The very first call Lowell Hart man answered as a rookie with the Allen Township Volunteer Fire Department was one dispatched to his grandfather s home.
Though his grandfather had been ill for some time, responding to a rescue call for a close family member just before his death, especially on an inaugural run, is enough to make anyone want to quit.
But that was 50 years ago, and the Ottawa County firefighter has no plans to stop anytime soon, even though the toughest part of his job happens nearly every day when he goes on rescue calls. We get an awful lot [of calls] for people that we know, he said. That s hard.
For his half-century of active service in what s now known as the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District, Mr. Hartman, 71, was recently awarded a 50-year pin, an engraved watch, and a white, 50-year fire chief s helmet.
And now that he s retired from the construction business, he said he has more time to respond to calls that blare from the scanner inside his home. But because he s the department veteran, the firefighters take it easy on him.
I don t go in buildings anymore, Mr. Hartman said, adding that he s usually the one operating the pumper, driving to the scene, or giving advice.
In fact, he s the one firefighters look to when they need an expert opinion, District Chief Bruce Moritz said.
We use him a whole bunch for a consultant because he s got all the years of experience, added his son, Dennis Hartman, the fire department s deputy chief and paramedic. He s kind of a mentor for the younger guys.
Lowell Hartman was born and raised in Allen Township in the house next door to the one he and his wife, Diane, live in now. His son lives in the home he grew up in.
After graduating from Genoa High School in 1953, he began his career in the construction business. When he turned 21 years old four years later, he joined the volunteer fire department because they needed help and he said he wanted to protect the community. For his services that first year, he was paid $1.
Nevertheless, he worked his way up the ranks until he became chief in 1971. A decade later, he retired as chief, but said then he still planned to continue to work with the department.
It s a statement that still holds true today, through drastic modifications have taken place with training, procedures, and equipment since Mr. Hartman first pulled on a pair of rubber firefighting boots in the 1950s.
His training used to consist of Monday night drills, where he learned how to operate the fire trucks and place ladders. Afterward came regular euchre games in the fire house. More stringent training didn t begin to pick up steam until the 1960s.
Long ago, rescue calls usually meant administering oxygen to victims, and hoping that they d make it, he said. Now, ambulances are much more sophisticated. When they pull up to the scene, they re like an emergency room right there, he said. It s been a big life-saver.
While in his 20s, Mr. Hartman said one of the biggest concerns was if the fire trucks could hold enough water to extinguish fires. Trucks today are built to hold 1,500 gallons of water, and mutual aid is readily available with additional tankers.
Through it all, there was never a time he wanted to quit. If anything, he became more involved with firefighting over the years.
He is a past president of the Northwest Ohio Volunteer Fireman s Association, which presented him with a meritorious service award in 2004. After he served as president, he was treasurer of its charity fund.
But if and when Mr. Hartman ever does decide to hang his helmet up for good, Mrs. Hartman said it ll be strange not to see her husband lay out his clothes before he goes to bed in case of a midnight call.
I can t say I don t ever mind it, though he goes at night and on holidays, she said. You never know. When he does decide to retire, we ll probably have to tie him down at night.
So just how long can he stay active in the department?
As long as my health s good, Mr. Hartman said.
Contact Erika Ray at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6088.