Harold Dinsmore of Farragut was honored for 60 years of service as a firefighter with Farragut Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department first in a February rib feed, then in an open house event held by the department on March 10.
According to Dinsmore, he moved to Farragut in 1958, shortly after getting out of the service, and joined a veterans club there. One of the veterans he was friends with kept pushing him to join the fire department, and by 1959, he was persuaded, and joined the Farragut Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. It was a decision he’s never regretted, and 60 years later, he’s still going strong.
“I’m not as active on rescue as I used to be,” Dinsmore admitted, “and on most calls now I either drive a tanker truck or man a fill station filling the tanks.”
Dinsmore talked about some of the major changes he had seen over the years.
“When I first started, we had a calling tree,” he explained, “five people would get the original call, and they, or usually their wives, would call the others. There were no pagers back then.”
Dinsmore said there had been big equipment changes in personal protective gear, and changes in technique.
“I don’t recall any state requirements or training when I started,” he added. “Now you have to be a Firefighter 1 to be a member of the department, and you have to take a defensive driving training course before you can drive the equipment.”
Dinsmore said the Highway Patrol used to provide the defensive driving course, but there is a big difference between driving a car and driving a fully loaded emergency vehicle. Dinsmore took over teaching the defensive driving course many, many years ago, and is certified for Coaching Emergency Vehicle Operators (CEVO), I, II and III. He now teaches not just Farragut’s drivers, but also most of the other local departments, including PageCounty, excluding Shenandoah.
One of the things he said he accented in driver training is that the lights and sirens don’t give the drivers any privileges.
“If other drivers give you the right of way, good,” Dinsmore stressed, “and they should, but if not, you don’t automatically have the right of way.”
While most people recognize the urgency of an emergency vehicle flying down the road with lights and sirens, Dinsmore said he had noticed incidences of other drivers not yielding were getting worse. Distracted driving could well play a part in that issue.
Dinsmore talked, too, about the dwindling number of people joining volunteer fire departments nowadays.
“We try to keep about 25 people on our department,” Dinsmore said, “but we don’t have that many right now. It is hard work, for no pay, and a lot of people have to work out of town, many 45 to 60 miles away.”
Dinsmore said it can be hard to get enough people to go on a call for these smaller departments, but luckily, the area has “super duper” mutual aid here, including departments in FremontCounty and Essex and Shenandoah.
“Mutual aid is incredibly important;” Dinsmore said, “every time we get a structure fire two or three departments are called out, and it is not uncommon to see as many as six departments show up for a big fire.”
Dinsmore said he originally thought he would leave the department when he hit 60 years of service, but they’re shorthanded, and there are still things he can do.
“I wish we had more and younger people willing to commit,” Dinsmore said, “but we don’t.”
“I spent a lifetime helping others,” Dinsmore said of his experience on the department, and reasons people join, “to me it is rewarding to help people who need help. I think everyone on the department feels the same.”
“I think it is terrific Harold’s still on the department,” Fire Department Chief Kevin Walther said. “I don’t think I’ll make it that long. Of course, by the time I’ve been here 60 years, there may not be volunteer fire departments anymore. They may all have to be paid positions by then, just in order to staff a department.”
Walther urged anyone interested in joining the Farragut Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department to contact himself, FarragutCity Hall, or any of the firefighters, to get an application.