Retired Fire Chief Served Many Roles
After 32 years, ten of them as chief, Bill Griesbach has retired from the Stratford Area Fire Department.
Since the department formed in 1986, he’s held a few different positions within the department, starting out as a volunteer firefighter before becoming a first responder soon after. In 1999, he became a safety officer, then assistant chief five years later. Ten years ago, he was appointed the chief of the department, which was never his end game.
“That wasn’t my goal,” he said. “It’s just what happened.”
Griesbach carried out his duties all while running the family dairy farm, which dates back to the 1880s. When a call came in, sometimes he was in the middle of doing farm chores. “It was sometimes hard to drop your job on the farm to go to the call,” he said. “Someone else had to do my job.”
At these times his wife Carol would step up or in the last few years, his youngest son and partner, who is carrying on as the sixth generation. ”He knows how to do everything,” said Griesbach. “Everything fell on his shoulders a lot.”
The Stratford Area Fire Department covers a 160-mile radius, he said. It responds to about 40-50 fires per year and 200 ambulance calls. While the last two weeks have seen an unusual number of calls, there are sometimes periods where nothing happens.
“In the spring you’ve got grass fires. You can get quite a few in a close period, and the next year you won’t get any,” he said. “Accidents come random. I never saw that many in 32 years.”
Griesbach will most miss the camaraderie with his fellow members. “It became part of my blood,” he said. “You get to know the people and you become a big family. You get to know everyone’s spouses and kids. When we’re doing a call, everything is serious. When you get back to the station, cleaning hoses or practicing our scenarios, we kid around. That will be a part of what I’m missing.”
Though retired from the department, Griesbach will act as fire commissioner for the Town of Day and continue the busy work of overseeing the 260 animals on his farm along with 300 acres of crops.
“I’ll be farming ‘til I drop!” he laughed.