For Throop native Andy Hegedus, serving the community is a way of life. He joined the fire service in 1979 and worked his way up, holding various positions until he was named the borough’s fire chief eight years ago. He’s also a member of the Volunteer Hose Company of Throop, where he’s served as recording secretary for 15 years.
Below, the husband, father and grandfather talks about his continued service and what the future holds for volunteer fire companies in Throop.
A: Growing up three doors away from the fire station in Throop, I was always amazed at watching some of my neighbors run to the station when the siren went off and the men would ride the tailboard of the apparatus to the alarm. The men were always friendly with me around the station and I believe the first time I was taken for a ride on the fire engine I knew I wanted to volunteer one day.
My first memory of a fire was coming home from Friday night bingo in Olyphant when my grandmother noticed fire coming from the church tower in Logan Memorial Church across the street from my home in 1972. The church was a total loss on a very cold February night and my parents served coffee in our kitchen to the firefighters.
My worst memory of a fire that I was an active firefighter is one that affected my own family. December 3, 1980, Blatt’s Furniture warehouse burned and caught our family’s home and businesses on fire. It was the first time I saw my father cry and thankfully with the assistance of some great men who became lifelong friends of mine, saved our building from burning to the ground.
Q: How has firefighting changed since you first started volunteering?
A: Vinyl turnout coats, rubber firefighting gloves and 3/4 hip boots have made way to some of the greatest fireproof materials worn today by all who continue to fight fires. Training has been first and foremost my entire time in the fire service. I met several local level Pennsylvania State Fire Academy Instructors early on and they taught a few of us the importance of training and that fire was indiscriminate as to whether you were a volunteer or career firefighter. I’m proud of the fact that three other members of our company and I were the first volunteers from Throop to attend the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy in Lewistown back in 1981.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges volunteer fire companies face these days — in Throop and across the region?
A: Recruiting and retention are some of the biggest challenges we face today. There are just so many different activities for kids to do these days that if we’re unable to get them interested at an early age, particularly around 14 years old, they find something more enjoyable to do. Some kids are driven by sports or games while others are motivated by volunteerism. The training aspect is a critical component of keeping junior members engaged in the department. We allow junior members to train side by side with active firefighters as regulated by Child Labor Laws and teach them their value to the department very early on. That inclusion goes a long way in keeping them active and interested.
Throop Hose Company No. 2 officially shutting their doors (recently) was not an overnight decision or by any means a decision their membership took lightly. As members passed away in the past few years, members moving out of town and life in general, the last five years took its toll on those members trying to keep the organization active and effective which lead the last nine of eleven members to hold their final meeting to formally end 108 years of service to the Borough of Throop. The volunteer efforts will never be forgotten.
Q: Why should someone volunteer for a fire company?
A: Volunteer firefighting saves the state of Pennsylvania nearly $10 billion dollars a year in what would otherwise be funded by very large tax increases. Unfortunately, membership numbers continue to dwindle across the state and across the United States. Training requirements differ from department to department, but there is something for everyone at every level to do in the volunteer fire service, whether it be on the operations or administrative sides. Every volunteer fire department would welcome inquiries for membership and are eagerly waiting to hear from them.
Q: Where do you see Throop volunteer fire companies in the next five years?
A: The emergency services of the Borough of Throop continues to show signs of strength and longevity. Our mutual aid partners in Blakely and Dickson City continue to work with our borough and likewise, we with them. What the future holds for any departments, no one really knows, but I’m fairly confident in saying that more and more boroughs will be dependent on each other. Fortunately for our neighboring departments across the entire area we call the Mid Valley, those relationships are already established and are working very successfully. Every resident in our area should rest comfortably knowing that their community’s volunteer fire department has them very well protected and should be proud of their efforts. I humbly ask each resident of every borough that when their annual membership drive envelope shows up in their mailbox, that they give generously and support each departments fundraising efforts. It makes for one less challenge each department must face. Stay safe!