LEETONIA, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s not very often that someone does a job for 50 years, let alone three people doing that same job for 50 years. But Thursday night, three special Columbiana County community members were honored.
You see them in your town — men and women who drive around in the giant red truck to help put out fires.
It’s a selfless job that Lawrence Hephner, Sr., Roland Hall, Sr. and Gary Steele have been doing for half a century in the small village of Leetonia.
“It’s something to do for the community,” Hephner said.
Both Hall and Steele started in 1970 with Hephner right before them in 1969. In the last 50 years, they’ve seen a lot of changes.
“When we first started out, all we had was a black rubber coat for a fire coat, but it changes every year,” Hall said.
“Well, you have to make sure you have all your equipment on when you go in places. When I first got on, you didn’t worry about that. You went in, put the fire out and come back out. Now, you got to put all those air packs on,” Steele said.
Besides being firefighters for 50 years, all three men have another thing in common. At one time or another, they’ve had family members who also served.
“My son’s the chief and my youngest son is the assistant chief and the middle son is the captain,” Hephner said.
“My dad was on before I got on and then he retired. I just felt it was my job to carry on his legacy of being on here,” Steele said.
In 50 years, these men have fought many fires, but one they will always remember happened just three years ago. The McKeefrey Farms mansion fire from October 2017, which took 36 hours to put out.
“It was just a bad fire, you couldn’t leave. So we spent that may hours out there,” Hall said.
“Oh, it was a bad one. We lost it. We had 20 some fire departments helping but there was nothing we could do,” Steele said.
All three men said they plan to continue doing the job for as long as they can.