SOUTHWEST GREENSBURG — Albert “Bert” Bell was one of the founding members of Southwest Greensburg Fire Department back in 1905. Now, the family’s lineage of firefighters continues 117 years later as his great-great-grandson, Bill Wright Jr., is currently serving the department as chief.
“It’s just been part of our life basically since I was born,” said 44-year-old Chief Bill Wright Jr. “I’m a fifth-generation firefighter.”
Chief Wright Jr. has been in the fire service since 1996 when he started volunteering with the Greensburg Fire Department. He joined Southwest Greensburg Fire Department in 2008, becoming chief in 2013. His father, Deputy Chief Bill Wright, has dedicated over 45 years of his life to the fire service.
“It really is a family legacy,” said 63-year-old Deputy Chief Wright.
Chief Wright Jr.’s younger brother, Brian, is currently a Lieutenant with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. Their grandfather, Bill Wright, and uncle, Bob Wright, currently volunteer with Greensburg Fire Department.
There was once a time when Chief Wright Jr. and his brother Brian were both volunteering with their father and responding to calls together.
“It was great,” says Deputy Chief Wright. “When the three of us would go on a call, it was good for me, it was good for them, but mom didn’t appreciate it too much. Everybody was flying out of the door at the same time.”
Growing up surrounded by firefighters in his family, Chief Wright Jr. says the fire station was like a second home to him.
“He really attached to the fire department,” said Deputy Chief Wright. “The fire department was special for him long before he could even ride in the truck.”
Chief Wright Jr. is responsible for directing the activities of Southwest Greensburg Fire Department — including managing the team of volunteer firefighters. Having volunteered with his father for over 25 years, Chief Wright Jr. says he has learned a lot from his old man.
“His demeanor and the way he treats people has helped me to grow as a leader,” said Chief Wright Jr. “Back as a younger firefighter, just being able to learn everything I could from him is invaluable, such as real-world skills on the fire ground that you can’t learn from a book.”
To this day, Chief Wright Jr. recalls the feeling of responding to his very first fire calls with his dad when they began volunteering together 25 years ago.
“It was definitely unique and something that a lot of fathers and sons don’t get to experience,” said Chief Wright Jr.
During their volunteering careers, the father-son duo has held varying positions within the fire department. But no matter their title, they say they’ve always had a solid working relationship.
“Over the years, I have been his boss and he has been my boss,” said Deputy Chief Wright. “I just think that’s unique to us, and it works. I don’t think it would work with every family.”
Chief Wright Jr. has two children, Kayla, 17, and Billy, 7. He believes there’s hope for a sixth-generation firefighter in his youngest son.
“He would definitely be next in line without a doubt,” said Chief Wright Jr. “He loves being at the fire station as much as we do.”
Having described the experience of volunteering with his father as “very worthwhile and gratifying,” Chief Wright Jr. encourages more fathers to volunteer at the fire department with their sons or daughters.
“There’s not enough sons and daughters joining up with their fathers anymore,” he said.
Southwest Greensburg Fire Department is currently looking for volunteer firefighters, including members under the age of 18.
For more information or to fill out an inquiry form, visit www.SWGreensburgFirefighter.org.
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