In service to the community

Pleasant Dale volunteer firefighter has spent more than 55 years fighting fires


Larry Lawton, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on May 28, has been working for the Pleasant Dale Volunteer Fire Department since 1968 – and he’s still going out on calls.

After Lawton graduated high school, he spent two years working for the Raymond Volunteer Fire Department. Then, he got married, moved to Pleasant Dale with his wife and began volunteering for the local fire department.

“I just wanted to join here and try to help serve the community a little,” he said.

Over the years, he has watched the department adapt to changing times.

In the beginning, the department did not have much money and relied mainly on getting old equipment from the military and the forestry service, he said. Lawton also remembers when the department put on dances to raise money to keep itself going.

After Seward County changed the way it did its taxes, the department was able to obtain enough funds to keep its equipment more updated.

When Lawton first joined, the department responded strictly to fire calls, and it did not begin taking rescue calls until the mid-1970s. He was assistant chief for a couple of years in the '70s and was then treasurer for about 15 years. 

“At my age now, most of the people that I worked with in the earlier years are gone now,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys on our department now, and they’re really honed in to doing their duties real well… I really appreciate that. I’m really glad to see these guys come in and help out.”

In addition to the good feeling he gets from helping others, Lawton said the people he has worked with over the years have made volunteering for the department special.

“It’s just working with a bunch of good guys,” he said. “Everybody kind of helps out, does their part and, I don’t know, I just enjoy that.”

Colton Wehrs has been a part of the Pleasant Dale VFD for the past three years, and he said Lawton is one of the nicest guys he has ever met.

“He’s always got a story to tell. And, if you have a question about something with the fire department, he’s always there to answer it,” Wehrs said. “He’s an all-around good-natured guy.”

Lawton said he wants to continue working for the department as long as he can.

“All these little small towns try to help each other out, and I really don’t know what our country would do if we didn’t have our volunteer departments,” he said. “I just try to do my part, the little bit I can. I’m getting pretty old now to be doing too much, but I still make quite a few calls.”