Below, is an article recently posted from the www.helpfightfire.com social media. The Chester County Fire Chiefs Association is currently involved with a volunteer recruiting campaign to assist the fire, rescue and EMS departments and companies recruit new members. This article is one of many articles that has appeared on social media and newspapers in Chester County to help give potential new members a profile of the current emergency services volunteers in our county.
The Alerts have been very fortunate over the years to have several multi-generational family members volunteer to serve our community. A few of those names over the years are the Barrett/Butler, Capuito, DiLuigi, Follett, Keen, Lee, Nelms, Pannebaker, Peterman/Plaugher and Trego families. We have always been thankful for all of the dedication and service that our fathers, children and grandchildren provide to our company and Downingtown. Today, we salute one of those families for their spirit of volunteerism.
Stevens Family’s Seven Decades of Service to Chester County
For many families, volunteering at the local fire company is a time honored tradition that’s passed down from generation to generation. In just about every station across the area you will see fathers and their children volunteering together. This Father’s Day, we give a salute to life-saving dads who volunteer at their Chester County fire station by celebrating the Stevens family, who has helped keep Chester County lives safe for over seven decades.
Bob “Yob” Stevens is one of the most senior life members of the Alert Fire Co. No. 1, having served the Downingtown community for nearly 60 years. Yet he himself is a second generation firefighter, as his father, Morris, joined the company in the early 1940’s during World War II, in an effort to help the community in that time of need. Bob proudly remembers seeing his dad on top of a 50 foot ladder battling a blaze along Lancaster Avenue. He also remembers living down the block from his fire station and running to the corner whenever the fire whistle blew, just to watch the trucks drive by. “I dreamed of a day when I’d get to run to the firehouse when the fire whistle blew and jump on a fire truck myself,” he said. That dream certainly came true.
Bob has worn many hats over the years for the company. In addition to currently serving and chairing many committees, he has held just about every officer’s position since joining in 1959, including lieutenant, captain and president, to name a few. He met his wife, Trauti, while responding to a call, after her neighbor’s apartment caught fire. There was definitely a spark when the two laid eyes on each other. Trauti even tried on Bob’s boots and helmet during the call. Bob still has that helmet next to his desk at home.
Bob passed on his passion for firefighting to the younger generations of his family too. Bob’s son, Jeff, is a 40 year active life member, past president and assistant chief, while Bob’s grandsons, Scott and Karl, have also become members. Scott was elected as a contributing member in 2004, and Karl was elected into active membership in 2007, as a junior firefighter and is Alert’s current captain. Not only are the Stevens men involved, but Trauti and Bob’s daughter-in- law, Linda, are contributing members, where they help with fundraising events and other support of the company, and his daughter, Jacque, who resides in Florida, is currently a social member.
Firefighting is such an integral part of this family, that many members are groomed to become volunteers before they can even walk. In fact Scott and his wife, Amanda, recently welcomed their son, Tyler, into the world in December, and he already takes notice whenever he hears the fire pager sound. Jeff said it’s a part of being a Stevens.
“I don’t remember this, however, when I was almost a year old, I went to my first fire on a firetruck,” he said. “It was my father and (former police chief) Louis Wilson at the firehouse when the Alerts were dispatched for a car fire. Nobody else showed-up, so we responded to the call. My father stretched the hose and put out the fire, while Mr. Wilson held me with one hand and pumped the truck with the other hand!”
As a child of the ’60s and ’70s, Jeff always enjoyed going to the station with his father so he could play on the trucks with the other children there. They would pretend to respond to calls and put out fires. As they got older, they would ride their bikes to the scene or to the station and help their fathers pack the fire hose and put equipment back on the trucks. They’d also help out at fundraisers.
“I continue to volunteer as a commitment of service to the community,” he said. True to the Alert company motto from 1887, “The danger of our citizens prompts us to action.” Jeff’s sons, likewise, would hang around the station at an early age and it wasn’t long before they too wanted to help protect their community.
“It’s a great way to give back,” said Karl, “while also spending time with family and friends. Being part of a volunteer fire company is a great way to meet new people from all different backgrounds. I am thankful that my father and grandfather always encourage and provide guidance to me and the other younger members of the company.”
“I have been involved in sports my entire life and I see a direct comparison of firefighters and athletes, where it takes a total team approach that forms a brotherhood,” said Scott. “If Tyler chooses to be a firefighter, he will have some good role models in his uncle and grandfathers.”
The family’s service extends beyond Bob and his children and grandchildren. Bob also had great uncles and cousins who were active firefighters. There was Herbert H. Berstler, a contributing member of Alert, and Charles H. Berstler, Jr., who, when he passed away at age 96 in 1998, was the oldest and longest surviving member of the Minquas Fire Co. No. 2 of Downingtown. William H. Winters died in the line of duty at age 76 in 1997 and was past chief of the Atglen Fire Co. and chief fire marshal of Chester County. Plus, William R. L. Winters Sr. was past chief of the Atglen Fire Co. for 46 years. Likewise, Alan Rank was past chief of the Coatesville Fire Department the late 1960s.
When they’re not fighting fires, the Stevens family meets annually for a fishing trip on the Chesapeake Bay- a tradition they’ve continued since the 1930’s. When they get together “there is always a firehouse topic to talk about!” said Jeff. The family members also are involved in local baseball and softball leagues together and are avid Philadelphia sports fans, who hold Eagles season tickets.
Bob is extremely proud of his son and grandsons for continuing to answer the call to help fight fires just like him and his dad. He thanked his wife for her support over the years because he couldn’t have served his fire station for as long as he did without her support and the support of his family.
Editor’s Note: As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association gives a special thank you to all dads who volunteer to keep Chester County lives safe and encourages more to do the same by learning about the many volunteer opportunities available at www.helpfightfire.com.