Welcome to our new monthly feature! We asked you all for nominations and the results are in: For the remainder of the year, you’ll read about a newsworthy neighbor in the first issue of each month. We’re turning the spotlight on community members who have unique and interesting stories. In honor of National Fire Prevention Month, we introduce you to a man who has devoted his entire life to putting himself literally in the line of fire. Meet Darin Weidner.
Above, Darin Weidner in action. Photo provided by Jenn Weidner. Inset, a lamp Darin made himself out of a fire extinguisher. Below, Darin surrounded by memorabilia in his living room. Photos by Danielle Tepper.
By Danielle Tepper
A glance around Darin Weidner’s living room leaves no doubt whatsoever that he loves being a firefighter. From the curtain rods to the table lamps (some of which he made himself), the entire room is an homage to a passion that began when he was just a kid. Weidner grew up listening to the shrill sound of sirens—he lived right down the street from Springside Fire Co. 12 in Slatington. One Monday night, he walked up and struck up a conversation with the firemen. That’s where his story begins.
“When I was six or seven, my dad ran with Friedens,” said Weidner. “He only did it a year or two but that’s where it all started, just from listening to it and being around it.”
When Weidner was 13, he became a junior volunteer, his first official involvement with the world of firefighting. “I felt pulled to it,” he said. “My parents would yell. I always wanted to be at the firehouse.”
As a junior, Weidner had quite a bit of involvement. “I was doing a lot of work, but on the same hand, I also had a lot of fun,” he said. “We had a hand-drawn hose car that we pulled in parades, it was really neat.”
Weidner ran with the fire department on every call and practiced right up until the entered the Navy in December of 1986. Aboard the USS Fulton, Weidner was invited to join in any fire training and was part of damage control and the Flying Squad, both fire-related crews.
For the past 32 years, Weidner has immersed himself in fire service.
“I just couldn’t give it up,” he said. He currently serves the Klecknersville Rangers Volunteer Fire Department as Captain and Vice President, in between a couple other side jobs, plus his paid job as a truck driver for Berger Sanitation. “Whenever I’m not working, whenever the pager goes off, I go.”
He spent six years as a pit fireman at Nazareth Speedway. When cars wrecked and lit up, he was on the team that ran out to help. Asked how often that can happen, Weidner replied simply, “You never know.”
When Nazareth closed in 2004, Weidner said he was “heartbroken.” He still holds many fond memories from his time there, which includes meeting famous drivers like the Andrettis face-to-face. “There was an Indy race that got snowed out one year,” he said. “We were out having snowball battles in the middle of the speedway with foreign racecar drivers who had never seen snow before.”
He was prepared to give up life in the fast lane, but a friend told him to check out Pocono Speedway. He’s been there ever since. After three years, he was made the Pit Fire Supervisor. The attraction to the gig is obvious: pure action.
“You’re right in the middle of it. Guys are throwing wheels over your head. When a car drops down, if you turn your head for a second, there’s a chance of catching a lug nut to the face. It’s the excitement.”
Weidner is also the President of PA Chapter 18 of the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club, a position he has used to spearhead a Fire Victims Fund to help raise money for those in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties who have suffered property damage. Whenever the club does a benefit ride, a portion of the proceeds goes to the fund, which began in 2011.
“I’d like to see it really help people,” he said. “So far, it can really only buy a set of silverware or dishes.”
Although it hasn’t grown to half the level Weidner wishes for just yet, he’s hopeful that someday it will build to a point where it can really make an impact.
Weidner wants the general public to understand that what he does is not only important, but also life saving:
“I was in my truck once when I got a call for a cardiac arrest. I was wearing my gear and I put my blue lights on and the guy in the car in front of me looked in his mirror, saw me, and slowed down to about 25 miles an hour,” he explained. “I thought he was letting me pass, but when I moved over, so did he. I tried to go around and he moved back. He blocked me the whole way down the highway. You’re not required to pull over for blue lights, but people need to be aware it’s still an emergency situation. We could be on our way to try to help someone you know.”
Weidner plans to continue to work in fire service for many years to come. It is a career path that has been set for him since childhood and he has dedicated his life to the cause.
His wife Jenn added, “Although there have been plenty of interrupted dinners, missed family events and lots of late nights … Darin is truly a hometown hero.”
If you know someone who deserves to be recognized by the Gazette, tell us about them! Email Danielle at firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line “TCG NOMINATION.” We need submissions for 2014! NEXT MONTH: Read about Anthony George, an 11-year-old from Walnutport who spent 15 summer days in Australia with the People to People Ambassador Program.