Trevor Lupp, who is one of Williamsport Bureau of Fire’s more recently hired firefighters, was 15 years old when he knew he wanted to make fire service his career.
For Lupp, passion and commitment to “help people” started the moment he began as a junior firefighter for Union Volunteer Fire Co. in Carlisle.
In an interview this week, alongside city Bureau of Fire Deputy Chief Mark Calderini and Renee Smith, an administrative aide at the bureau’s headquarters at 440 Walnut St., Lupp said the seminal moment he knew was as a teenager watching his fire chief and line officers attack a blaze at a Bonanza Steakhouse in October, 2013. It was his sixth fire call.
“When we arrived nothing was showing from the exterior,” Lupp said.
It was 4 p.m. and despite nothing seen by firefighters the chief walked up to the restaurant’s window and looked inside, Lupp said.
Smoke and then flames, could be seen in the ceiling and sweeping through the duct work, he said.
“We tagged the hydrant and it was game on,” he said.
Lupp said at that age and status he was not asked to assist to put the fire out.
Instead, he said, he stood back and observed — as the experienced firefighters attacked the blaze with hoses.
They went inside to find a stubborn blaze, he said.
Over the next few years, Lupp said he went to his share of structure fires, responded to accidents and became a part of his community volunteer fire company, but it didn’t pay the bills.
Lupp was hired by a construction company “cutting concrete,” a laborious job but one that helped him further his physical attributes, the muscular strength and endurance that would be needed as a career firefighter.
He also needed to have more steady income and joined the Air National Guard, heading to basic training in 2017.
Following that training, Lupp said he was assigned to the 193rd Special Operations Wing at Middletown, which gave him further experiencing putting out hot spots, this time on general aviation aircraft at the Harrisburg International Airport.
Eventually, Lupp said he noticed an advertisement on Facebook for an open Williamsport Bureau of Fire position.
In the winter of 2018, he said, he reached out to Smith, to ask about the hiring process.
Calderini said Lupp was the type of recruit the bureau sought, an ideal candidate with an eagerness to serve, intellect, integrity and physical attributes necessary to perform the job which includes wearing heavy turnout gear, and lugging hoses up and down stairways.
Qualifications to become a firefighter are listed on the city website and the prerequisites for the rigorous process are extensive.
Applicants must be citizens of the U.S., graduate high school or equivalent, be 18 years of age on or before the date of a Civil Service examination, and then pass the written examination, a physical fitness test and meet medical requirements before completing an oral interview.
To mitigate COVID-19 an online written test was implemented during the pandemic, Smith said. “It is a proctored test,” she said. Applicants need a link to the Internet and a webcam, she said.
Candidates also go through background checks and obtain clearances to ensure they don’t have a criminal history.
Candidates who pass the oral interviews are put on the list that is certified by the Civil Service Board and sent to city Fire Chief Mark Killian.
When selected, Lupp said he attended an accredited fire academy, similar to what the police candidates do.
The academy was at Harrisburg Area Community College, a nine-week program that adds four more weeks for those needing an emergency medical technician certification.
“I had my EMT,” he said.
In the city, the firefighter must establish and keep a residence 20 miles from the city within 90 days upon completion of his or her one-year probationary period
“If we have a major fire we might have to call for off-duty personnel to come in,” Calderini said.
He or she has to possess a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license or be able to obtain one within 90 days of appointment
Lupp acknowledged his years in the military helped him with understanding the rank in the department.
Those with military backgrounds are more accustomed to a rank or department structure such as command staff that include a fire chief, deputy chief, and senior officials such as the four platoon chiefs, four lieutenants and so on, Calderini said.
The bureau has an “A” Platoon, “B” Platoon, “C” Platoon and “D” Platoon.
City firefighters often work two 10-hour days and two-14-hour night shifts a week.
Firefighters such as Lupp are considered rookies, but they are asked to do chores, train and prepare equipment on the apparatus for when it is needed.
On any given day firefighters such as Lupp can be seen clearing away snow from fire hydrants, painting them and deweeding them in spring and summer months. They will check the equipment, ensure it is in working order, wash the vehicles to present the right kind of public image.
Benefits include health, vision and dental insurance, paid vacation, pension benefits and life insurance.
Visitors to the headquarters may view memorabilia encased in glass such as a celebrated centennial Aug. 5 through 10, 1974, special historic pictures and photographs of long-gone firefighters.
Among the items in the glass case is a copy of the firemen’s prayer — read during memorial services for those firefighters who have since passed on or who gave their lives in service to humanity.
Lupp and the others pass by the cases whenever interacting with their chief, deputy or visiting Smith’s office.
“I love this job,” Lupp said. “My brain is programmed for service.”