Meet Pete Bednarek, one of our Hometown Heroes! What is your occupation?
I'm a school administrator - High School Principal at Scotia Glenville Home of the Tartans!
I am also co-owner of Wolf Hollow Brewing Company
Why did you join your local volunteer fire department?
The short answer is that one spring my yard was flooded and the water was running over my driveway and into my basement. My neighbor, Conrad Saunders and Jack Ellis went down the the West Glenville Fire House and brought up a truck with a pump and stood with me in knee-deep water until the flood was pumped out. They said, "why don't you come down to the firehouse on Monday night? You could join, you know?" To that point in my life (I was probably about 30) I did not realize that you could join a fire department with no experience. I walked through the door next week and told Patti Ellis that I just wanted to be able to help my neighbors out whenever I could.
What is your role within your department?
I am proud to be a "black hat" volunteer firefighter who is willing to do whatever I can to help folks in this community. I came to the fire service approximately 12 years ago with zero experience. I am not the most experienced and I'm not the most knowledgable but I try to keep my body in decent condition, maintain basic competencies, and I'm willing to crawl around in a burning building, climb a ladder in turnout gear, or help someone with injuries or illness through basic first aid until more sophisticated services arrive.
What is one of your most memorable moments in the volunteer fire or emergency services?
There have been quite a few important memories that jump out as I think about what has happened through volunteer service in West Glenville. Some are serious - matters of life and death and health and safety. Others are funny. Most are important because they have built a stronger connection to this community.
When a friend's dog died in a terrible house fire, I was glad that I could be there to carry that body to a place where they could see him away from the rest of the nightmare they were experiencing.
I was thrilled to be able to work with some other firefighters to get some children's goldfish out alive after they lost most of their possession in a house fire.
I helped administer a shock with an AED and witnessed a miracle of modern medicine as a man's heart was shocked back into rhythm to that he was talking with us as we loaded him in an ambulance.
I will never forget the fact that I wasn't kicked out of the fire company after my first fire in which I dropped an axe from the roof through the second story to the first floor where it landed a few feet behind our chief. I thought my volunteer service was ending on my first call but the chief handed the ax back up and said, "hey Pete; you might want to hold that differently."
Why do you think it is important for young people to get involved with their local volunteer fire department?
I was relatively young when I joined (in my early 30s) because most of the folks in the fire service have been serving for a long time and we haven't had many new people join in recent decades. There are tasks for everyone, but certainly many opportunities and needs for people with young strong bodies. If I had known about how to get involved with the fire service - I could have joined 10 years earlier! As our bodies get older, we take on different tasks and there is always a need for younger members from a physical standpoint. It's also just important to have people of all ages because this represents our community. We need to be raising up the next generation of leaders. What contributions have you (and your department) made in your community?
In West Glenville there aren't very many organizations. the Volunteer Fire Company is a critical pillar of our small part of Glenville because we bring people together in tangible (and non-tangible ways). The fire company hosts gatherings and celebrations throughout the year. We provide services like roadside clean-ups and emergency power when there are outages. The health and safety aspect of what we do is obviously paramount and that is a clear representation of people who are just there when you need them. Do you have any advice on balancing the demands of volunteering with your job/family?
Anything else you would like to add?
I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask about balancing the demands of volunteering along with job/ family/ hobbies etc. I tend to have a pretty crazy work/life imbalance but I have been fortunate to be allowed to participate with West Glenville Fire Co as much as I have. I try to maintain core competencies despite having many conflicting responsibilities with my jobs at school and Wolf Hollow. Emergencies don't tend to happen at the most convenient times but fortunately for me, many of them occur during times when we might otherwise just be asleep - I figure, as long as I can still help out a neighbor in need by giving up some hours of sleep or pitching in when needed, then I want to do that. It makes our community stronger and safer. When others participate in the same and different ways, giving what they can - it all works. That's the kind of place I want to live with my family.