PERRYSBURG - For Don Beaudry, firefighting is truly a family affair.
|Don Beaudry poses beside one of the Perrysburg fire trucks. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Recently retired as a volunteer captain from the Perrysburg Fire Division after 35 years, Beaudry, his father, and one daughter, have all felt the call to serve by fighting the flames.
Beaudry's father was stationed at a Naval air base in Texas during the Korean war, and served as a firefighter.
"And I heard him ask about some stuff that he did," Beaudry said. Those stories lit a spark that kept burning.
Originally from south Toledo, the 1973 Bowsher High School graduate began working as a volunteer firefighter with Perrysburg during the Blizzard of '78. He expanded his knowledge in the field, attending fire school at Bowling Green State University and the Northwest Ohio Volunteer Weekend School. He even trained in hazardous materials handling. He also served as an EMT for approximately four years.
Balancing the demands of work, family, and volunteering as a fireman on top of it all could be exhausting.
"It wasn't too bad," he said. "There was days, like I said, I was dead tired going into work, but be as careful as I could."
Beaudry has worked for the manufacturing industry in the area for decades, and currently delivers steel for an iron manufacturer in the area.
"When I was available I would respond up to the station, which times there was quite a few nights with very little sleep." Fire calls would sometimes come as Beaudry was heading home from work, and he would simply "get my gear, get in the truck, and go."
Over his 35 years, Beaudry's most vivid experience as a firefighter was the burning of an A&P grocery store in Perrysburg in the early 1980s which proved extremely dangerous.
"It caught on fire," he recalled. "This other firefighter and I were in the back room and the ceiling came down on us. Twice. The first time I just turned and forgot to let go of the hose and dragged him out." But they went back in again to fight the flames.
The second time the ceiling fell on them, he said, Beaudry dropped the hose, turned to the fireman behind him, and simply carried him out in their quest for safety.
Beaudry's friendships have kept him in the game.
"Just the camaraderie with the guys in the the station, and the females in the station," he said. "Helping out the community. Helping them try to stay as safe as possible."
Among his additional involvements, Beaudry helped construct and secure financial backing for the department's fire prevention trailer.
Beaudry admitted that, for his family, his role as a firefighter "put some strain on them from time to time."
"The kids got up to see dad go out the door," he said, noting that one of his daughters would listen on the scanner to hear his voice.
One daughter, Megan, is a medic and volunteer firefighter with Perrysburg, and is undertaking further fire training.
"She's been doing that for five or six years."
"I was really pleased," he said of his reaction to her joining. "I also got involved with Rossford Fire. They have an Explorer Post over there for kids 14 to 21, and I became an advisor over there. Two of my daughters, Megan and the youngest, Katie, they were on the post for a while, and I really think that got Megan thinking in that direction."
Megan also attended the fire academy with him.
"She really liked it down there, and it really fueled the fire of her becoming a firefighter."
Gear, training and procedures have all vastly improved since he began with Perrysburg that snowy winter 35 years ago.
"The fire gear has really come a long way," he recalled. "When I first got on, all we had were hip boots and they were rubbery, rubber-style boots, and rubber coats and what they call 'red ball' gloves. And once they got wet, especially in the winter, you move your fingers just a little bit, instant freeze."
Now the gear is better for fighting the flames, and "won't tear as easy as that stuff was."
Being an old hand at firefighting also trained Beaudry's temperament, and his ear for what dealing with a particular fire will entail.
"When you first got on (as a firefighter), you take off and go real quick, take off and go. Over the years, you can control your adrenaline a little bit better. You can tell by the call if it's a bad one or something that's going to be easy and quick."
Beaudry admitted he will be missing the avocation that's been his love for the past 35 years.
"Sitting here, watching the TV, hear the tones go off (on the scanner), I want to go, but then just sit back and relax," he said.
"It's a hard thing to give up after 35 years."