By Brandi Bottalico email@example.com
Staff Photo by Bill Green
When Steve Stull first started running fire calls at 16, his father would hastily open Stull’s bedroom door and ask, “You going or not?”
The Stulls could “be on the truck ready to roll” at the Lewistown Volunteer Fire Co. in three minutes, said his father, Delbert Stull.
“When the alarm went off, I was on my way,” he said. “I was about half crazy. When it’d go off, I was gone.”
Jumping out of bed at 2 a.m. to help someone is what Delbert misses most. It’s been about three years since the 81-year-old had a pacemaker installed and had to stop.
But Steve, 56, is still running calls and is the first firefighter to join both of his parents in the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted April 18.
Shirley Stull, Steve’s mother, used to provide canteen services to calls with the auxiliary. She started volunteering at various events and functions after Delbert became a volunteer in 1972 and has served in various roles at the fire company.
She’d been nominating Steve to the Hall of Fame for years, she said.
Steve said he’s honored to be inducted, especially because his parents are alive to see it.
“I’m very grateful that the members of this committee here felt that I was worthy enough for that honor,” he said. “I think there are people who deserve it more than I do.”
When Steve was young, he helped wash dishes and clear tables when the company had ham, turkey and oyster dinners.
As soon as he turned 16, the age he could begin training, he signed up. He’s been a part of the Lewistown fire company for about 40 years now despite moving to Walkersville after getting married.
He said the greater need for volunteers is in Lewistown because it’s more rural and doesn’t have as large a population to tap into.
“This is where I started, and my heart’s here,” he said.
And his family.
He sees his parents and family more at the firehouse than at actual family functions, he said. And, at the fire company, those who aren’t related to him have become an extended family.
“I’ve had some really good friends in school, but nothing like down here,” he said.
At a recent fundraiser, Delbert flipped burgers while Steve called bingo. Steve is the only one who knows how to use the bingo machine, they said.
Delbert was Lewistown’s top responder for nine years in a row. And he’s been on the board of directors for “God, I don’t know how long.”
Delbert said he’s still at the fire hall at least five times a day because he handles the building’s maintenance and helps with events.
Steve said he’s consistently one of the top responders who doesn’t live in town.
“People ask me why I have a house, because I’m never there,” Steve said. “I think I just go there to sleep. My wife and I could be down here almost every evening doing something. Functions, a lot of times, we’re the first to show up and the last to leave.”
He’s dressed up as Santa for about five years for the annual Santa Run, and he also teaches fire prevention to children.
“That’s what I really enjoy doing, is talking to the young people and teaching them about fire prevention,” he said. “I can’t say for sure or not, but I might have saved somebody and don’t even know it. … If I can save one person by educating them, that money’s well spent.”
Outside of his volunteering, he works at Brunswick High School as a special education instructional assistant.
Delbert and Shirley grew up in and near Lewistown. One of the first experiences Delbert ever had with the firefighters was when the Independent Hose Co. responded when his house burned to the ground when he was 9 years old, he said. It was the first anniversary of when his father left to serve in the Navy during World War II.
He remembers the firefighters were using a hand-dug well to get water to stop the fire. Delbert still has a stack of silver quarters that were melted in the fire.
He was one of the first to respond to a fire where a family, including two young twins, had died. He helped find the bodies in the basement. He said he doesn’t let the bad memories like that get to him.
“A lot of people, it sticks in their mind, they can’t get rid of it,” he said. “You run into all kinds of situations. You run into some good and you run into a lot of bad, and you try your best to save whatever it is.”
Steve said he thinks firefighters have to put those bad situations behind them and focus on the good they’ve done. He’s learned a lot from his experience as a firefighter.
“Don’t take anything for granted, because you could be here one day and gone the next,” he said. “If you lose your house, and everything in it, but you got out, that’s a success. Things can be replaced. People can’t.”
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