Paying tribute to couples who love — and fight fires together

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Amanda and Tom Keesey

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and in fire stations across Chester County love is in the air. To help celebrate the holiday, the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association is paying special tribute to couples who keep the spark of romance alive by saving lives together as volunteer firefighters.

The Association also encourages anyone looking to show their love for their community to visit HelpFightFire.com to learn about the many volunteer opportunities at their local fire station.

The Vaughns

Neil Vaughn was always coming to Andrea’s rescue. There was the time he responded after Andrea was in a car accident during slippery winter conditions. Andrea, a school administrator, was dressed in her skirt and heels, and Neil gave her his turnout gear coat to help stay warm.

There was the time when the fire alarm went off at her school, and Neil responded to the call. Fortunately, there was no real fire, but more than a few sparks flew between the pair.

Then there was the time when the couple “officially met” in 2001. Andrea was the director of a local private preschool and Neil came in to do fire prevention presentations with the students. For years, Andrea had always made arrangements with “Fireman Ray” to do the presentation, but this year he was unavailable. However, “Fireman Neil” came to the rescue to take his place.

“When Neil showed up to work with the students, I immediately knew I was interested in him,” said Andrea. “I remember standing in the lobby holding two crying toddlers and talking to Neil; we decided to grab a drink after school.”

Taking it slowly, Neil decided that the school needed to have an official pre-plan in case of emergency and to have several fire drills. He became a popular fixture with the students and Andrea.

On their first date, Neil talked all about fire related things – trucks, incidents and plans. Andrea, who was just back on the dating scene after a bad breakup, told Neil that she just wanted to be friends when he dropped her off. Realizing her mistake, Andrea called Neil back and asked for a second chance.

By December 2001, the two were a couple and had moved in together by the fall of 2002. Living in Malvern, Neil and Andrea settled into a nice routine. They married in the spring of 2005, and moved to Willistown Township where they lived for 13 years. Today they live in West Grove with their children, Genevieve and Jacob, and two dogs, Bagel and Pedro.

Dedicated to the Community

As the couple’s relationship grew so did their commitment to helping fight fires in Chester County. A third generation firefighter, Neil moved up the ranks, took classes, participated in drills and meetings, and dedicated himself to the fire service and its members. He became one of the youngest fire chiefs in the history of the Malvern Fire Company. He has since previously served as president of the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association, and currently serves as head of its volunteer recruitment committee. He also serves as a fire investigator for Chester County. Meanwhile, Andrea helps behind the scenes as needed.

“When Malvern ran the food stands for the summer fair, I would work the food stand and if there was an event which needed volunteers, like the pig roast, I would help serve there as well,” she said. “I remember the anniversary parade when I was pregnant with our son, they gave me a radio and put me in charge of lining up the trucks for the parade. Wife 4 on the scene!”

Making it Work

As a firefighter’s wife, she said her most important job is supporting her husband.

“Neil is phenomenal at what he does for the fire service,” she said. “So it was my job to take care of the family.”

It hasn’t always been easy for the couple. On the days or nights when a fire would take precedence over a family matter, the couple acknowledged there were hurt feelings and disappointment at times. Yet they’ve managed to make it work through communication and taking things one day at a time.

“Everyone had to be on board for the whole thing to work,” said Andrea. “It is deep rooted and such an honor to be a firefighter’s family, which is why we always worked it out together. The camaraderie and friendships made are like no other and we are very lucky to have wonderful friends across the county, and beyond, all dedicated to the goal of serving others.”

The Keeseys

Giving back to the community as a volunteer firefighter can be a great way to meet people. It’s what helped spark a romance between Tom and Amanda Keesey. The couple volunteer at Ludwigs Corner Fire Company in Glenmoore and have found that it’s the perfect way to serve their neighbors while also spending time together.

New to town, Tom, was looking for a way to volunteer his time when the couple first met. Amanda was already serving as a firefighter and running the company’s fundraisers. Once Tom joined the company in 2009, the two began working together and became friends, but Amanda said she had one rule she lived by.

“I’m never dating a firefighter,” she said. “That went out the window.”

Before long the two were best friends and it was Tom who suggested they start dating in 2011. Tom, a mechanic for a sprint car team, took Amanda to a race on their first date. They’ve been inseparable ever since.

“We clicked from the beginning,” Amanda said. “We were both on the same track.” 

Within 11 months of their first date the couple bought a house together in Glenmoore with their dog Deputy, two cats and Turbo the turtle. After a three year engagement, they tied the knot in September 2017.

“We were pretty serious, pretty fast,” said Amanda. “We were the opposite of what I would tell people to do.”

Throughout their eight-year relationship they have been devoted to the fire company and served in multiple capacities: as a firefighter, EMT, engineer, membership secretary and lieutenant.

Ludwig’s Corner has seen its fair share of married couples who volunteer together.

“I grew up in a family where many couples in it served in the fire company,” she said. “Ludwigs has also always been filled with couples. Our station puts a lot of emphasis on family and encourages its members to serve together.” She and Tom both can recall multiple times when fire calls have interrupted date nights, weekend plans and holidays. Even when an emergency call ruins date night, they still get to spend time together just the same.

Giving Back Together  

With so many jobs in a fire company there are plenty of different ways to volunteer. Couples don’t even need to perform the same jobs but can still work together. They can use their abilities to volunteer in whatever capacity fits best. From firefighters, EMTs, fire police and administrative volunteers, there’s a place for every person, no matter their talent. Tom and Amanda have each found their specialty. “We have both taken up our own jobs at the station,” said Tom. “Amanda has more experience with recruitment, while I have more experience working on fire trucks as a mechanic.”

The Keeseys feel that volunteering as a couple helps them to spend time together but also gives them time apart to meet with friends who have the same interests. “The station has given us both some of our best friends,” Amanda said. “Our wedding was like one large fire company gathering. Some of our most favorite things revolve around the fire company. Whether it’s station events, fire calls or just the people, we are always surrounded by our Ludwigs Corner family.”

Love to Make A Difference? Volunteer!

Couples like Neil and Andrea Vaughn or Tom and Amanda Keesey are just a few of the many Chester County volunteers, who found love through their local fire station. Learn to do something you love this Valentine’s Day by becoming a volunteer at your local fire station. The training and equipment are free and it’s a great way to show you care. Visit HelpFightFire.com to learn more today.

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