When the call sounds, volunteer firefighters answer

— File photo by Mae Deary

Since 1885, volunteers have been the backbone of Tisbury’s fire and rescue services, and in all the other Island towns as well. The men and women who serve do so knowing that they could be called at any time to face dangerous situations.

For Tisbury volunteers, Saturday, November 5, was a bright, sunny afternoon that found many Islanders, including members of the Tisbury department, catching up on chores, working, or enjoying the weekend. When the call went out for a fire at Maciel Marine, Tisbury volunteers, as well as those in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, dropped whatever they were doing to respond.

The Times spoke with three:

Malcolm Boyd, 61, a carpenter with 17 years on the fire department, was attending a child’s birthday party with his four-year-old son. His plans to enjoy the birthday party and spend the rest of the day with his son ended with the sound of his pager.

“I was raised to believe that I should contribute in some way to the community,” Mr. Boyd said. “Another thing was that at one of my father’s college reunions, it turned out my father’s friend, Pierce, owned a fire engine company. My father borrowed a truck one time for a parade, and when the fire truck drove by in the parade, I ran out and got a ride on it. I was about four or five years old at the time. I also do like the adventure and the element of danger that comes with volunteering.”

Jay McMann, 56, operates Island Fuel in Vineyard Haven. He is married with three children, and he has been a volunteer fireman for 10 years.

“I was planning on putting up a new antenna for our office on Evelyn Way,” he said. “I was up on the ladder. I actually heard the horn from the firehouse before my pager kicked in, so I knew it was something big. They only run the horn on the firehouse when it’s a confirmed incident or it’s something big, so right away I started heading down towards the firehouse, and I found out on the way there that it was Maciel Marine.”

Mr. McMann said he volunteers because it is a way to give back to the community he lives in, and because he works with “a great bunch of guys.”

Darren Welch, 41, is self-employed and has served on the department for 23 years.

“I had actually just gotten to a cook-out,” Mr. Welch said. “I had been there for all of 15 minutes when my pager went off. I left my girlfriend there and took the car. I ended up taking her wallet, her purse, her phone, everything. I took it all with me, ran home, and got my truck and took it to the station.

“My father and my grandfather were both firefighters. My father was a Vineyard Haven fireman and my granddad as well. There are also two uncles on my mother’s side and a cousin, and on my dad’s side, I had two uncles that did it as well.”