Paying it forward: Firefighting’s in his blood

Ted Patterson is nearing four decades of service with the Reno Volunteer Fire Department, holding the title of the most tenured volunteer at the department. Patterson was born and raised in Marietta, and after a short stint away as a child, has called the area home ever since. With a small, close-knit community, the day-to-day work as a volunteer firefighter can often hit home, whether it’s leaving a hot meal on the table to run out on a call or responding to accidents involving people he knows. Still, he describes his long-standing service to his community as a rewarding feeling.

Question: When did you become a volunteer firefighter?

Answer: I’ve always been at Reno, and it’s been about 38 and a half years.

Q: What made you decide to become a volunteer firefighter?

A: I have some friends and relatives that were in the fire department, and some of my relatives actually helped start the fire department. They were original members or close to. Both cousins were in it, and my son is in there now.

Q: So your family helped with that decision?

A: It wasn’t the sole reason, but it made it easier because I knew people there. But it’s just a good thing to do, to volunteer in your community. You meet people at the worst time of their life a lot of times and you’re able to do something either to lighten that burden or to help someone, and it’s just a real good feeling. The only problem that comes with that is…you end up having to treat your relatives or friends you’ve known for a long time because of an accident or a fire or something like that. It doesn’t always work out too well.

Q: How does the day-to-day operation of being a volunteer firefighter work?

A: We have training twice a month and we have a business meeting a week, and that doesn’t count all the calls in between. We also run the emergency squad out of the department as well. I’m not an EMT, but we assist them and do a lot of things to help them, so if it’s a car wreck or some accident we’re usually involved with it as well. We’re all first responders, too.

Q: And you’re a captain too?

A: Yes I’m one of them. I think there are three other ones. Over the years I’ve been the president of our department on the business end of it, and I’ve been the secretary. I’ve been an assistant chief over the years, and now I’ve stepped down a bit to a captain. Let some of the others guys (do it).

Q: Are there times where you’ve had a fire, or something else you had to respond to that was a really changing moment for you?

A: We get them all. We go on river rescues. We have a creek up here, the Little Muskingum, and we have drownings in that all the time. We do dragging operations to try and recover bodies and things. There again, you know there’s a good chance you know them or you know someone that knows them, or some connection. But I’ve always said, ‘If I don’t do it, who’s going to?’ It’s a service that’s not cut out for everyone. I started at a fairly young age. I’ve got it in my blood, and as long as the good Lord provides me with good health then I plan to stay with it for awhile.

Jackie Runion conducted this interview.