Meet Your First Responders

By on November 15, 2017

This week’s “Meet Your First Responder” profile is about Kurt Gardner, the president and fire police lieutenant at Brickerville Fire Company. Kurt, 55, a volunteer with Brickerville for 10 years, resides in Elizabeth Township with his wife, Heidi. He and Heidi are parents of Adam, also a volunteer firefighter at Brickerville Fire Company, and Lyndsay, who has also volunteered with the fire company. They are also grandparents of Hudson and Harper.

Kurt is a graduate of Warwick High School, Franklin & Marshall College undergraduate program, and Dickinson School of Law. Kurt is an attorney and partner in Gardner & Stevens, PC, in Lititz and Ephrata. In addition to his career and volunteering with the fire company, Kurt also enjoys boating, golfing, hunting, fishing, gardening, and spending time with his grandchildren.

Why did you join the fire company?

Heidi and I joined when Adam began to volunteer as a junior firefighter. We wanted to support him in this activity.

What level of training have you completed?

I have completed numerous classes and certifications within the fire police division.

What’s your first memory of responding to a fire call?

My first call was the tornado that flipped a mobile home near the Middle Creek in Clay Township.

I remember seeing roofs torn off, trees uprooted, and debris everywhere. I remember directing traffic at a four-way intersection (where two directions were closed due to trees and debris on the road) in lots of rain, thunder and lightning.

What is the most notable call you have responded to?

The all-night call during Tropical Storm Lee in September of 2011 which brought water rescues, massive flooding devastation and, unfortunately, loss of life. Amid that dark time, however, the dramatic rescue by our firemen of a young mother and her children from their car remains a bright example of exactly why we volunteer as first responders.

What do you find most challenging about firefighting?

The biggest challenges can be dropping whatever you are doing (even if it is sleeping in the middle of the night) to respond when the pager sounds, and the rare member of the public who ignores your instructions or is rude to you while you are trying to do your job effectively.

What do you like the most about firefighting?

My time spent as a first responder is a chance to serve my friends and neighbors at some of life’s most difficult times — fires, accidents, natural disasters, etc. It is frequently exciting, and it is almost always very fulfilling. I like knowing that I am helping to make a difference in my community.

What do you wish other people knew about the volunteer fire service?

I wish people knew how simple it is to get involved, and I wish they knew how much they would enjoy it once they did.

Why do you continue to volunteer as a firefighter?

I have met some great people, and responding to emergency calls never becomes mundane or boing. I firmly believe that we have an obligation to give back to our community. I can think of no better way to serve the area right where I live than to volunteer as a first responder.

Have you been able to recruit anyone to join the fire company? If yes, who?

Yes — most recently my neighbor, Scott Thompson, as a fire police officer.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career in the fire service? Mentor?

My son, Adam, who first got me started, and Michael Snyder, the fire police captain at Brickerville Fire Company, who provided constant encouragement and training help when I was new. It has also been great to have a supportive and involved wife and daughter.

What is your biggest concern about the volunteer fire service?

The demands of our busy world are making it increasingly difficult to find volunteers, especially among younger people. If people are not willing to volunteer, paid fire service (at increasing expense to everyone) will become our reality.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining the fire company as a volunteer?

Don’t wait — you will find serving to be extremely gratifying. The next person you help in a time of urgent need could be your friend, co-worker, or neighbor next door!

Chris Buchmoyer, Warwick Community Ambulance Association

This week’s “Meet Your First Responder” profile is about Chris Buchmoyer, a paramedic and the operations chief at War­wick Community Ambulance Association. He has been em­ployed at WCAA for the past 13 years.

Chris, 43, is a resident of Manheim Borough and has four children: Austin, a junior at Lancaster Bible College; Kasey, a high school senior who is planning to join the Navy after graduation; Ian, a high school sophomore and a junior firefighter; and Caleb, an eighth grader who loves soccer.

Chris is a graduate of Done­gal High School and the St. Joseph Hospital Paramedic In­stitute. He spends a lot of time on his bicycle and does several organized rides throughout the year. In August of 2015, he was elected to the Board of Direc­tors of the National EMS Me­morial Bike ride and this past August, he was elected sec­retary. The NEMSMBR has five routes scattered across the country where cyclists (usually fellow EMS providers) ride up to 100 miles a day to honor EMS providers who have become sick or injured and died in the line of duty.

Why did you get involved in the emergency medical service?

I was 16 when I became an EMT because I enjoyed doing what few others my age were doing. After a few calls, I realized that helping people was in my blood.

What is the most notable call that you responded to?

I was a member of the PA EMS Strike Team that responded to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

What do you find most challenging about emergency medical services?

EMS is constantly changing with current medical practices, which requires continuous learning and re-learning of new and old procedures alike, because some old procedures find new use with the changing medical climate.

What do you like most about EMS?

Continuously learning new things and meeting new people. This area has a wealth of different personalities and people who have been instrumental in changing the way the world views itself. Being so close to what used to be RCA, I’ve met a lot of people who were involved in developing color television.

Who has had the biggest influence on your EMS career?

A gentleman from Missouri named Bob Page. I spend a lot of time listening to him whenever possible.

What is your biggest concern about the future of emergency medical services?

I’m concerned that certain procedures that are vital for survival could be removed from our scope of practice because of infrequent use.

