After starting as a volunteer firefighter and moving up through the ranks to assistant chief then deputy chief, Union Fire Company Chief David Weaver is stepping down.
"The timing's just right. We're very fortunate at Union right now that fresh people have come in," Weaver said. "The right people are in the right place to keep going without missing a beat."
Weaver said there are no conflicts with the fire company and he fully expects a smooth transition. Part of that may be attributed to the fact that his deputy fire chief, Brian Hamilton, is also a good friend and next door neighbor. Years ago, Weaver said, the friends took a vow not to let issues involving the fire company come between their friendship.
In his 16 years as chief, Weaver admitted that the extra duties — paperwork, training and fundraising — have been taxing.
“I want to make up some time with my wife and family. Being a volunteer firefighter, your family is born into it,” Weaver said.
He added that his wife, Wendy, and his children, Brady, Logan and Haylee, have been supportive of him over the years, but none are likely to follow in his footsteps.
“They have no interest in the fire company,” Weaver said.
Though he plans to “hang out, kick back and help the other guys out with stuff,” friends might be just as likely to find him on his boat at Raystown Lake this summer.
Weaver first started serving as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Windber, near Johnstown in western Pennsylvania. Work brought him to Carlisle and Union Fire Company.
Over the years, he said the biggest challenges came from trying to maintain staffing and ensure that there were enough people participating in training.
“With volunteer organizations, people are just busy with two family incomes; the moms and dads just don’t have time,” Weaver said.
Finances have also posed a challenge. The fire station itself has no room for banquets or bingo like other fire companies.
“We don’t have a lot of area to grow as far as having a big banquet hall and things like that,” Weaver said.
The company did, however, create a partnership with Perdix Fire Company to hold two fundraisers at the Marysville Lions Club Park each year.
As chief, he also had to work with municipalities on funding issues, which held its own set of challenges.
“Firefighters are not politicians,” Weaver said. “Sometimes we might not say the right things or dress up in the right ways.”
About 5 years ago, Union Fire Company approached South Middleton Township with a request to implement a fire tax to help fund the fire company. Weaver said they must have had the right numbers and the right words that night because the township agreed to the plan.
“They were one of the first,” he said. “All the ones served (by Union) have either done it or plan to do it.”
Weaver expects that changes will continue to come to Carlisle’s fire services. He noted that there used to be five volunteer fire companies in town and now there are only two. Though he doesn’t put a timeline on the possibility, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s only one in the future.
“It’s just sort of a trend you see in other municipalities,” he said.
Though Weaver has responded to a number of fires and accident scenes right here at home, the one event that comes easily to mind as he thinks through his years of service happened hours away in a much larger city.
“One of the biggest impacts for me, personally, was 9/11. It was just so big. It was one of those moments when you had to just sit back and take it all in,” he said.
When large-scale events like that happen, people recognize the work of the firefighters and give them a pat on the back, Weaver said. Soon, though, their work recedes into the background once more.
“We’re there every day, 24/7,” Weaver said. “It’s nice if that (appreciation) would be spread out throughout the year.”