It may not have been the surprise that was hoped for, but Ivan Bretzman was still appreciative for the recognition he received Tuesday morning.
Bretzman, Dickinson Township fire chief, was honored for his 40 years of service as a Pennsylvania forest fire warden with a congratulatory sign that bears the news.
The sign, attached to a fire danger rating sign, is along Route 34 just south of Mt. Holly Springs. As part of his duties, Bretzman maintains the danger rating sign and changes it nearly every day.
"It's nice to be recognized," he said, but added that the work is all part of the job.
The plan was for Bretzman to be surprised with the sign addition Tuesday morning, said Rodney Lyon, the forest assistant manger with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
However, after Lyon put the sign up Monday, Bretzman drove past and noticed the added signage.
"It was to be a surprise for him, but it was a surprise for me," Lyon said.
The sign, Lyon said, is a key part in helping to prevent wildfires.
In a key location along a heavily traveled road, passersby can take note of the danger rating, he said.
The rating is set based on elements such as the temperature, relative humidity, past rain totals, wind and moisture in the area, Lyon said.
The rating not only advises those who see it on the probability of a fire, but also serves as an aid to firefighters should a wildfire occur. Crews can anticipate the expected fire behavior and how difficult it could be to control by the rating, Lyon added.
Most of the wildfires reported, he said, are the result of people burning debris.
Bretzman got his start in firefighting at the age of 8, when he was among a group of children who grabbed shovels and rushed to the scene of a wildfire and helped extinguish the blaze, he said.
That was in 1947.
Now 71, Bretzman has given 50 years of his life to the fire service. Before becoming township fire chief, he served as Mt. Holly Springs chief, he said.
Though a lot of time has passed since his first brush with fire, Bretzman is still eager to do his part.
Not even a 2008 fall from a ladder that caused his lung to collapse and broke three ribs, a few vertebrae and both halves of the pelvis bones could keep Bretzman away from the job for long.
"I update (the sign nearly) every morning," he said.
Shortly after that 1947 wildfire, Bretzman's father, Charles Bretzman, became a fire warden.
Ivan Bretzman's son, Greg Bretzman, is also active in firefighting. He's the assistant fire chief for Dickinson.
"(Firefighting is) kind of a family tradition," Ivan Bretzman said.