Five decades ago, it was a rite of passage for young men to join the Put-in-Bay Volunteer Fire Department when they turned 16. The small community struggled to find volunteers to assist with fires and other emergencies, so the State of Ohio made an exception for the island, allowing young men to join at age 16.
“It was pretty much the norm for all of us young men. At the first meeting after your 16th birthday, you were there to sign up,” said firefighter David Bianchi. “You really looked forward to it, almost as much as getting a driver’s license.”
In December, Bianchi and three other men were honored for their decades of volunteer service to the Put-in-Bay Volunteer Fire Department. Bianchi, Assistant Chief Mark Wilhelm and Capt. Chris Ladd were recognized for 50 years of service, and Lt. Allen Duff was recognized for 57 years of service. Each man was presented with a ceremonial axe in honor of their longtime commitment to the community.