ENGLEWOOD — One of the best loved and well-known local public servants, Elmer “Buddy” Bergman, has announced that he is retiring after 47 years in the fire service – most recently as chief of the Englewood Fire Department.
Affable and always upbeat, Bergman started his career with the former Randolph Twp. Fire Department prior to becoming Englewood’s first fire chief in 1998.
Over the years Bergman has seen the local fire service go through many advancements.
Bergman began his career as a firefighter / first aid technician an the old fire station on Chestnut Street in Englewood, which was part of the township fire department.
“I was a volunteer and did that for five years and then I got hired full-time by the township as a firefighter/EMT. They didn’t have paramedics in those days,” Bergman said. “I did that for 18 years and eventually I was promoted all the way up to the assistant chief.”
He became chief of both the Englewood and Union fire departments. He was chief of the Union Fire Department (nine years) at the same time as he served as Englewood’s fire chief, which spanned 22 years.
Englewood and Union formed their own fire departments on July 1, 1998 after both cities sued the newly formed City of Clayton to acquire equipment and fire stations that were once part of the Randolph Twp. Fire Department. The township and Village of Clayton merged to form the city of Clayton in 1998.
“Things are tremendously different today than when I first started,” Bergman noted. “When I first started we had First Aid. That was the extent of our training. We didn’t have emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, any of that stuff. Luckily, that has all changed and now we have paramedics in service all the time.”
Bergman remembers going door to door with firemen seeking donations to purchase the first ambulance for the township fire department.
“Prior to 1967 there was no ambulance in this town,” Bergman said. “We had to rely on Harrison Township coming up from Shiloh with their ambulance, so it was different. That is not so many years ago.”
The first ambulance was an International Harvester Traveall. The International Harvester Company of Chicago, Illinois started offering modified sedan deliveries to hospitals and municipalities in the late 1930s. These all-purpose emergency vehicles were built using the standard wheelbase IHC chassis and included all the necessary emergency equipment and could be used as funeral service vehicles as well.
“I remember the International Traveall well,” Bergman stated. “The next thing we bought was a Cadillac ambulance, so things have changed.”
The training requirements and skills for fire and rescue personnel have also changed quite a bit over the years.
“The training required is extensive, which is good, because those who receive the training know what they are doing,” Bergman said. “It is difficult and that is why there are not very many volunteer departments any more. You can’t not take the training that is required and the hours for that training keep going up and up and up.”
Fire departments have to foot the bill while personnel are going through training.
“A lot of the training that takes place requires that we also pay a fee to the instructors, so it adds up,” Bergman said.
There are no longer any volunteers firefighters/EMTS for Englewood.
“Ever since we formed our department it has either been part-time of full-time personnel, which is good because you know who your crew is. You build the crews and you schedule them so you have a good, well-rounded crew that is able to serve the residents at all times,” Bergman stated. “It used to be back in the volunteer days you just took who you got and you never knew who was responding or who wasn’t.”
Bergman said the most memorable event in his career was when he was the first chief officer on the scene when the Montgomery County Joint Vocational School (now the MVCTC) caught fire in 1981.
“We were there for a better part of a day,” Bergman recalled.
Bergman said his plans for retirement are fairly simple.
“I am just going to spoil my grand kids, travel and have fun with my wife,” Bergman said. “I figured we should do it before we get too old and too feeble and can’t do it. I have enjoyed it. This has been the best job in the world. The variety of what you see from day to day, you never know what your day is going to be like when you show up.”
Bergman has made tons of friends over the years serving the communities and knows it will be difficult not seeing them on a daily basis, but he plans to check in from time to time.
“I will be around. You never know when and where I will show up,” he added. “It has been a good ride.”
Ron Nunnari can be reached at 684-9124, via email at Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind