After 20 years directing traffic at accident scenes and fires, Bob Van Gorder said he felt it was time to hand the baton to some of the younger men in the fire company. Mr. Van Gorder, who is a Life Member with Carlisle Fire Company, said that he will continue to volunteer for the company, but hopes to move into a more administrative role.
“I lived across the street from Houston Fire Company when I was growing up,” Mr. Van Gorder said. “I always got excited when the alarm went off. When I was 16, Lee Vincent and I became the first Junior Members in Houston and I have never looked back.” Mr. Van Gorder served approximately ten years in Houston before moving to Milford and joining Carlisle Fire Company.
Mr. Van Gorder became a fire policemen after falling in 1995 and again in 1998. He suffered head injuries and was no longer able to fight fires as he had in the past. He said the state recently required fire policemen to begin wearing bulletproof vests after firemen were shot during riots in other areas of the country.
“The vests weigh more than 20 pounds,” Mr. Van Gorder said. “I am 73 years old and when you are standing on the road in 90 to 100-degree weather, those vests are uncomfortable. It was time to let someone younger and stronger do the work. We also go to Florida a few months out of the year, so this allows the company to replace me with someone who will be available all year.”
Chief Kenneth Brown says that fire police are a huge asset to the Milford Police Department. He said that they routinely respond to assist with various assignments other than normal responses for motor vehicle collisions or fire calls.
“It is not always noticed, but without their help, it would be difficult to conduct traffic control for the various parades and other events that require road closures,” Chief Brown said. “When we ask, they are always eager to help. Bob was an example of the teamwork between Carlisle Fire Company and the police department. It was not uncommon for Bob to stop when he would see an officer directing traffic for a traffic light malfunction or other traffic issue and offer to help.” Chief Brown said that, on one occasion, Mr. Van Gorder was headed to dinner one evening and stopped to assist officers at Dupont Highway and Milford-Harrington Road when a traffic light malfunctioned, something that the Chief said was not uncommon for Mr. Van Gorder or other members of the Fire Police over the years.
The biggest challenge Mr. Van Gorder said he faced as a Fire Policeman was not getting run over by people from out of state who may be unfamiliar with the duties of a fire police officer. He said anyone who wishes to become a Fire Police officer must be able to pay attention at all times and keep their mind on the task at hand.
“The fire company is an excellent organization,” Mr. Van Gorder said. “Anyone who wants to join needs to get the required training and be able to follow orders. The fire company is not an organization where you can just do what you want. Procedures must be followed and you need to listen to those in command. If you can do that, you can be a good fireman.”
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