What do you wish other people knew about EMS?

Many people in the community still call EMS providers “Ambulance Drivers.” While driving the ambulance is part of what we do, it’s only the beginning. We spend thousands of hours learning our trade between initial schooling and continuing education. Every time the ambulance leaves the station, there is enormous amounts of training and experience coming to help someone in the community.

Devin Learn, Lititz Fire CompanyDevin Learn, Lititz Fire Company

This week’s Meet the First Responder profile is about Devin Learn. Learn, 33, has been a volunteer firefighter with Lititz Fire Company for the past six years. He is a resident of Lititz Borough and has a daughter, Olivia, who just recently started Kindergarten. The two of them enjoy going to the park, swimming, fishing, playing miniature golf and anything else that they can do together.

A graduate of Tunkhannock Area High School and Penn State University, Devin is employed as the healthcare market executive for Benchmark Construction Company, Inc. In addition to spending time with his daughter and volunteering as a firefighter, Devin also likes to go skiing, golfing, hiking, hunting and fishing.

Role in the Lititz Fire Company:

I was just appointed as a lieutenant on the operational side and I’m also the chairman of the building and grounds committee.

Why did you join the fire company?

I joined the Lititz Fire Company after moving to the area following college because it was a passion that I wanted to continue and to give back to my community. I followed in my father’s and older brother’s footsteps by joining the volunteer fire company in the town I grew up in when I was 16 and have enjoyed it ever since. I knew wherever I settled down after college that I wanted to continue to serve.

First memory of responding to a fire call:

Riding with my dad in his truck to a brush fire when I was a kid. It was exciting and surprising to see all the people that came out to help.

Most notable incident:

Too many to pick one. We see people at some of the worst times in their lives and it is important to remember that we should do everything that we can to help them through those times.

Biggest challenge about firefighting:

The random hours and times that calls come in. There is no pause button to finish dinner or whatever you might be doing at the time and there is no snooze button so that you can roll over and go back to sleep. When the call comes in, we have made a commitment to respond whenever we are able.

What do you like most about firefighting?

The camaraderie with the fellow firefighters and being able to help those in the community.

What others should know about firefighting:

Firefighting is a lot of work, and it can be dangerous, but it is also a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Why do you continue to serve?

For the same reason that I started in the volunteer fire service &tstr; it is my way of giving back to the community and helping others.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

My father, Eugene Learn.

What is your biggest concern about the volunteer fire service?

That we will no longer be able to bring in new recruits and that we won’t be able to support the costs of the equipment and apparatus.

What advice do you have for someone considering serving as a volunteer firefighter?

Come out and spend some time at your local volunteer fire company. Get to know the people and see what interests you and how you may be able to contribute, even if that is not being an active firefighter. There are a lot of different ways to help out and be a part of the fire company.

Favorite quote:

God created firefighters so that cops would have heroes too!

Final points:

I think there can be a lot of misconceptions about volunteer fire companies and how they are staffed and how they are funded. Everyone should be educated about their local fire companies and the troubles they face, including the recruitment and retention of volunteers, and delivering this crucial service at a low cost, with no paid staff. The bulk of our funding comes from fund drives, other fundraising activities, and donations from the local municipalities, but not from a dedicated fire tax.

So please keep this in mind the next time you get a fund drive letter in the mail. Please donate to your local fire company!

Dennis High, Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company

This week’s “Meet Your First Responders” profile is about Dennis High, a volunteer firefighter with the Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company. Dennis, 55, is a resident of Rabbit Hill Road in Warwick Township and has been a volunteer at Rothsville for 39 years.

Dennis is married to Donna, and together they have four children: Dwight, Dawson, Dayna, and Deanne. He works full-time as an auto-technician and enjoys hunting and spending time with his family. A lifetime member of the fire company, Dennis has the role of a driver/pump operator of the fire engines.

Why did you join the fire company?

My family was involved at Rothsville Fire Company. My father (Lloyd) was a former assistant fire chief, brothers (Kevin, Fred, David and Lamar) were firemen, and my mother (Mary) was involved in the ladies auxiliary.

First memory of responding to a fire call:

Responding to vehicle accidents where alcohol was involved. This has kept me from ever having a desire to consume alcohol.

Most notable incident:

Responding to a house fire involving a fatality.

Biggest challenge about firefighting:

The constant changes of training requirements.

What do you like most about firefighting?

Helping those in their time of need.

What others should know about firefighting:

Being a volunteer firefighter is a serious responsibility, but it is needed very much and is very rewarding.

Why do you continue to serve?

The community needs it.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

My father, Lloyd High.

What is your biggest concern about the volunteer fire service?

The training requirements that the state imposes on the volunteers.

What advice do you have for someone considering serving as a volunteer firefighter?

It takes a lot of commitment, but it is very rewarding

Meet Your First Responders is a bi-weekly profile of one of the many volunteer or career emergency services providers in the Lititz, Warwick and Brickerville areas. Not only are these the firefighters, fire police officers, ambulance personnel, etc. who are coming to your aid; they are your neighbors, friends, relatives, local business owners, youth sports coaches and others in our community. Take a moment to learn about the first responders, their family, how they got involved in emergency services, why they continue to do it and more. If you desire to follow in the footsteps of any of these first responders, or just want to learn more about serving, call 717-626-8900 and ask to speak with Duane Ober. 

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