ARTHUR B. POOLE
career began more than 26 years ago with a kitchen fire
in a neighbor’s house. Though he was not then
a fireman, when the fire truck arrived Fred Gottschall
grabbed a hose and helped battle the blaze alongside
members of the Harwinton Volunteer Fire Department.
This month, Gottschall retired as chief of the department
he joined in 1971. He plans on remaining with the fire
department as a member.
Gottschall, 58, became the 21st recipient of the Poole
award. “It’s to honor people who do volunteer
work in the town, for people who serve the town, just
for the sake of serving the town,” said Bo Duyser,
chairman of the award committee.
By all accounts Gottschall fits that description. Ray
Gangloff, Gottschall’s neighbor and fellow firefighter,
remembers trying to persuade Gottschall to join the
“He said “I don’t want to get involved
until I can give 100%,” Gangloff recalled.
Not long after his neighbors kitchen fire Gottschall
joined the department. The following year, he and Gangloff
were recognized by the state for reviving a 2 year old
boy who had nearly drowned in his grandparents pool.
Gottschall was named chief of the Harwinton Fire Department
in 1981, becoming only the second chief in its history.
Now he says that the time is right to turn the leadership
over to someone else.
“I thought 15 was a good round number,”
he said. “It’s good for a department to
have officers change. There are a lot of good young
people who would like to move up in the ranks.’
During his tenure, Gottschall is credited with raising
more than $100,000 for the purchase of firefighting
“Fred was very instrumental in the building of
the new firehouse, he saw it built and helped organize
the building of it,’ said Fire Lt. Bill Doyle.
The money Gottschall helped raise enabled the department
to purchase a water tanker, a utility truck, and rescue
Several firefighters noted that Gottschall’s ability
to get along with people not only helped with fund raising,
but made him a good manager of the department, which
numbers about 40 volunteers.
“He knows just how to handle people.” Doyle
said. “He has a way of getting things done without
hurting people’s feelings.”
And though his retirement was just a few weeks away,
Gottschall was found on the front lines of a recent
house fire on Hill Road.
“Fred took command of the whole operation,”
Doyle said. “He was out front in the smoke, in
the wind and sometimes in the fire.”
Afterward, Doyle said, the mood at the firehouse was
somber, in part because Gottschall had inhaled too much
smoke and wasn’t feeling well.
“But that’s the type of chief he was,”
Doyle said. “He stays right with his men. If they’re
in trouble, he’s in trouble.