Honoring SCHUYLKILL county FIREFIGHTERS
Snow brought Robert Ryan and the Clover Fire Company in Heckscherville together. His father was a member of the company and, when Ryan was 15 years old, his dad asked for help shoveling the ramp so the trucks could get out if needed. “So everytime it snowed I shoveled… soon I was helping, around the trucks.” Now, almost six decades later Ryan is the chief.
Although the company has 22 trained members, Ryan admits that their count fluctuates. “It comes in spurts. People move away, they come back… we have guys on third shift, working in Hazleton, in Reading.” So, for each call all three Cass Township fire companies respond along with Minersville to ensure that there are enough people to handle the call.
Ryan accepts the idea of merging, explaining that Cass Township has taken the first step by appointing one fire marshall/emergency management coordinator. He hopes that eventually the three companies can cross train while still maintaining their own identity through their social events and buildings. With cross training, all the Cass Township firefighters will be familiar with each other’s personnel and equipment and can work together as one large company.
“Chiefs need to know their people and how far they’ll let them go.” Ryan wants to take a page from professional companies in cities by color coding fire helmets of all three companies so that, no matter who is in charge of a call, they know the abilities of all the firefighters on the scene. “Red for completed training but still new, yellow for those OK to enter a building…”
Since Ryan started shoveling snow many things have changed. “Computerized trucks! They can tell you how much hose, how much water [you’re using].” Ryan approves of training that is “more safety oriented” but points out that years ago training included fighting fires set in oil pits at Lakewood. Some people complete training and only realize when faced with the real thing, that they can’t go into a burning building. But years of firefighting have made Ryan quick to adjust. “If they can’t go inside they can be a driver, they can relieve people who can go in. We never turn people away.”