Leetonia firefighters are family -- in some cases, literally.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LEETONIA -- As a boy, Harry Garlough wore a path from his house to the fire station.
When the fire siren blew, Harry would be on the run immediately, and often arrived at the station before the firefighters did.
"I'd run down the path through the thicket," he said. "I wanted to see the firetrucks and know where the fire was."
Harry joined the department in 1967, followed by four other Garloughs.
"Firefighting just gets in your blood," said Chief Ken Garlough, Harry's brother.
The earliest record of the department is a certificate declaring the Leetonia firefighters members of the Northeastern Ohio Fireman's Association in 1890.
Ken said a great uncle, Clark Marshall, was a Leetonia volunteer in the early 1900s, when the men were known simply as The Hook and Ladder Gang.
Ken said the firefighters are always searching for photos and documents to chronicle the department's history.
Although Ken quickly pointed out that the entire department is like one big family, there are many literal family ties among the firefighters.
The Garloughs and members of the Hall and Hephner families account for 11 of the department's 25 active firefighters.
Harry's son Darren was a Leetonia firefighter for 10 years before moving to nearby Greenford in Mahoning County, where he quickly joined the Green Township Fire Department.
Harry and Ken's brother Bill, and Ken's son, Scott, are the other Garlough members.
Members of the Hall family are Roland and his sons Roland Jr. and Randy.
The Hephners include Larry and his sons, Larry Jr., the assistant chief; and Greg and Jason.
Most of the men had similar responses when asked why they became firefighters.
"When you grow up around it, it's the thing to do," Jason said.
Roland Jr. and Scott wanted to join their dads, and they didn't wait until they were out of high school. Both joined before graduation.
Hall said his sons grew up around the firehouse, and there are family photos of the boys as infants, riding on firetrucks during parades.
Larry Sr. said he often followed the firetrucks as a young boy attracted by the sirens, lights and the bright red trucks.
"I go all over town," he said. "Finally one day, someone said I should just join."
"Somebody has to do it," and "you have to be a bit crazy" were some of the comments echoed by the younger Garloughs, Halls and Hephners.
They recalled spending summers playing on the old firetruck, and having countless water battles.
Bill Garlough said a desire to help the community and protect lives and property are the main reasons he continues to put up with dangers of firefighting, as well as the hassles such as midnight wake-up calls and interrupted meals.
Jason jokingly offered a simpler philosophy.
"I like red," he said. "If we had those yellow trucks, there's no way I would have joined."