The fire companies in town had two engines and one ladder truck. Hose Company No. 1 had one Mack firetruck that would pump 750 gallons of water per minute. The truck was only a few months old, and it was a magnificent red engine holding almost a mile of hose. Medical calls were handled by the police department since it had an ambulance. The only pay the firemen received was a clothing allowance of $250 per year. I was told that volunteer fire departments made up more than 75 percent of the fire departments in the United States, and I believe that figure is still true. The captain of the company tried to recruit me after I told him of my Navy medical background and education as a chemist. But I’m sure it also had something to do with living across the street. I accepted and began my career as a volunteer fireman. I enjoyed 10 years with the department before I moved to Minnesota. I have many memories of terrible fires and heroic rescues that are routine for firemen, but my most memorable experience was as the department’s chaplain. Soon after I took the position, we had a call to a leather-goods factory. When we arrived, the building was partially engulfed. Our captain directed us into the building. The smoke was so thick we could barely see. We stopped the solvents from exploding, but our captain collapsed and died of a heart attack. As chaplain, it was my duty to conduct a service before the day of burial. On that day, we gathered at the funeral home, and more than 100 people attended. This was my first memorial service, and I was scared as I wanted all to go well. Just as I was ready to begin the service, in walked the Catholic bishop of northern New Jersey, followed by the monsignor of the local church and several priests and nuns. I immediately welcomed them and asked if they would lead the service as I couldn’t imagine doing it before such prestigious clergy. “No, my son, this is your service and we are your guests,” the bishop said. “Please do not let us interfere with your service.” I took a deep breath and started the service with the ringing of a bell signifying the last call from Our Lord for our captain to respond. I followed with a textbook service used for a fireman’s memorial, then offered my sermon to honor our deceased brother. I used passages from the Bible and memorable events in his life that we all shared. During this time the audience was crying and laughing. When I saw tears in the eyes of the bishop, I felt my words were serving the occasion. When the service was over, I was elated that all went well. I will always remember the hugs I received from the bishop and from my fellow firemen. Words cannot describe the respect I have for these very brave men and women of the fire service. The volunteer firemen are in a unique position to serve their community, and their sacrifices are legend. It was a privilege to have served with them. Eric E. Moberg is a 23-year Redondo Beach resident and a retired chemist. Do you have a story to tell? Submit your column to Lisa Martini, My Turn, Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077, or e-mail us at [email protected] Please limit to 800 words and include your telephone number. We’ll pay $25 for each column we publish.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It was 1949, and my wife and I were moving into our first home. It was an older, five-room house with full basement in the small community of North Arlington in northern New Jersey, about an hour drive to New York City. It cost $7,000, and my GI mortgage was $40 a month. At the time I was earning $40 per week as a color matcher in a paint factory, and at night I went to college to get a degree in chemistry. Across the street from our house was a single garage with a sign saying, “Hose Company No. 1.” We weren’t sure if this belonged to a fire department, and we hadn’t yet met any of our neighbors to ask. After a very long day moving into our new home, we went to sleep. About 1 a.m. we were shaken out of our bed with a blasting sound of “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.It went on for about three minutes. We ran to our front window and across the street we could see men in raincoats and boots jumping on a firetruck that roared down the street. This was our introduction to a volunteer fire department. The following day, I went over to the firehouse and met several of the men. I learned that the air horn on top of their building was how the department notified its members to report to the station. The number of blasts per minute told members where the fire was in town, and a Teletype in the building gave the address. I also learned they had 20 men in the company plus seven civil defense reserves – required by the federal government, as this was the beginning of the Cold War.