BETHLEHEM - The Bethlehem Volunteer Fire Department averages more than one call a day from people in need of help.
The department has been at it since 1930 and is older than the village itself, which was incorporated in 1946, Chief Paul Walters said. The department was formed after a fire occurred and residents had to call for Wheeling's firefighters to extinguish it.
An ambulance service began in 1955.
The village of Bethlehem’s volunteer fire department was founded before the village itself.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
"We're busy. We had 415 total calls last year. And as of the last 72 days, we've had 78 calls this year so far," Walters said. "We have 20 active members that do a lot of continuing education training."
Between their daily home lives and working, the volunteers also take time out each year to educate children at Bethlehem Elementary School during Fire Prevention Week. Members teach the children about fire safety often using Wheeling's fire safety house. They also have teamed up with State Farm to teach children how to dial 911 using a simulator.
"We also show the children what we look like (in fire gear) and what we do so they aren't scared," Walters said.
Walters has been chief for 23 years and has served with the department since 1976. Some members have volunteered for 50 and 60 years, he added.
And many family members work together. Walters noted his wife, Becky, also is a member of the department. "We're volunteers to help our neighbors in their time of need," Walters said. "We take pride in our equipment and keep it modern and updated."