New Chief Dons White Helmet in Pa. Department

Aug. 13--CHAMBERSBURG -- After almost forty years of working in fire service, Howard R. "Butch" Leonhard Jr., is ready to serve as the newest emergency services chief for the Chambersburg Fire Department.

Leonhard, who served as assistant fire chief since October 2012, officially became the newest chief after former chief William FitzGerald resigned effective Aug. 5.

Leonhard said fire service has been a lifelong love for him.

"I grew up across the street from a firehouse in Middletown," Leonhard said.

He said that growing up, he watched the trucks respond to fires. At age 15, he joined and started riding along in 1977 and was a member of the Union Hose Company. He said his experience since then has been the most fulfilling career he could imagine.

"Everyday you do something that helps somebody," he said. "It's the best job."

Leonhard received an associate's degree in fire science technology from the College of Southern Maryland and is also in the middle of getting a bachelor's degree in fire service administration from Waldorf College.

After serving in Middletown, he was a volunteer at the Garrettford-Drexel Hill Fire Company in Upper Darby Township from 1985 to 1992. Then he rose through the ranks at the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department in Maryland, eventually becoming assistant fire chief.

He also has 12 years of active duty with the U.S. Navy and 11 years with the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

In 2012, he was chosen as the assistant fire chief for the Chambersburg Fire Department.

"I saw it as an opportunity to grow professionally and personally," he said. "I also could be closer to family."

As the new man in charge, Leonhard will handle administrative duties as well as decisions in the field.

He added that he would like to have the department look more into "individual development" to help the firefighters and EMS officers learn more things by "stretching" outside their comfort zone.

"There are a lot of technological changes in this field," he said. "You have to be a lifelong learner."

However, Leonhard said that many programs and things that FitzGerald started will remain the same because they have been effective.

Leonhard was nominated for the position and recommended by Jeffrey Stonehill, borough manager, and one other person ran for the position.

He was hired after a unanimous vote by council Monday evening.

The position will come with more challenges and more responsibility, but Leonhard said he's ready to take on the challenge. At FitzGerald's going away party, Leonhard was handed the former chief's brass pins, a tradition to officers to carry on their work.

"The weight of these pins isn't because of size," Leonhard said. "It's much more than that."

Lauren Cappuccio can be contacted at 262-4754.

Copyright 2014 - Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.