Jason Heckler, 22, is a volunteer firefighter with Hecktown Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1. He has been with the department for six years.
Heckler, a resident of Lower Nazareth Township, is majoring in Business Management at Bloomsburg University. When not volunteering or going to school, he works at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom as a lifeguard supervisor.
Heckler lives with his father, Greg, and mother, Joan, across the street from the fire company.
Heckler comes from a family of volunteers. His father has been volunteering with Hecktown for 41 years and his mother has been an EMT since the 1970s. His sister, Jess Knopp, helped the department with its fire reports for two years and is married to Eric Knopp, who volunteers for Hecktown and in Hanover Township, Northampton County. His aunt, Jean Parenti, is also an EMT.
Heckler said his grandfather was not a volunteer firefighter, but he did go on a call once with Hecktown. That counts. Right?
What made you decide to become a firefighter?
“My father [did]. I was hanging out around [the department] when I was younger and then on my 16th birthday, I actually joined. I used to stand on the front porch and watch [the firetrucks] leave... It pretty much runs in the blood. I can’t get away from this place even when I go to work.”
What is it like being a firefighter?
“A lot of people that I know hung out with these guys when I was younger. It’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be.”
What kind of training have you had so far?
“I’ve had a lot of training actually. I’ve gone through the basic firefighting classes, and now I’m starting to do some specialized rescue classes.”
What is your favorite thing about being a firefighter?
“It’s the unexpected. We could be sitting here right now and the next minute, we are racing down the street going somewhere.”
How do your loved ones deal with you being on a call?
“Mom [an EMT since the 1970s] is kind of like 'whatever' most nights. At 3 o’clock in the morning, the pager goes off and my mom is like, ‘Get up. You have a call.' My girlfriend doesn’t want to hear about it. She understands, but doesn’t want to hear about what goes on.”
What would you tell someone interested in joining the department?
“It’s a lot different than it looks on TV. It’s not the whole story. Have you seen Ladder 49 or Backdraft? It’s not all the glory that comes out of that. It’s work. It’s a family. You fight with them sometimes and you get along with them other times.”