Living in the OC: 50 years of fighting fires.

December 29, 2016

rumsey, billLiving in the OC: 50 years of fighting fires.

#OceanaCountyNews #HesperiaAreaFireDepartment

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

‘Living in the OC’ is sponsored by Springstead Law Offices, with locations in Hart and Fremont, 231-873-4022 (Hart),

HESPERIA — Bill Rumsey has hit a milestone few firefighters will ever attain. The 75-year-old has been a firefighter for Hesperia for 50 years and is still going strong.

A life-long Hesperia resident, Bill lives in a house one block away from where he was born in 1941.

Hesperia FDAt the young age of 25, Bill joined the department in February of 1966. He served as chief from 1985-1995. Both his dad, Bill, and two brothers, Robert and Donald, also served on the department.

Bill said his favorite part about being a firefighter is “helping people out” and “doing what is best for the community.”

The worst fires he has ever battled were those that involved fatalities, he said. One such fire resulted from a single-car crash on Green Avenue approximately 10 years ago. A man died in that horrible fire. Bill also responded to a tragic call several years ago when a woman and her baby died in a house fire.

Bill worked 39 years in manufacturing, serving as an inspection supervisor and engineer, for the former Sealed Power Company in hesperia FD - 2Muskegon. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1959-1963 as an aviation electrician, most recently aboard the USS Enterprise. He and his late wife, Karen, raised three children in Hesperia.

Bill has seen many changes in firefighting over the last half a century. One major change is the amount of training required to be a firefighter. The required training hours have doubled since he began, with 66 hours when he started to now 120 or more hours. Equipment and fire trucks have greatly improved, he said.

“When I first started, all they gave us was a rubber coat and a pair of rubber boots,” he recalled.

Interestingly, the number of firefighters on the department has actually reduced since the time Bill began his career. Back in 1966, there were 15 or 16 firefighters on the department. Currently, there are 13 members. He believes it’s the amount of required training that is keeping the numbers lower. “Training takes up a lot of time.” The department is always looking for more dedicated members to join.

The November 2014 fire at David Allen Racing near Hesperia. - OCP File photo

The November 2014 fire at David Allen Racing near Hesperia.
– OCP File photo

Bill has been on the department longer than most of his fellow firefighters have been alive. The next oldest firefighter after Bill is 50 years old.

Bill said that these days he “stands back” when at a fire, helping from the outside, and he doesn’t go running into a burning building.

In the winter months, Bill lives in Florida, like many Michiganders his age. “I get nervous when I go to Florida,” he said, worrying about his SpringsteadVertical_091015fellow firefighters on calls when he’s not there.

The firefigthers have some plans up their sleeves to celebrate Bill’s major milestone, one of which is an upcoming dinner.

“He’s been a great asset to the department,” said Hesperia Fire Chief Bob Eichenberg. “The fire department as a whole is one big family, and we need the older guys to look up to.”

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