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Police and fire

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Washington Township firefighters and family and friends of fallen firefighter Mark Haudenschild II watch the “dumping of the tank” Wednesday as Tanker 64 is initiated into service.

Tanker ceremony honors late firefighter

Tribute emblazoned on side of truck’s cab

Janet Haudenschild never kidded herself about the danger her husband put himself in as a Washington Township firefighter.

But she never imagined his name would end up on memorials across the state and nation to firefighters killed in the line of duty.

“In the back of my mind, I convinced myself he had everything under control and would be OK. I just didn’t know it would come to this,” she said Wednesday evening during a dedication ceremony for a new truck in honor of her late husband, Mark Haudenschild II.

The 26-year-old firefighter died in November 2012 when the tanker truck he was driving on the way to a brush fire rolled several times and hit three utility poles.

In the 17 months since, Janet has had to cope with life without her husband, and her children without the care of their father. But there also was a material loss to the fire department – that of its tanker truck, which was destroyed in the crash.

“While we can never bring Mark back, we can bring back Tanker 64,” Washington Township Fire Chief Brian Gillett said about the new 30,000-gallon tanker.

With the flip of a switch and a gush of water, the tanker emptied its first load of water before firefighters, along with Janet and Mark’s father, whose name is also Mark, pushed the tanker into the department’s truck bay.

“As we remember Mark, we also have to move forward,” Gillett said of the firefighter.

That moving forward has been tough for Janet and their children, a 5-year-old son and a 2 1/2 -year-old daughter.

She believes their son understands the loss of his father and the reason for the ceremony, but she knows their daughter is too young to grasp the reason why so many smiles were mixed with tears at the ceremony.

The fire department has done its best to help, though, including helping to maintain her house, yard and car and with snow removal during this brutal winter.

“They’re always checking on me, and I stay in contact with them as much as possible,” Janet said.

She and Gillett remembered Mark as a handyman who always looked for something in need of repair.

“He was a very energetic guy that loved to fix things and work on these trucks; … he would’ve loved this truck,” Gillett said.

The department worked for more than a year to acquire the new tanker, including about nine months having it built.

Gillett said he wished they wouldn’t have to use the glimmering equipment, but house and brush fires are a reality of life and the job.

Mark’s name is still on his locker at the station. Gillett said he plans to leave it that way.

Emblazoned on the side of the tanker’s cab is Mark’s unit number and a memorial to the department’s fallen brother: “In memory of 686 – Mark Haudenschild II.”

A somber radio broadcast by Gillett officially added the truck to the roster of equipment.

“With this notification, the new Tanker 64 is in service,” he said.