Douglas Hawkins, 54, and his two sons, Justin, 24, and Nathan, 18, decided to start a new adventure together when they joined Ringing Hill Fire Company in February 2020.
“Our motivation stemmed from a deep-seated desire to serve our community and make a positive impact in the lives of others,” said Justin.
He and his brother, Nathan, were also inspired by their dad’s selfless dedication to helping those in need. Years before he joined Ringing Hill Fire Company, Douglas volunteered as a medic with an ambulance corps in New York, became a member of Morrisville Fire Company in New York and served in the U.S. Navy.
“I have always admired the courage and selflessness of firefighters, and I wanted to be a part of that noble tradition,” said Douglas. “Ringing Hill’s reputation for excellence and commitment to serving the community were also major factors in my decision.”
Douglas and his sons’ volunteer roles encompass firefighting, emergency medical services, training and community outreach, as well as fundraisers such as Saturday night Bingo.
“Through these diverse responsibilities, we are committed to serving our community, promoting safety and well-being, and strengthening the bonds that make Ringing Hill a close-knit and supportive community,” said Justin.
Creating Lasting Memories
Joining Ringing Hill Fire Company together also meant the Hawkins were going through their Firefighter I training at the same time.
“As we went through the training, it was truly transformative to witness the unique learning styles, perspectives and interpretations of firefighting processes displayed by Justin and Nathan,” said Douglas.
Another memorable experience for the family was a training session alongside local fire departments. They ran drills in empty houses in Sanatoga to simulate scenarios they could run into on fire calls.
One of the highlights for them during this training was the ventilation exercise, which required firefighters to work together to break the windows. Breaking the windows is crucial during a fully-involved structure fire because it effectively releases heat, smoke and toxic gases from the house.
“The collaborative effort between my dad, brother and the other firefighters showcased the importance of coordination and communication in real-life firefighting situations,” said Justin.
Other training they completed at the vacant houses included using hoses to simulate fire suppression as well as search-and-rescue training in a smoke-filled environment. All the drills emphasized the importance of teamwork and communication as volunteers learned to synchronize their movements and trust each other.
“Working alongside other volunteers has reinforced the idea that we can achieve much more together than we can alone,” said Justin.
Learning Invaluable Lessons
While learning how to put out fires and save lives, the volunteers of Ringing Hill Fire Company also learn invaluable skills that can enrich their personal and professional lives.
Through volunteering, Nathan learned how to stay composed in high-stress situations by effectively collaborating and problem-solving with his fellow firefighters.
“Most importantly, volunteering has taught me the importance of selflessness and the immeasurable rewards that come from helping others in their time of need,” he said.
Similarly, the lesson that stands out to Justin is the power of community and helping others. Volunteering has allowed him to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and learn about the challenges others face. Making a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small, has been fulfilling to him.
“It has shown me that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a ripple effect, creating a more compassionate and supportive society,” said Justin.
The Hawkins also agree that teamwork is one of the most valuable skills.
“Firefighting is a team sport, and success depends on the ability to work together, communicate effectively and trust your teammates,” said Douglas.
Volunteering as a Family
The Hawkins enjoy creating a deeper connection and family bond through volunteering while keeping Ringing Hill’s mission at the forefront.
“The opportunity to serve side-by-side as a family, working together as a unified team, was a remarkable experience that we couldn’t pass up,” said Justin. “We recognized that our role extended beyond fighting fires; it involved providing crucial support during emergencies, offering comfort to those affected and lending a helping hand in times of crisis.”
Being family adds an extra layer of trust in each other’s abilities and also creates a seamless teamwork dynamic.
“Together, we face challenges head-on, celebrate successes and continuously inspire one another to give our best,” said Nathan.
Nathan and Justin look up to their dad when volunteering and mention his empathy and leadership as admirable qualities.
“I am grateful to have such an incredible role model in my dad as we serve our community together,” added Nathan.
Douglas demonstrates his commitment to volunteering by consistently showing up, including actively responding to calls, attending training sessions and participating at community events.
“Beyond his commitment, my dad’s strong work ethic and compassion make him an invaluable asset to the fire department,” said Justin. “He consistently goes above and beyond to ensure tasks are completed to the best of his abilities.”
Encouraging Others to Volunteer
Ringing Hill Fire Company is seeking volunteers who want to join a team and make a difference in the community. Volunteer firefighters, fire police, junior firefighters and auxiliary members all play a vital role for the community and the fire station.
“Volunteering at Ringing Hill allows you to be a part of something greater than yourself,” said Justin. “You will have the chance to contribute to the well-being of the entire community and build a legacy of service.”
Ringing Hill Fire Company provides its volunteers with gear and training, and there are countless other benefits to joining.
“By joining Ringing Hill, you become part of a tight-knit family that not only saves lives, but also fosters personal growth and lifelong friendships,” said Nathan.
While the experience is challenging, it is very rewarding as an individual and team member.
“You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a real difference in people’s lives,” said Douglas.
“Join us at Ringing Hill and be a part of a team that truly makes a difference,” added Justin.
Learn more about volunteering or sign up at https://JoinRingingHill.org/.