Cranberry fire company president aims to attract members
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
The new president of the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company is focusing on the next generation.
Ed Hestin said he will ask the membership of the fire company to help him focus on recruitment of new members and retention of existing members.
“The need to build up a younger base is really important,” he said.
Hestin, 54, of Cranberry will fill the unexpired presidency of Bruce Hezlep through the end of 2014.
Hezlep resigned last month because he was elected in November as a township supervisor.
Hestin, a vice president and senior project manager for PNC Financial Services, said he first joined the volunteer fire company in 1997 but stepped aside after about seven years because he said he wanted to spend time with his wife, Karen; daughters, Erica and Janelle; son, Ryan; and their activities, including dance and ice hockey.
With the children getting older, Hestin said to his wife in 2011, “There's no time like the present,” and rejoined the fire department.
Hestin said he will continue to drive a fire truck to scenes, even though he's now president of the company.
“At my age, I prefer to let the younger guys run inside (burning buildings). My responsibility is to get them there and home safely. I consider myself the chauffeur,” Hestin said.
Within the past year, Hestin said, the department welcomed 15 new members, from teens to older adults who had previously volunteered in fire departments. The company now has 106 active or life members and 24 members of the ladies auxiliary.
“(Hestin's) very approachable and very smart,” Cranberry public safety director Jeff Schueler said, adding that Hestin and Hezlep “are on the same page, they have the same philosophy, it's a professional organization. It's run like a business, which it is.”
Hestin said the placement of a Sept. 11, 2001, memorial outside the Park fire station along Route 19 in 2012 generated a surge in interest.The company also lowered the age of junior firefighters to 14 if they have a family member volunteering, or 16 if no family is involved. Six junior firefighters joined for 2013-14.
“If we really did make a concerted effort, really promote it, really push it, I think we can inspire people to really want to do this. I think we can get more people involved, and what a wonderful thing that would be,” Hestin said.
Junior firefighters can participate in basic training programs but are limited in what they can do for the department. Depending on their age, they cannot climb ladders, operate high pressure hoses or enter burning buildings. The restrictions are lifted once the junior firefighter turns 18 and completes final training.
The need for the fire department is growing as the population does in the community of nearly 29,000 residents, the largest in Butler County.
According to department records, volunteers responded to 653 calls for service as of Dec. 11, which topped 649 calls for all of 2012.
Also, the department's average response time to a call fell from 9 minutes and 22 seconds in 2012 to 8 minutes and 53 seconds. The members also put in more training hours than in 2012, from 5,525 hours to 6,091 hours as of Dec. 11. More than half of that training was in-house, according to fire department records.
The department has a public safety training facility.
“We're not a bunch of guys in chairs leaning up against a wall waiting for a fire call to come in,” Hestin said.
Hestin said his business background at PNC will help in the new position. He wants to consolidate many of the administrative functions to the Park fire station, so that station is viewed as the fire department's headquarters.
The fire department is also working on bids for a second aerial truck that could be delivered at the end of the year, and is replacing a couple of other smaller vehicles this year.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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