Carlisle, Pa. – For Brian and Stacey Hamilton, volunteers of Union Fire Company No. 1 in Carlisle, Pa., the courtship and love goes all the way back to the third grade.
“He scared away another boy on the playground because he liked me,” Stacey laughed.
While it wasn’t real love at such a young age, there certainly must have been a spark.
“Once we got to middle school, we went our separate ways a little, but in 10th grade we formally started dating,” Brian explained. “We have been together ever since. I never had another girlfriend; I literally married my high school sweetheart.”
The two of them started dating on May 11, 1988 and haven’t looked back.
The couple recalls a time in their teenage years when they were on a date at McDonalds. Brian saw smoke coming out of a building across the street, grabbed his gear from his trunk and ran across the street to meet the department at the fire scene and help put out a fire.
“A couple of hours later, Stacey was still there at McDonalds,” Brian laughed.
Not only did Stacey stick around that day, she’s been there for Brian and has supported him ever since. The two were married on June 12, 1993 and Stacey even joined the department. She first joined the Ladies Auxiliary in the mid-1990s, helping with fundraisers and various other activities, such as serving on the membership and banquet committees.
For Brian, volunteer firefighting has always been part of his life. He essentially grew up at Union Fire Company No. 1 — his father was a firefighter and his grandfather was involved on the administrative side of another fire company but was a member of the Union Fire Company No.1. Therefore, it was an easy decision to become a junior firefighter at 14 years old in January 1985. Years later, the passion is still at the forefront.
“The dedication that you see in him every single day is one of Brian’s strongest qualities,” Stacey said. “He cares so much about the members and making sure the department is successful.”
Over the years, Brian advanced up the department ladder — he became a lieutenant at 19 years old, and later served as captain, second assistant chief, first assistant chief and a deputy chief. In 2013, when Brian was in consideration for becoming fire chief, Brian spoke with Stacey to confirm that she would be on board if he decided to accept a nomination for fire chief.
“When I was going to be nominated, we had discussions at home before that took place,” Brian said. “‘This is going to require some additional dedication and work; are you OK with this?’” he asked Stacey.
They both agreed to move forward, and Stacey decided that she would take on an increased role. She became the department’s secretary the same day Brian was voted in as chief.
Brian is thankful for the support he’s received from Stacey for so many years. She spent a lot of time at home raising their son, Kyle, while Brian was volunteering.
Kyle followed in his dad’s footsteps, starting as a junior at 14. Now 29, he’s one of the department’s officers and became a captain this year. And Kyle’s 3-year-old son could potentially get in on the family tradition one day and become a fifth-generation firefighter.
“My grandson is already following in his daddy and chief’s [grandfather’s’] footsteps,” Stacey said. “He even has his own gear.”
The Hamiltons admit that it wasn’t always easy and that there is sacrifice that comes with being a dedicated volunteer.
“As a volunteer firefighter, you’re sometimes running out the door in the middle of dinner or birthday parties to go serve Mr. or Mrs. Smith who is having the worst day of their life,” Brian said.
They cited compassion, understanding and patience as three necessary virtues that helped their marriage — and raising a son — through any stress and hardships over the years.
“It really takes a special person to be part of that [firefighting] family and have such an understanding,” Brian said of Stacey. “It’s been a huge feeling of accomplishment as a family to provide that service, to help better the department and the many communities we serve.”
Union Fire Company #1 is one of 21 fire companies included in the Capital Region Firefighter volunteer recruitment campaign. If you want to serve your community and make a difference, there’s likely a nearby fire company and a position for you based on your interest, skills and availability. All training and gear are provided at no cost.
To learn more about how you can volunteer with your local fire company, visit www.CapitalRegionFirefighter.org.