Woodstock man has seen many changes in his years with area fire department
By Kaitlin Mayhew -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Dan Hottel began volunteering with the Woodstock Fire Department in 1942.
He was 16 years old then. Seventy years later, he's still doing it.
There weren't as many organizations for youngsters back then, Hottel said, and he thought the fire department was "interesting."
"I was growing up as a teenager and just got involved with the fire department," he said. "I was interested in it and in helping other people."
However, Hottel said that the department is "a whole different ballgame" than when he first started.
For one thing, in 1942, the Woodstock Fire Department only had two firetrucks. Now it operates six.
"When I was [there] in my teens and twenties we didn't have more than maybe 50 or 60 calls a year," Hottel said. "Now it's around 500."
Over the years, Hottel said he's held every office in the department except for secretary and treasurer. He served as fire chief in the mid-1950s.
"It was quite a responsibility but I enjoyed it," he said. "It was a challenge but I enjoyed it."
He recalls a number of particularly bad fires over the years, including one at Woodstock Ford Tractor on Benchoff Drive.
"It was one of those things that happened that had to be taken care of," he said.
Hottel said that he thinks house fires are particularly difficult to see.
"I hated to see anybody get burned out of a home," he said. "They were not only losing their home but losing all their sentimental things, and memorabilia and things like that."
Hottel, 86, was born and raised in Woodstock and has lived there his entire life. He worked as a milkman for Shenandoah's Pride Dairy for 37 years. He did both home and wholesale deliveries.
Hottel said he never had any trouble balancing work and volunteering for the fire department.
He's now been retired for 21 years.
"I've been busy every day," he said. "You've got to have something to do when you retire or you aren't going to last long."
Hottel said that like all the volunteer fire departments in the county, Woodstock has had some decline in the ranks of volunteers.
"When I started there were more volunteers because more people were available," he said. "Now you have to take more tests and different other things like that that keeps men and ladies away from the fire department."
It's important to have some understanding within a family of the time commitment in being a volunteer firefighter, he said.
Hottel's wife has been active in the fundraising efforts for over 35 years. His son, Phil Hottel and his grandson, Zachary Hottel, also have been involved as volunteers.
"It's a nice organization and it's an organization that is to be for years," Hottel said.
Although Hottel is no longer an active firefighter or truck driver, as he used to be, he is still active in many aspects of the department.
"I help with fundraisers and I do whatever I can," he said.
He also has been instrumental in helping to restore a 1942 fire engine housed at the station.
"That's one of our first four pieces that we had," he said. "It was quite enjoyable to restore it, it brought back a lot of memories."
The engine still runs, and Hottel said they use it for parades and other events in town.
He said he has many good memories of working at the department, especially of the people he's worked with.
"It's been a wonderful time to be with the fire department," he said. "I've enjoyed it. If I didn't I wouldn't have been there all those years."
He said he particularly enjoys working with the new and younger members.
"I highly recommend it to any young person that wants to volunteer for their community," he said. "It's a great and rewarding thing to do for people in need."