Generations of Bowards fight fires

June 19, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY - Firefighting in the Boward family didn't start or end with Michael Boward.

By his calculation, he's the fourth of five generations to serve - and the sixth generation is breaking in.

Boward, 64, joined the Independent Junior Fire Engine Co. in Hagerstown in 1958, then The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Md., in 1963.

Boward now is part of Halfway's fire police unit, which also includes his daughter, Michele Loveless, 37.

Michele's 15-year-old son, Wesley, just finished his probationary period with the department. When he turns 16 in November, he will become a junior firefighter.

Boward said three generations before him - his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather - were firefighters. He said the family history is almost as old as the Independent Junior Fire Engine Co., which was incorporated about 160 years ago.


The latest is Wesley, who just finished his sophomore year at Williamsport High School.

"It's an awesome feeling, just knowing that you're able to help people," he said.

Wesley wants to be a professional firefighter or arson investigator.

During 56 hours of fire training with Halfway, Wesley learned the ins and outs of equipment and trucks. He went on calls as an observer.

His mother, Michele, joined the fire department two years ago. She's part of the fire police and rides on medical calls.

She's about halfway through her emergency medical technician training. She might go on to be a paramedic, but not as a career.

Boward said his son, Michael Jr., 39, who has a mental disability, also belongs to the department.

Michele's earliest memories of the department are of going to fire hall bingo games with her great-uncle, Carl Dorsey, who was known as Pap. She was about 8 years old.

She also would go to fire department carnivals and later, as a teenager, worked at them.

Boward said he started going on fire calls with his father, to watch, when he was about 15 years old. He would drag hoses and help load trucks.

When he became a firefighter, there was no 911 system, he said.

Firefighters would take shifts of answering calls. The phone had a button to activate a siren. Someone would write the address of the call on a chalkboard at the station so volunteers would know where to go.

"It's been part of my life ever since I can remember," Boward said.

Father and daughter have been out on calls together, each taking one end of the street to direct traffic.

Michele Loveless, who works for Northrop Grumman, said it's like a fraternity or sorority that gets up at 1 or 2 a.m. for an emergency, comes home for a little more sleep, then wakes up and goes to work.

"I've gone two days without sleep," said Boward, who spent 31 years as a Conrail mechanic before retiring in 2002.

After Wesley, who will join the department next?

Michele said it might be her daughter, Carrie, 12, who's interested in firefighting.

"She's talking about it," Michele said.

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