Former fire, rescue communications chief remembered as 'all-around nice guy'

Ron Karn dies at age 72

Ron Karn dies at age 72

February 26, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - A longtime volunteer firefighter in Hagerstown in his youth, Ron Karn applied for a job in 1975 as a dispatcher with the newly formed Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

By the time of his retirement in 2001, Karn had risen to the position of chief of that agency.

Karn died Sunday night at the age of 72.

"Ron and I were hired on the same day - Aug. 4, 1975," said Robert S. Kefauver, also a retired dispatcher.

Kefauver said he remembers walking up the alley behind 33 W. Washington St. with Karn to the county personnel office to sign papers for their jobs. After three weeks of classroom training, the men started their first shift at 2 a.m. Aug. 24, 1975.

"Ron was always serious about his work," Kefauver said.

For the next six or seven years, Karn was paired regularly with fellow dispatcher Doug Pittinger, both at the beginning of their careers.


"He treated me like a brother," Pittinger said. "I thought the world of Ron. We were together until he became director."

Pittinger left Washington County after 10 years for a job with the Martinsburg, W.Va., Fire Department. He is a paramedic coordinator for 10 counties in West Virginia.

When Karn retired, he capped a career that went from putting out fires one at a time as a volunteer to coordinating emergency response throughout Washington County.

Karn was a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years while he worked at Anderson Dry Cleaners.

At that time, Hagerstown fire equipment was dispatched from inside First Hose Fire Hall on South Potomac Street.

When dispatch operations for city fire and rescue and for Hagerstown City Police were combined in November 1974 and moved to Hagerstown City Hall, Karn went to work there.

County fire and ambulance companies continued dispatching their own units until the following year, when all were combined.

Karn progressed through the ranks, serving as deputy chief from 1977 to 1980 before becoming chief of fire and rescue communications. In 1985, he added civil defense director to his rsum. He later added the title of emergency management director.

"I knew Ron first when he was a volunteer," said Ron Horn, Hagerstown's deputy fire chief. "He was an all-around nice guy who never said anything bad about anybody."

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