December 2017

‘When the
whistle blows. . .’

Family volunteers at

local fire station

by Audrey Cannon

On a cold November morning, well tender Don Cline was out on a job near Oakford Station in Delmont, Pa., when he received a call from the local fire station.


Two tractor trailers had wrecked about a mile and a half from where he was working. A volunteer firefighter with nearly 35 years of experience, Don was first on the scene.


“There was a mix of rain and snow that day,” he recalls. “One tractor trailer had rear-ended the other.”


Don used brute force to pry open the driver’s side door of the second 18-wheeler, which was smashed like an accordion at the front. “The driver was bleeding from his face and arms,” Don says. “And his wife was up in the sleeper. I stayed with them until EMS arrived.”


While Emergency Medical Services personnel got the drivers out of their vehicles, Don and the other volunteers worked to soak up the transmission fluid and oil that was on the ground. “We know how dangerous that can be,” he explains.


Thankfully, the injuries were not life-threatening. Over decades of volunteering, Don, who has been with Dominion Energy since 1989, has seen much worse.


“I’ve responded to some fatal accidents,” he says. “You never know what you’ll find. We also respond to overdoses—mainly opioids. We’ve had up to four overdoses in one week—with people ages 24 to 60.”


Don described an emergency where a car full of people pushed out their friend who was overdosing and left him at a gas station. “My son and daughter and I all showed up to that one,” Don says. “When the whistle blows, we all show up.”


Because for the Clines, volunteer firefighting and rescue is a family affair.


For his kids, it’s second nature. “When my daughter was little, I’d have her car seat bolted in the fire engine,” Don says. “If I was the only one watching her, she went with me.


“She’d be walking around the fire station in a little pink-and-white outfit,” he reminisces. “I remember one time she got too close to the fire exhaust and had soot all over her. She had all the guys laughing.”


As a child, Don’s daughter also wrote an article that was picked up by local media detailing how hard it was to have her dad often away volunteering.


“One Christmas we didn’t open presents until 8 p.m. because I was on a call,” he says.


Don’s uncle was a firefighter at the same station, and his brother used to volunteer there, too. So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that his three children—his son, Don, and daughters, Ashley and Rachel—stepped up to the plate as adults.


Although he would never have asked them to volunteer, Don is proud two of his kids have followed in his footsteps. “It makes you feel good,” he says.