Name: Ron Stahley
Resides: Schnecksville, North Whitehall Township
Family: Wife, Alice, married 42 years; three children, five grandchildren
Job: Started as a laborer and then owner of the former Stahley’s Landscape, Schnecksville, 1994 to 2012. At the same time, he was employed by North Whitehall Township and served as a township supervisor. He now works part time for Parkland School District.
Fire Department: Chief, Schnecksville Fire Department, 1987-present. He has been a volunteer firefighter since 1975, and before being named fire chief, he was assistant chief for 11 years.
In addition, Stahley is a charter member of the North Whitehall Township Rescue Squad, serving as captain since 1983, and he has been president of the township’s Emergency Services Organization for many years.
In 2002, Stahley received a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for saving a man trapped in a burning car, and in 2007 was awarded the first Presidential Call to Service Award in the Lehigh Valley for attaining the “gold” or highest level of volunteer hours accrued. In 2009, Rescue Capt. Stahley was recognized by St. Luke’s Hospital Regional Trauma Center for his dedication and contribution to saving lives.
Training so far: “Just about anything that was required, from learning the earliest fundamentals to more specialized training. It’s a constant process.”
What’s it like to be a firefighter? “Challenging. The family has to put up with a lot. My wife and kids did -- and still do -- understand. It’s not something that fits into a schedule. When the pager goes off, you have to respond. Highway calls have increased a lot with more traffic, but cars are being made better these days, so a lot of injuries aren’t as bad [as they used to be], but you still have to respond to the call.
How does your family, particularly your wife, feel about you being a firefighter? “Ultimately, I think they’re proud. When the kids were young, it wasn’t as easy, but now that they’re grown, they’re more accepting. My wife, well, she’s used to it; she grew up in a family of firefighters. Her dad, grandfather and two brothers all were former firefighters with Cetronia. She still worries, so I have to check in and let her know I’m OK as soon as we’re finished responding to a call.”
Tell us a story about a firefighting experience you’ll never forget: Well, there have been so many of them, and unfortunately, some of them are tough to take, to be honest with you. I think one of the most memorable calls was to a pallet fire in the late 1980s...in Ormrod. The entire community was at risk. A whole bunch of us were there, virtually every fire company in [Lehigh] County was on the scene, hundreds of firefighters. I was the incident commander, and we managed to contain the fire and save the surrounding homes and properties. The only things lost were the pallets and a tractor trailer.”
How did your company handle the recent problems caused by Hurricane Sandy? “We had a lot less going on than we anticipated. We checked all our equipment beforehand to make sure everything was running, and some of our people stayed at the station all night to handle calls when needed. We opened some roads and had to close others, and we set up a command post in the township, but overall, we didn’t have the problems we thought we’d have.”
What would you say to someone looking to join your company? “I’d say, ‘Come on out,’ but I wouldn’t soft pedal the responsibility and investment in time. Some people come out and find it’s too much of a commitment. Fortunately, we’ve had seven to 10 new firefighters join our company in the past few years. Some of them were active in other companies before they moved into our area, so they already knew what to expect. We currently have 32 active members and they range from 15 to well, I'll be 63 in a couple of weeks. I’m the old man, but I plan to stay with it as long as I can continue doing it.”