–by Mike Jones
PUBLICATION DATE: Feb 19, 2019
When a visitor to the Sylvania Avenue fire station recently asked where he might find Al Hasenfratz, a firefighter pointed down a hallway and said, “Just go through that door. You’ll probably find him under that first big truck.”
He wasn’t under the first big truck, but he had been.
It is more usual than not to find Hasenfratz under a truck or at least poking at one at any one of the department’s four firehouses. The trucks are the fire department’s engines and emergency medical response vehicles. They are the responsibility of Hasenfratz and he takes it seriously.
“The stakes are high,” he said. “We don’t have the option to say we’ll be out next week. Everything has to work and get us out to answer a call.”
Hasenfratz repeated, “The stakes are high.”
There is more than enough high praise for the level of ability and the work ethic of Hasenfratz from members of the Sylvania Township fire department, but he was also recently honored as the Emergency Vehicle Technician of the Year. The annual award was recently presented by the national Fire Department Safety Officers Association at a symposium in Orlando, Fla.
Among the attributes mentioned is that Hasenfratz has changed the “mechanic/firefighter dynamic” in the fire department. It may be difficult to measure than dynamic as it existed prior to Hasenfratz joining the department about 13 years ago, but he is very much a part of a team which operates throughout the day, every day, to make sure all the pieces of apparatus needed by the department remains in top shape.
His day begins when he picks up a van loaded with tools, tubes, hoses, belts, and other items, which he has come to learn, are the most likely to need replacement. He also grabs a laptop, which has a program that is constantly getting input from firefighters while on duty.
If a door latch didn’t seem to close properly or if a check engine warning light came on, firefighters feed that into the program that Hasenfratz will use to prioritize the things he will have to tend to that day. In addition to the input from his laptop program, he often attends the daily morning briefing held between officers of the headquarters station and the command of the department’s other fire stations.
“It’s just another way of staying on top of what’s going on, how all the equipment is working,” he said.
Al Conkle, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Emergency Vehicle Technicians, said the extra steps taken by Mr. Hasenfratz are the reason he won the award this year.
“Technicians who take care of emergency equipment recognize how important their jobs are. They’re good at it. But they chose Al as the one they want to be most like. They know his passion. They know, not just how good he is, but how dedicated and serious he is,” Mr. Conkle said.