Name: Jim VanWert
Hometown: Lower Macungie Township
Family: Jim and his wife, Renee, have been married for 30 years and have three sons.
Occupation: He is the shop foreman at .
Fire Company: Jim has been a volunteer at the for the past 31 years.
Training: “I am trained as officer 1, water rescue, car rescue, and many, many more areas. Training never stops. Things have changed a lot since I started, especially the training. When I began, firefighters learned by doing—there was no training.”
Describe your job with the fire company. “I am currently the assistant chief of the department. I am also the treasurer of the Wescosville Firemen’s Relief Association. This association was organized [in 1938] to compensate firefighters or their families if the men were injured or killed while responding to a fire.”
How do your loved ones feel about you putting your life in danger? “They support what I do, even with the minor inconveniences like going out during celebrations and dinners. I was doing this before I married my wife, so she’s pretty used to it. It’s a part of my life.”
Tell us a story you'll never forget about your firefighting experience. Jim said he has numerous stories to tell, like the cats with at least two lives. “We had a house fire one time, with fire on the first floor. One crew was extinguishing the fire, while I and another firefighter went upstairs to do a quick search to make sure nobody was in the house. In the hallway upstairs we found two cats and took them outside. They looked dead. They didn't look like they were breathing or have any movement. So, with the assistance of the Macungie Ambulance team we pumped some [oxygen] in them and after about 5 minutes they came back around.”
Jim welcomes anyone to “Stop in for a visit at the Brandywine Station. I'll give you a tour and a story to go along.”
What would you tell people interested in joining your fire company? “Be prepared to make a life-style change. Firefighting is like a job. There is a lot of training and long hours.”
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