavily on our volunteers,” the chief said. “Volunteers carry out several important functions for our department, all of them focusing on the community. Without our volunteers our department would not be where it is today.

“Our volunteers have put the community first when it comes to public relations events, countless hours of training, and most importantly by responding to our community’s emergencies,” Yoder continued. “We rely on our volunteers to assist our paid staff when we need additional personnel due to the type of incident we face.”

Names and ages: Kevin Vaughn, 58, and Jim “Buzz'” Weigand, 65

Residences: Millersburg

Years volunteering: 85 (combined)

Why volunteer? For the friendship and fellowship they share while on duty and to be able to help out in the community when duty calls.

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