I’m not the first firefighter in my family. Factually, I’m at least the fourth generation to be apart of the greatest profession (I can’t answer about before that with any certainty either way), and the tradition as we know it started around the turn of the century (the one before this one) in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Since then, it’s been my Grandfather’s brother, my Dad, and I that have been firefighters all along the Eastern seaboard and now into Colorado. As firefighting is so tradition rich, it’s awesome to be able to trace some personal history and tradition in firefighting almost 110 years.
My current fire department is in the steps of specifying/buying/ordering three new fire trucks, and I have had great pleasure to sit on that committee for the past several years through this process. Earlier this summer, the department awarded the contract for those three trucks to a manufacturer – KME – based in north-central Pennsylvania, about 25 minutes from Hazleton. As a member of the committee, I was part of the team that went to visit the factory for three days of pre-construction meetings in June, and we actually stayed in a hotel in Hazleton. The city itself has a long history in my family, as it’s where my Grandparents come from…so it was really cool to be able to spend even a little time there. On a free evening (really our only one), the whole group took a short drive into the city and we found the station where Karl Briese served from 1903-1936. The city fire department is still primarily volunteer, with one paid Engineer/Firefighter staffing the station 24 hours per day. As such, we weren’t able to go inside as the engine had a detail to attend honoring a retired member that had recently passed away.
Regardless of our inability to walk inside the station, it was supremely cool to be able to visit the place that it all began. How somehow I sit 110 years later, also in a fire truck, serving the citizens of the community, and walking in the shoes of a great family tradition.
The photo of Karl below is the only one that we have were he is photographed as a firefighter. It is part of a larger group picture of all of the members of Diamond Hose Number 2.