DALLAS TWP. — Being a first responder could be in Jack Dodson’s DNA.
The 71-year-old touts a family legacy that started about two generations ago when his grandfather volunteered with what was then known as the Kunkle Fire Crew located in Dallas Township.
Then, several uncles volunteered, and his father Fred Dodson served as chief for the same department, which was renamed the Harry S. Smith Fire Company. In 1972, Jack became chief of the volunteer company, which was renamed again to the Kunkle Fire Company in 1992.
Today, he is watching his two daughters Karri Dodson, who is deputy fire chief, and Dorothy Coolbaugh, the ambulance chief, carry on the legacy.
“It has been a family tradition,” he said regarding his family’s history with the department.
Even Jack’s wife, Sally, volunteers with the fire company.
“She was the secretary and an EMT,” he said. “She is the treasurer.”
Sally also keeps Jack organized behind the scenes as well, he admitted with a laugh.
For 57 years, Jack voluntarily put his life on the line to support his community.
“I’ve seen just about everything that could happen in a small town,” he said, noting he responded to crashed airplanes, vehicle accidents, structure fires and much more.
His decision to try and fill his father’s shoes as chief was not based on an obligation but rather on a commitment to support his community.
“When I was young, (being a firefighter) probably looked cool,” he said, adding as he grew up he learned the importance of having good emergency services for the community.
“I feel we do just that,” Jack said. “We take pride in our community and do everything to help the community.”
The rural town has some challenges to overcome when it comes to firefighting.
Kunkle does not have any fire hydrants, he said.
So, it is imperative that firefighters haul in enough water to fight a blaze, Jack said.
The department, which previously only had one truck, now has eight, including a pumper tanker and a brush tanker, as well as a fire engine, three ambulances, an antique 1950 fire truck, a tower, rescue and brush trucks.
The 100 percent volunteer firefighting crew is required to make time to train, practice and maintain its equipment to ensure they can handle any emergency, he said.
Jack’s team does take firefighting courses at Luzerne County Community College and Bucks County Community College, as well as participate in-house training sessions, held once a week at the station, Jack said.
“We may practice using ladders on the tower truck, go over how to use the LUCAS system, clean and practice using other equipment,” Jack said.
The LUCAS system is a portable CPR device designed to administer steady chest compressions to a patient.
The department has 49 members, some of whom are not active firefighters, but residents who help hold fundraisers to support the department, strive to not only aide victims during an emergency but also after, he said.
“It is not just about fighting fires,” Jack said. “It is about comforting people after the emergency is over.”
Jack first joined the Harry S. Smith Fire Company when he was 14.
“I was a junior firefighter,” he said. “When I was 18, I became a regular firefighter.”
At 19 years old, Jack joined the U.S. Navy Reserves.
“It was during the Vietnam era,” he said. “I went into active duty for two years.”
When he returned home, he acquired a job with Commonwealth Telephone in Dallas and resumed his service with the fire company.
Today, Jack divides his attention between the fire company and operating his business, Kunkle Kennels.
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Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews