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Firehose water runs in the blood of this first-responder family

By JOE CENTERS • Apr 28, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Pam Hansberger has a soft spot in her heart for first responders.

Her father, Edward Bauerlein, is in his 60th year of active service to the Reserve Hose Fire Company in Erie County, N.Y.

There are 79 fire departments and more than 5,000 first responders in Erie County — around the Buffalo area.

Hansberger’s two sons, Erik Hansberger and Charlie Warthling, also are firefighters,

The three of them were together recently when Grandpa was recognized for his “lifetime achievement as a member of a volunteer fire company — 50 Years.”

Next week is First Responders Appreciation Week. The Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS), together with community members, businesses and organizations of Huron County, will take time to express their thanks and gratitude for local first responders.

MHAS Executive Director Kristen Cardone said there’s plenty to be thankful for when it comes to the first line of defense and assistance in the community, making the appreciation week a necessary act of recognition.

“To recognize our first responders only for their sacrifices, however, would be to ignore the everyday contributions they make to our amazing community,” she said.

Hansberger shared some memories of being in a family of first responders.

“I was always a firehouse kid, as far back as I can remember,” she said. “At Christmas we would all rush into the truck room and watch Santa come in on the truck. Then we went back inside to ... presents. My brothers’ kids still do the same thing every December.

“I had tons of fun watching my dad pitch for the firehouse softball team. Since my mom had little ones at home she didn’t come, so after the game back at the firehouse I got to put potato chips on my bologna sandwich and drink more than one pop.

‘”I remember going to a few accidents with the whole family in our wood-paneled Buick station wagon. Some were not pretty,” Hansberger said.

“In high school one of my friends suggested we hitchhike to the mall. I told her my dad was the fire chief and he would know it before we got to the mall.”

Her sons are continuing the tradition. Erik works for the Perkins Township Fire Department and also is a firefighter in Huron. Warthling is a firefighter with the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department and also was part of the group of firefighters that went to New York City to get a beam from the Twin Towers Sept. 11, 2001 attack. That beam now is part of the firefighters memorial at Shady Lane.

The two are members of the FOOLS (Northern Ohio Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society) that provides honor guards for parades and funerals. Warthling also helps coordinate the Heavy Rescue Training 101 each year at the Huron County Fairgrounds. This year’s training started Friday and continues today.

In its presentation to Bauerlein, the 86-year-old was honored for his service to the community.

“Edward continues to be active and respond to alarms to serve the residents of West Seneca Fire District No. 3,” his award bio read. 

“Edward is an inspiration to the next generation of Reserve Hose firefighters. During the 2018 calendar year, Edward responded to 595 alarms, for a total of 1,202 points, making him the top responder at Reserve Hose.”

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