Firefighters keep it 'all in the family'

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By Candis Carpenter

It’s often said that firefighters belong to a certain “brotherhood.” They work together for a common cause, share cookouts, family functions, business ventures and many other day-to-day activities.
However, LaRue County/Hodgenville Fire Departments go a step further into the commonalities shared by these individuals.
Of about 30-35 firefighters who make up the departments’ rosters, 14 of those men and women share the experience with their spouse and even more share it with their families.
“It’s a unique situation,” said Hodgenville Fire Chief Wally Sparks. “It’s interesting that there are this many married couples on the department.”
Each couple has a different story – what brought them together, what keeps them together and their views on a common goal of protecting life and property.
From the age of two, Andrew Snyder, now 17, knew he wanted to be a firefighter.
“He read books about it, watched videos and studied it,” said his mother Laura Merritt Kotran. “But there was only so much I could teach him, so it was really ironic that when (husband) Sean and I reconnected three years ago, he was a career firefighter.”
Since Kotran, a registered nurse, resided in Pennsylvania with Snyder at the time and Sean Kotran, captain of Fort Knox Fire Department, resided in Louisville; Sean would often write lengthy letters explaining in detail the hands-on side of firefighting to Snyder.
“It wasn’t long before firefighting was the topic of all conversations,” said Kotran.
When the duo married last October Kotran decided that she and Snyder would move to the state to be closer to Sean. Last summer the family decided to make Buffalo their home.
Soon after the move, the LaRue County Fire Department attracted Snyder because of its Explorer Program. The program allows for youth, meeting certain criteria, to join the department to learn in depth how a fire department runs.
“Although I supported Andrew, I was terrified,” admitted Kotran. “To alleviate some of my fears Sean, Andrew and I joined as a group. Plus if I wanted to be included on any of the household conversations I needed to participate.”
Sean’s initial reaction to Kotran joining was acceptance - followed by heavy stipulations.
“He didn’t want me to go into a burning building,” said Kotran. “But this past year I’ve had over 85 hours of training and things I was afraid to do before …  he is encouraging and supporting me now ... It’s a very special thing.”
But not all things came so easy. With the department came lifestyle changes that Kotran had to become accustomed to.
“When we leave the house we have to make sure we have all the gear in the car,” said Kotran.” And there’s always the other conversation in the house – the scanner... it took a lot of getting accustomed to.”
“In doing this I have learned how to better appreciate what my husband does,” added Kotran. “Now I understand what the passion was about.”
Kotran believes having your spouse, or even family members, experience helping others together strengthens the commitment to the department.
“You watch out for everyone,” said Kotran, “but there is tremendous comfort knowing your family is there or your spouse is there.”
With fire department meetings, trainings, events and emergency calls it’s easy to see that the activity is an easily shared adventure.
“Sean and I do have other shared interests,” said Kotran “but it always comes back to firefighting ... it’s a family affair ... even when we aren’t able to go to everything together.”
Hodgenville/LaRue County Fire Department have seven married couples where both husband and wife are active firefighters; Hodgenville Fire Chief Wally Sparks and his wife Barbara, LaRue County Fire Chief Jason Sadler and his wife Beth, Mike and Jo Mather, Adam and Danielle Lewis, Sean and Laura Kotran, Wayne and Leeanne Devers and Phillip and Delayna Setters.
Magnolia Fire Department has five active married couples and Buffalo Fire Department has one.