The persistent beep of Bill Haeffner’s pager wakes him at 2 a.m. The sun hasn’t even risen and he’s scheduled to work at the restaurant in the morning, but within moments, he’s out of bed, dressed in his gear, and out the door. “If it’s to help somebody in need, I don’t mind getting up a little early,” Bill said.
Since May 1995, Bill has been a member of the Watkins Glen Fire Department, an entirely volunteer department that responds to fire, EMS, and other emergencies in a 58 square mile district.
To be a firefighter, Bill has to fulfill exhaustive requirements including completion of over 180 hours of initial fire safety, medical training, CPR, and Certified First Responder, as well as other annual refresher courses. Late night and early morning calls along with hazardous conditions are all part of Bill’s job.
“It’s all part of being a firefighter,” Bill remarks. “I’m always ready to help the guys by getting necessary tools, changing or filling the air pack bottles, or anything else they need. I’ve made a lot of friends at the department.”
The most memorable structure fire Bill recalls assisting at was in October 2009, an accidental fire at the old Cole-Royce building on North Franklin Street in Watkins Glen. The fire destroyed two adjoining antique stores and took hours to extinguish. Watkins Glen and eighteen other departments responded to the fire. People gathered across the street to watch the blaze. Bill and others ensured these observers maintained a safe distance from the fire while also assisting fellow firefighters where needed.
Bill volunteers with the fire department to help at local events, including the Italian American Festival. He also volunteers as a co-teacher of fire safety training courses for staff at The Arc.