GOLDSTON: R.G. Beal receives fireman honor for second time
The words "loyal" and "dedicated" were apt descriptors firemen at Goldston used for R.G. Beal, who has been honored as the department's 2012 Fireman of the Year.
Beal has actively served in the department for 49 years and previously received that honor back in 1984.
Oddly enough, Beal hadn’t planned on going to the recent annual fire department Christmas dinner — where the awards are given out and the chief is elected — because his Sunday school class was having a party the same night. Realizing that Beal might not be there for the award, the fire department had to enlist the help of his wife Diane, who convinced him they should run by the Goldston Fire Department for a few minutes.
“I was surprised,” said Beal. “It is an honor to be Fireman of the Year. I was shocked to receive this honor twice. It is an honor to even be nominated. I can’t go like I used to, but I can go get a truck when we get a call and haul water."
Some of the fire calls Beal has made over the years have been difficult ones.
“The older you get the more you get used to it,” he said in describing the adrenaline rush that occurs while fighting the fire. “I don’t get as hyped up like I used to."
Beal tearfully recalled a fire on Roberts Chapel Road about 40 years ago when a grandmother and her three grandchildren died in the fire.
“That was the worst,” he said.
Beal joined the department back in 1963.
“...Bob Rives was chief and thought I’d try it," he said. "Being a fireman has changed drastically since then. Our trucks are so much better, we can haul so much more water and we have more of them. Back then, people didn’t have smoke detectors in their houses and the houses were built differently. Today, there aren’t as many people burning wood and the electrical wiring used in homes has been upgraded as well," said Beal.
“We need a lot more training today. Back then we trained on house fires and grass fires. Now we train on everything. There’s so much plastic in houses today that if we aren’t using a breathing apparatus when we go in, the fire might take us away."
Beal recalled the department's equipment, including a ’28 LaFrance and an old International truck "with a tank on the back we used as a tanker."
"Not long after, we got two old Army trucks and we made one into a tanker," he said. "It wasn’t until 1966 that we got our first store-bought truck. Back then when we got a fire call we had phones in 10 of the homes of the firemen and the phones would ring for up to 10 minutes non-stop. We would answer the phone and take off to the fire department. The first firemen on the scene would turn on the siren to let the other members of the department know about the fire and take off with the trucks."
Lining up for a Christmas parade on a cold morning years ago, Beal remembers smelling something burning.
"Bob Rives was hauling Santa Claus on the other truck at the end of the parade and I called Bob on the radio to see if he had time to come put out the fire in my truck," he said. "We had a small electrical fire."
Some of Beal’s fire calls over the years have taken him away from his family, even on Christmas Eve.
“We had a lot more house fires in the past with about 70 percent of them happening at night." he said. "It seems the calls would come after you would go to bed and get sound asleep. One winter we were called to a fire on Dewitt Smith Road and it was so cold that the water froze in the pump while we were trying to put out the fire."
Beal's service has included three years as chief and time as captain of the Goldston Rescue Squad, which kept him extremely busy.
Somewhere about the same time, Beal said the fire department acquired the former gymnasium at Goldston School, which the department renovated. And as Diane Beal described it, he was at the fire department more than he was at home.
“He was at the fire department all the time,” she said. “One morning about four o’clock he was still there working so I just put some of his clothes, clean underwear and a pillow in a box and took it over there to him."
The recipient of the department's annual award is chosen by secret ballot by the members of the department.
“It’s always a surprise to the person who wins,” said Duane Hart, a member of the department. "R.G. is still dedicated after all these years. He’s done a lot and still helps a great deal with daytime calls."