Paul Dawson has been a fireman and driving fire trucks at Longwood Fire Company and other surrounding fire departments for more than four decades. He will no longer be piloting Longwood trucks to emergencies.
His day job was at Longwood Gardens, where he was an equipment operator and outside gardener. After 40 years of working at Longwood, Dawson began his retirement after his final work day on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014.
“I first joined Alert Fire Company in Downingtown as a junior firefighter in January of 1969,” Dawson recalled. “The father of a good friend of mine was involved with the fire company. We were in scouts and I was introduced to the station. I applied on my 16th birthday and since the board was meeting that night, my application was approved on my birthday. I’ve been a firefighter ever since.”
Dawson remained at Alert until he began working at Longwood Gardens in 1974. He then joined Longwood Fire Company. “I like helping people, and in the fire service, that is what we do,” he said.
At Longwood Fire Company, Dawson obtained the rank of lieutenant. He also volunteered at the nearby Po-Mar-Lin fire company, where he was fire chief for a time. “I held just about every other position," he said. "I was head driver and did maintenance and training.”
Dawson returned to Longwood Fire Company nine years ago. “I was semi-retired, but still working at Longwood Gardens,” he said. “Somebody I worked with said Longwood Fire Company needed a driver. I’ve been driving here for nine years.”
Dawson said he found driving a fire truck intimidating at first, but after a while, it was the same as driving a car. “You do have more responsibility," he said. "There are six other guys on the truck, and you are responsible for getting them safely to the emergency so they can do their jobs.”
Dawson and his family were living in one of the Longwood Gardens tenant houses, but when he announced his retirement, he had to move. He has been living in Lancaster, closer to his mountain home, and commuting to Longwood for some months.
“I’ll miss all of my friends,” Dawson said.
He has decided to stay in firefighting, and is now driving with a fire company in Lancaster.
Longwood Fire Company has served the communities of Kennett, East Marlborough, Pennsbury and Pocopson townships since 1921. For more information, visit www.longwoodfireco.com.