Harrison Hot Springs firefighter Fred Webber has a unique story to tell and now, plenty of people to listen.
Webber’s story of joining the department in his late 50s has recently been published – twice – in the renowned Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Webber has lived in Harrison for 11 years and has been with the fire department for nearly as long. He is 69 this year.
“‘New Recruits Wanted’ just tells my story of going through the (firefighter recruitment) process,” he told The Observer. “I always wanted to be a firefighter since I was younger, but it never materialized.”
Webber’s story was originally published in the Chicken Soup book “Your 10 Keys to Happiness.” His was one of four stories from that book to be republished in the “Age Is Just A Number” edition. He said his friend, a cancer survivor, encouraged Webber to tell his tale after they had some stories of their own accepted.
“The first time being published was awesome,” Webber said. He said being published a second time was practically unheard of and was just as proud of that accomplishment.
“It’s kind of nice to think about when they tell you how many languages they print in and how many millions of people they reach,” he added.
Webber worked in construction for 35 years as a first aid attendant and is proud to have earned his place as a firefighter for the village. He works as a first aid instructor and a pumper truck expert.
“We’re not career firefighters, we’re paid-on-call, but you still have to do the same training. Training isn’t easy; you have to really want to do it” he said. “The fires are just as hot as they are for paid-on-call and career firefighters.”
He found most of his first aid skills translated well to working as a firefighter. Other commitments held Webber back from his firefighting dream for many years, but when he moved to Harrison and became semi-retired, he knew it was time.
“I figured maybe they could use an older guy,” he said. “Turns out, they could.”