Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hamilton fire department sees changes across time

Hamilton fire fighters work on a practice burn to be ready when the time comes for the real thing. (photo credit - Sara Groenheide)

Special to The ThunderHawk
This look back at the growth of the Hamilton Fire Department was done by Hamilton junior Becky Groenheide who has a strong connection to our local firefighters.  Enjoy.

‘Attention Hamilton Fire Department, attention Hamilton Fire Department….’

When the tones drop, Hamilton Fire Department races into action. The department began in 1953, after Hamilton Farm Bureau approached Heath Township and told them that the Farm Bureau would no longer cover the greater Hamilton area. There were nine members on the department when it began. They included nine area men, one of them being my great grand father, Addison Lohman. The department currently has twenty-one members, one of them being my dad, Mark Groenheide.

According to the book that all firemen were given for the 50th anniversary of the department, the first pumper was built from Gord Boerigter’s gas truck. It was a 1946 chevy that was sold to the township through the Farm Bureau. Ladders back then were wooden instead of aluminium, and hoses were made of cloth. Because of this, the hoses had to be laid out to dry or they would rot.

Back then, turn-out gear was very different. SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) did not exist. Instead, the men used wet towels that they would put over their mouths in order to breathe. Also there were rubber coats, leather helmets instead of plastic, and long over the knee boots.

Nowadays, just to become a firefighter, five to six months of fire academy is necessary. Hamilton Fire is also medically trained so that they can respond to medical emergencies. This takes another six months for basic EMT.

As a firefighter, one of the first jobs a rookie is in charge of is a water boy, or getting water for the firefighters.

Hamilton Fire Department has a very diverse group of men who started at a variety of ages. Lieutenant Otis started in 2001 at the age of 34. He started because he always wanted to help people. Assistant Chief Brian Kempkers started when he was 24. His dad was on the fire department, and he went to fire calls with his dad.  Captain Mark Groenheide  started when he was 22. He had always been interested in fires and medical issues so he began at Hamilton.

There are a lot of memories on the fire department.

“Even though we work a lot of bad situations, we find strength in each other,” Captain Groenheide said.

Lieutenant Otis says his favorite part of the department is “figuring out how to get people out of precarious situations and working as a team.”

According to the department’s 2013 annual reports, Hamilton Fire Department runs roughly 280 calls a year. However, last year was higher than normal with a total of 306 calls, and this year is on track to be even higher than last year.

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