CLEAR SPRING — “We are firefighters for the community, not for ourselves,” Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department Chief Michael Reid said. “I learned that from John Printz.”
In his 35 years of volunteering in Clear Spring, Printz taught that critical lesson to many of the men who worked with him.
A selfless philosophy of service is not something Printz, 72, has to remember to take with him each day to the station. It was on him the day he showed up and has never left his side.
Community has always been at the heart of what Printz does at the fire station, Reid said.
Printz said it is even why he joined.
“I wanted to make my community a better place,” Printz said. “I moved here (from Hagerstown) 39 years ago and I just decided one day that I wanted to do my part for my community.”
Printz said he can’t count how many calls he responded to until he stopped driving on active calls three years ago.
Now that he no longer responds to calls, he is even more of a presence at the station, Reid said.
“If something needs done, I can always count on John,” he said. “No matter what the job is.”
From fueling vehicles to working on a fundraiser to making sure everything is ready to go on a call, Printz does whatever is asked of him, Reid said.
To younger firefighters, Printz is a mentor of sorts, he said.
“Younger guys really love him, and everyone looks up to him,” Reid said. “He is well-respected around here.”
Yet in 35 years, Printz has not sought recognition for anything he has done.
When he was honored in January with a lifetime achievement award from the fire department, he did not attend the banquet, Reid said.
While Reid said Printz was not told ahead of time that he was to be honored, Printz said recognition was something he has never been interested in receiving.
In fact, in 35 years, he never ran for an office with the fire department, he said.
He never moved up in rank, he said.
And that was something he is OK with, he said.
“I’m just a member,” he said. “I’m laid-back and easygoing, and just trying to do the best I can.”
To Reid and the men and women at the station, he is a model of honesty, ethics, morals without question, and, above all, commitment to the station and to the community, Reid said.
While many volunteer firefighters come and go, Printz has stayed, Reid said.
If anything, over the years, his involvement has grown, he said.
“I enjoy it,” Printz said. “All the years, every bit of it.”